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fusion surgery

barbmbbarbm Posts: 12
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:53 AM in Lower Back Pain
i had to decide between a 2 or 3 level lumbar fusion & i have decided to proceed with the 3 level fusion. mostly because i am told that if i have the 2 level fusion i will need more surgery in time, maybe a year or 2. I can't go through this again so i figure i might as well get it over with.
the mora support i have gotten at this site has made a huge difference. i had no idea so many people are suffering & that there are still so many considerate & caring people in this world.



  • That will be a huge surgery and I hope it all goes well for you. When will you be having it?

    I had a one level 18 months ago which is successful, but the adjacent levels, especially L5-S1, are becoming more painful and further surgery is a possibility later on. My surgeon didn't want to fuse these levels at the time, but in hindsight, I wish he had because of the long recovery period.

    Yeah, lots of caring people here and glad you found us when you did.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • I think you made a good decision. I had 2 levels fused, knowing that I had 3 disc bad. My surgeon advised me to just get the 2 discs done and wait on the 3rd.

    I thought I knew what to expect post surgery, since I have had 2 surgeries prior to my fusion. I was surprised after surgery by how much pain and recovery were actually involved compared to my other procedures.

    Well, I am still having problems, although I have improved. I do not regret having the surgery, but if I had known just how much pain and recovery was involved, I think I would have gone ahead and done 3 levels.

    I feel the same as you on the support here at SH. I have seen a lot of others say the same. It can be lonely, confusing, and depressing dealing with spinal issues. I am glad to have found this site.

    Best of luck with your surgery.
  • to make sure that the disc above is ok .i am surprised that he /she is doing a fusion knowing that the disk above is suspect .if you need a 3 level doing then a three level should be done .i know that when i went for my discography he checked to see that L3 was ok so he could fuse /L4/L5/S1 he told me that if L3 was unstable that the operation could not be done .maybe i have read your post wrong ? but maybe its time to get another opinion
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Hi; and i dont know your circumstances but, given the choices you were given i would have taken the same route you did.

    As the saying goes "you can pay me now, or pay me later, but your gonna pay me"

    Hoping you have a normal recovery, and wont have to endure this surgery a 2nd time.
    Which possibility would have been the case if you went with the 2 level.

    Best of luck to ya!
  • it's good to know others would have made the same decision that i made.
    since this is the 4th surgeon i have seen and the discs above & below the pending fusion are good (so far) I would rather go through one big surgery & recovery. Also I exhausted all other options as far a treatments go.
    I know i will be on here post-op, once the pain meds kick in.
    thanks to everyone for their continued support & the best to each of you!

  • Just checking in with you. Have they set a date for your fusion yet? I am getting anxious for my upcoming appointment with my nuerosurgeon. Hope to find out then if he will do my surgery and how many level(s) it will be.

    Let us know how you are doing, when you are able.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • Hi Barb,

    I have had 3 fusions in 4 years. My 2nd one was L1-L5 and it was my best recovery (if there is such a term!!). I had L5/S1 done the end of march and am still struggling but there were other issues they found once they got inside. Everyone is different and I had a really falling apart spine. I know some people who have a one level fusion and never have any problems or the need for more. My first fusion was L4/L5 and the surgeon said someday I might need more. That someday turned out to be 7 months later so you never can tell. But as I said my spine is a mess (quote from one of my back surgeons!!). Good luck.


