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Wow, now I'm getting really scared!

Annie-mAAnnie-m Posts: 108
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Everyone. Well I'm not sure if I should keep reading or what:-SS :nailbite:

First a little back ground I guess. I am an almost 52 yr old woman with DDD at L4-L5 with stenosis and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy. I have had this problem for 15 yrs. I had been a bus driver for 20 yrs but retired 7 yrs ago. Chiropractic took care of the pain for 8 yrs or so. From there it went to epidurals, and radio frequency ablation. Now nothing works for the pain and I don't want to have to take heavy pain killers for the rest of my life.

I went to a neurologist who sent me to a neurosurgeon. I do have surgery set up for April 11th. I have chosen ALIF and was thinking that it wouldn't be as big a deal as I thought it would. Now, after reading so many posts I'm scared to death! I'm sick of the pain and inability to do the things I used to do but now I just don't know. I mean, I'm sure I will buck up and have it done but how do I deal with the fear of all the post op pain?

ALIF April 2011 but it turns out I broke before it barely fused.
L4-L5 posterior fusion December 2013


  • Welcome to spine-health. It sounds like you have a lot going on and some help on the way with your upcoming surgery. I wish you the best with that surgery. Hopefully that will be the first day of the new improved you, and your back pain will be resolved by this surgery.

    Please please don't let the posts you read on here scare you. Yes, there are many of us whom have continued pain and problems after surgery. But there are many who come and go, no longer needing the support here because their surgeries helped them to get back to living their life without the need for support from other back pain sufferers.

    I do think it is good for you to research your condition and weigh the options. Spine surgery is a biggie. I was naive enough to think that it would be like other surgeries, where I went back to work in half the time the doctor suggested, and felt tough as nails. Spine surgery has a way of humbling all of us. It isn't like getting your appendix out and 6 weeks later being good to go. It does take a long time to recover, but the great thing is that surgery helps so many people.

    Familiarize yourself with this site. There are doctor written articles on almost any back related subject you can think of. You can find videos of different procedures and surgeries. This is a great place to do your research so that you know what to expect.

    Again, try not to let the stories here scare you. We are all here to get support from one another, and so you tend to read a lot of negative. People here feel free to complain about their problems to others who understand. This is a great community. Keep posting, and once again, welcome!

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • I have done TONS of research already. I kinda know what I'm getting into but yet not. Does that make any sense at all ~LOL~ I think my biggest worry is that I thought it was going to be only a 3 inch cut but from all the pictures I've looked at online that doesn't seem to be the case.

    The only other fear I have is something the surgeon told me. He said that one of his biggest concerns is that moving in having to the Vena Cava there is a risk a blood clot. I have something called Anticardio lipid antibody. That means I have think blood and am prone to clots. I have been on Coumadin for 11 yrs. I know they will be on the look out for clots but it's still scary.

    I have to run and fix dinner but I'll check back in later ;)

    ALIF April 2011 but it turns out I broke before it barely fused.
    L4-L5 posterior fusion December 2013
  • Anne, you wrote that you've done a lot of research, but you didn't mention whether or not you'd sought opinions from other surgeons. Did you? And did you ask the surgeon your saw approximately how many ALIFs he performs every year and what his success rate is?

    As for being scared... After reading about all the possible complications, I too was scared before my first fusion (ACDF). I was so nervous I almost canceled the surgery. One thing that gave me some confidence was knowing my surgeon was very experienced and successful at performing ACDF. The first time I went to see him he could tell I was nervous. He asked me if I would like to talk with some of his previous patients. I was impressed he offered to let me talk with them (if they were willing, of course). A lady who worked at the clinic (a very big clinic with multiple orthopedic surgeons) was one of his previous patients and she was very happy with her results. Then there was a woman who was at the clinic for a follow-up and she was very happy with her results too. Talking to them gave me greater peace of mind about choosing that surgeon.

    Somehow the subject of second opinions came up. Either he asked me who I had seen or who I was thinking of seeing. I told him and he said that if I had mentioned certain names he would have tried to gently steer me in a different direction because, as he said, "There are some surgeons who shouldn't be doing this surgery." He added that when a surgeon does poor work or makes a mistake "it makes it down the street pretty quick." (We have a huge medical center here.)