    Spinal stenosis, spondolysis, spondolythesis, L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion with instrumentation and bone graft from hip, L1/S1 fusion with replacement disc put in and a nice bolt from my spine to my pelvis; PT, accupuncture, prolotherapy, many cortisone injections, 4 rhizotomies. Currently on tramadol.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • well its been 1 yr since i started the fight of haveing surgery approved by comp.! another hearing coming up mid nov. can only wait and see what the outcome is...
  • First of all, I've been struggling for a few years with my back pain and finding the source of it. Which, as some of you know, can make you feel like you're going crazy until you meet the right doctor that actually knows what to look for. It turns out that I have severe arthritis in the facets in my lower back due to a missing pedicle on the right side. I also have a touch of scoliosis,spina bifida occulta, spondolythesis, and degenerative disc disease. And to top off the congenital abnormalities, I was also born with an L6, an extra vertabrae. I had L3-L5 fused back in May of 2010. Over time my pain only seemed to get worse, not any better. I even tried physical therapy and that didn't even help, again it seemed to make the pain worse and it also made the tingling and numbness in my legs worse, Some ER visits and a CT scan later and the surgeon who did my first fusion deducted that it was a failed fusion. I just had my fusion redone on the 7th and am trying to keep a positive attitude that it will work and that I might have a reprieve from the pain. To Jan, I've heard about rhizotomies but haven't know anyone that has gone through one. Do they actually help and if so, for how long did you feel any relief? And to Barb- I hope you do get your surgery soon and that it do goes well. Workman's comp can be a pain to deal with, they don't want to pay for anything or authorize anything. I hope all does well for you :-)
  • I have had mixed luck with my rhyzotomies. I have had several of them over the years but not a great deal of relief. They are a bit painful as you need to be conscious so they can find the right nerve and then they burn the nerve. Supposedly it is done with radio frequency now and is less painful. I know of people who swear by them and have gotten relief. I will be trying them again as it will be in the SI joint where I have not had the procedure before. And you never know when it just might work. Its always worth trying and the pain of the procedure doesn't last THAT long.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • I couldn't also help but notice that you are currently on tramadol for the pain. The docs didn't want to risk it with me because I have a strong history of both epilepsy and kidney disease in my family, but at the time was curious and researched it. Has it been helpful for you? I remember reading that for a lot of patients they needed their dosages constantly changed. It's packaged as a non addictive medication(well unlike its narcotic counterparts, I mean), when in reality it isnt. That when it came time for the patient to actually taper off and get off the medication it was very hard because currently there really isn't any support or places to help get off the drug tramadol/ultram. I read somewhere that the FDA is trying to get it reclassified because of its addictive qualities in the hopes that it will help people that may find themselves in that predicament
  • Yes the tramadol is helpful for me. I have taken it before and never had issues getting off but perhaps did not take it long enough.

    I had to switch to tramadol when darvocet got taken off the market. My pain became worse so I went back on darvocet and then had to switch to tram. I take a very small dose unless I am really having pain issues. I have talked to my doctor about something else but he says there is nothing else. Next step is oxycodone and vocodin and those are absolutely out.

    I am on a great anti-inflammatory after trying many different ones. Voltaren. It works for me when others didn't and also allows me to take less tram. I was surprised tram was classified non narcotic because I know you can get high on it if you take too much. I was taking the normal dose at first (I am not very big - 100 pounds) and didn't like the way I was feeling on it so cut it in half.

    Have you tried an anti-inflammatory or is that off limits with your medical history. Good luck and keep me posted.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • before my first fusion surgery when I had been seeing an interventional physiatrist he tried me on a whole gamet of different anti imflammatories and nothing really helped with the pain. Out of everything etodolac helped a little bit, but had to have the dose changed every once in a while. After my first fusion surgery I was put on oxycodone for the pain. Not long after what should've been the recovery time for my fusion, I needed another surgery done. This one was an adrenalectomy. During the time they were trying to find out what was wrong with my back, and MRI spotted that I had a nodule on my left adrenal gland. Over time it was monitored, it kept growing and it was interfering with my hormones. Needless to say, they had to flex me on the table to get at it, and with an L-3 - L-5 fusion, that is not a good thing. I was in a great deal of pain afteer that and continued on with the oxycodone. I had a bad fall back in February and that's when they found that one of my screws was cracked. From then on my back pain got worse and worse until I could barely stay standing for short periods of time. I just had the revision surgery on the 7th and one of the screws was broken off into my bone and it took them quite some time just to dig it out. Right now am just starting to heal and over time my primary care has a solid plan on how we can taper the medication because I have been on it for so long. I'll be happy when I can go 2 months without having a doctor's appointment. Thank you, I hope all goes best for you too. It's so nice to talk to people that actually understand what I am going through :-)
  • tramadol didn't help with the pain. I started on hydrocodone 5, then it was upped to 7.5, now it is at a dose of 10. i suppose this will work for a while, but it's only a band-aid.
  • OMG... a fall & broken screws, how aweful!!! I really can relate to your pain. thanks for the words of encouragement & keep me posted on how u r doing. best of luck to you!
  • yes all of that and I'm only 26. The sad thing is revision surgeries for fusions have a less percentage of taking than the first. I'm just hoping and being very safe and not rushing to do anything. I'm taking vitamin D3 every day to help the bone growth. My ortho's office is trying to see if they can get me a bone growth stimulator to wear at home for a half hour a day for 6 months to promote bone growth. I just want to feel better. And now that it's November I'm worried because we just had the first snow fall of the season. I feel so fragile now. I want what most young women want, I want to find a nice guy to settle down with and to eventually have a child of my own. It just seems so hard and far away with all of this pain I am going through daily. But just gotta stay positive
  • Yes it sometimes seems like you will never be out of pain. But trust me after 3 fusions (am fused L1-S1)one day it starts to go away!! Its a long process and very frustrating but you just have to keep hoping and working hard.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Do you think you'll need another surgery or are you closest to being pain free that you think you can be? After your fusion which NSAID(s) or combination of medication helped you for the back pain? Right now I can only still be on the oxys since I'm relatively fresh from the surgery. I really want to get off of them but don't want to be in debilitating pain. I hate the way drs treat you when they see you are on that medication and the hoops you have to jump every month just to show them that you are indeed just taking it to help your pain, that you're not off selling it on the streets.
  • Right now I am on tramadol. I don't like to be on the narcotics and get off them asap but also know I need to be on them to help with the healing. You cannot heal when you are in pain.

    Tramadol is non narcotic but can make you spacey. I take 1/2 the recommended dose and that seems to be ok most of the time. I also take a muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory. I have taken a lot of anti-inflams and finally found one that worked. Its called voltaren.

    I just had cortisone injections in both SI joints and that has helped with the pain. Unfortunately it is my last injection. The next step is RFA radio frequency ablation which is burning of the nerve causing the pain. I have had them before with no luck, but in my back and not the SI joint. So I will try that. The last resort is fusing both SI joints. I want to avoid that if at all possible. It is 2 months non weight bearing for each side. Doesn't really fit with my lifestyle and the fact I live alone. Time will tell. I am mentally preparing for that just in cast it has to happen. But will be trying the RFA first. Some people get good relief with it some don't.

    How is your healing coming?? Are you able to walk?? What does the surgeon say about your prognosis?

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Yes I am up and walking, which is a lot different than my first fusion :-) Last fusion at this time I was still relying on the walker to get around(which I got quite a few looks because I was only 24).I found out today that my insurance approved for me to have the bone growth stimulator belt that should help my bone grast/fusion take fully this time. And they're paying for it in full! :-) A woman from the company is coming on Friday to fit me on Friday. I have to wear it a half hour each day. It's just sometimes I get so down on myself. Today I was in so much pain. I tried walking around with my mom to do some errands, did a little shopping and had some "girl time" with her. She never lets me carry a bag or do anything now that I've had the surgery. Sometimes I just feel so useless :-( And the walking felt good until after an hour into it. I started feeling such aches and pains that I was getting nauseous. We had to cut the day short and I collapsed on the couch. I don't like being on the pain meds either but it hurts so much and right now I can't take anything else for the pain. It'll be atleast four more months until I'm able to take any NSAIDs. I don't feel any difference in my level of pain since the fusion between my L3-L5. Am I just expecting too much too soon?
  • That is good news about the bone growth stimulator. I am not familiar with them. I am good at growing bone so my fusions are really good.

    Sorry your day ended badly with the pain. I know how that goes. Sometimes you feel so good doing something and then it comes back to bite you. Its so hard to figure out what is too much.

    I don't like to take my pain pills but also don't like the pain and ibuprofen, even 800 mg 3x a day didn't do it. This dulls the pain along with my anti-inflammatories.

    I remember wondering if the pain after surgery would ever go away (i've had 3 fusions remember)and then it suddenly does. But not until you really get down thinking you will hurt forever. One has to be so patient since it takes so long for full recovery. I am not a patient person so that was quite hard for me!!

    I still hurt but it is now from my SI joint. The fusions are fine.

    And to add to my pain and sometimes depression from the probability of 2 more fusions in my future my boyfriend of 3 years dumped me today. Good thing I am busy as that will help me get thru this.