    The surgery turned out well. There were no complications. Bone growth was good and my fusion is solid.

    Before I go to a new doctor I check to see how other patients have "rated" him/her. There are a couple of different web sites where you can read other people's opinions of the doctor. Of course, anything you read on the Internet (like this post) you have to use your judgment as to whether or not what you are reading seems true or not. When I was looking for a pain management doctor I went to one who required his patients to sign an agreement to not post anything about him on the Internet. That should have been my first red flag. He turned out to be a jerk. I never went back.

  • Well basically the surgeon is my second opinion and Neurologist is the first. When my neurologist saw my MRI he said "Wow, you're going to need surgery".

    I did ask the neurosurgeon how many he had done and he answered 26 and very few patients opt for going in through the front. When I asked about the out comes he told me that one went bad. It was on an obese woman who's stitches became severely infected. He has done many surgeries from the back also as well as other types and has been in practice 20yrs. I have checked out he and the thoracic surgeon both online and found nothing bad about either.

    I also spoke to the other patients that were in the waiting room (all of whom had had surgery) and they were all very happy. I think "I might" have covered it all :/

    ALIF April 2011 but it turns out I broke before it barely fused.
    L4-L5 posterior fusion December 2013
  • Anne i know it all seems scary i had alif on nov 1 st and its hard the first month or so but lil by little ya start getting better ....Your never gonna be 100% better but if they can make ya better even by a lil its so worth it!...if i can tell yo anything is to walk walk walk it will help you get better faster!! take things slow and know where all here is you need us!
  • Thanks bunches Jeanie, I will walk lots because I already do :< I knew that would help. Gosh I hate all the waiting for the day to come, I just want it over and done with 8>

    ALIF April 2011 but it turns out I broke before it barely fused.
    L4-L5 posterior fusion December 2013
  • Yes, you have two doctors saying you need surgery. But - unless I misunderstand you - you have only one opinion (from the surgeon) about which surgery to have. Another surgeon might think a laminectomy would be sufficient to resolve your pain. I'm not saying your surgeon is wrong. An ALIF might be the best surgery for you. I have no clue. I am not a medical professional and I obviously know nothing about your spine. If I were in your situation, though, I would feel more comfortable knowing that a second surgeon agrees with the first surgeon that the ALIF surgery is the best one for my spine problem.

    I know you "want it over and done with", but I don't think it would hurt to have an opinion from another surgeon before you have the surgery. Once you've have the surgery that's it. You can't go back and change your mind. I've regretted having surgery before, but I've never regretted getting a second opinion.

    That is what I would tell a friend or family member.
  • I had an ALIF in October 09 and it's successful. I can do most things that I want, but healing takes a LONG time.

    Even though surgery is from the front, there's still the same amount of healing for the spine. There's not as much blood loss, but the surgeon and/or vascular surgeon needs to be very experienced with this type of surgery, so that these main arteries don't get nicked during surgery. When I was researching ALIF, they use a large circular piece of equipment with 4 retractors (don't know what it's called), so that all the organs can be pushed aside and the surgeon has a full view of the spine.

    Prior to my surgery, I was told that my surgeon had done over 200 ALIF's and I knew one of his patients who'd had one, and so I was confident that my surgery would go well. However, it's very hard not to be scared and each person's experience will be different.

    For most of us, post-op pain is controlled fairly well by medication, and in the early stages of recovery, it's important to take them on time to keep ahead of the pain. If the medication you're given at the hospital isn't controlling your pain, then you would need to contact your pain control doctor.

    It's also very important to observe the bending-lifting-twisting restrictions until your surgeon says it's ok to do more.

    You'll need help from family and friends at home. I live on my own with two large dogs, and I prepared well with shopping and meals, and also had a domestic service come in once a week for 4 months.

    Recovery is not an easy time and you can get bored and frustrated very easily, and wonder if it's ever going to end. The good thing is that for most of us, it does end and we're able to enjoy life again.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
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