    Take care of yourself and let me know how your pain is. Hope it was just overdoing it that aggrevated your pain. And I am interested to know how the bone stimulator functions.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • I am so sorry to hear that about your boyfriend. I can only imagine what you are going through. When I was going through the first fusion surgery, I had been with someone for 6 months and we were quite serious even in that amount of time, I was almost 25 and he was 28. He visited me every day I was in the hospital and I had to stay there a few extra days due to complications. The first day after surgery they tried to get me up and walking and my blood pressure dropped to 72 over 54 and I was getting dizzy and seeing spots. So, needless to say, I laid back in bed and then the PT person there tried it the next day and thank goodness we were successful(and I did two flights of stairs to boot! to this day I have never felt such a rush and accomplishment as I did then, as sad as that might sound lol). After 5 days I was released to go home. That day I didn't hear anything from my bf, my sister and her husband along with my mom drove me home and took care of me. The day after, I didn't hear anything from him. I didn't think I should have to be the one to call, ya'know? so I texted him and said "are you really not going to talk to me at all?" or something to that affect. And that was when he dumped me over a text. Saying he couldn't do this anymore, that I deserved better blah blah blah I automatically tried to call him because this came out of left field this happened on a Tuesday and the Saturday before that he had been holding my hand in the hospital telling me the next time I'd be in this much pain in a hospital I'd be having our child. Being a child and not a man, he would not answer my phone calls. Needless to say, even though I knew what he was doing showed me just how little he did care for me and how heartless of a person he was for kicking me down when I was already so low, I was crushed. I cried and cried until I had blood coming out of my nose from where it was scarred up from the tubes from the anasthesia. I was a mess for awhile. But you know what? In the end he was right. I was much better off without him. I didn't need a person like that in my life and even though I do live a life with a lot of pain and do get depressed at times I do have my happy moments. I have a very loving and supportive family and I'm an auntie and couldn't ask for a sweeter nephew, he's currently the only little man that has my heart right now and that's going to stay that way for awhile. I need to heal and be alright for myself before I can be alright for someone else. Even before all of the issues with my back pain, years ago, I had been with someone for about 4 years and we were engaged and it ended. It takes time but the heart does heal *hugs* things will get better for you Jani. How long did it take for your fusions to recover completely? And I am sorry to hear about the possibility of future fusions. I'm assuming it would be to fuse the S1? Feel free to private message me if you ever want to :-)

  • Wow, It seems as if there are others that are going through alot also, and I thought I was alone. In March 2011 I had back surgery. I had a posterior L4-S1 laminectomy and instrumeted fushion. 3 rods. Originally the surgeon had said 3 month recovery, then when he opened me, it was worse than he had thought. I had improved pretty quickly at first. Then I just stopped improving these past couple of months. I am still in alot of pain. I told the Dr. and he sent me for a CT scan. Last week he said the scan looked great. I am not totally fused yet, but it looked good. He said my pain was from alot of swelling and inflammation and that it's pressing on my nerves and that when the swelling goes down, I would be pain free. REALLY?? I am not so sure I believe that. I was using a bone growth stim for the first 6 months and then he told me to stop, that it could be irritating it. I am on Diludid for pain and Gabapentin for the nerve pain. I do not want to be on these mds, but I hurt so much,that I can't bear it without them. Before, I didn't even want to take advil for a headache! I can't drive (because of the meds) and it is extremely painful to even be a passenger in a car over 5 or 10 minutes. After 3 months my job cold've terminated me. they allowed me to work from home with the hopes that I would be better in 3 more months. As of last week, they could not do it any longer and therefore, I lost my job after 13 years of sevice. I can't blame them, I am just so sad about it. Ever since March, I literally have had no life. I am so lucky to have a great husband who understands, but yet I feel so alone with this pain. Does anyone know if this sounds "normal"? The Dr. just keeps saying to be patient and it takes time. I running out of patience. Any thoughts and/or input would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, and I hpe you all recover soon!
  • You are not alone. There are a lot of us out there still in pain.

    I am so sorry you lost your job. Can you file for disability?? I know it is a lengthy process but there are people on the website who have done it.

    Yes patience is one thing you need with this type of procedure. I have had 3 fusions, 2 of them only 7 months apart and I sometimes felt I would never get better, and then one day you start feeling better.

    I had my last fusion in march of this year and am still having pain issues. i don't think it is the fusion itself but the problems the fusion is causing.
    I am fused L1-S1 and I am good at building bone so I have a big block of bone sitting or rather bolted to my SI joint. My SI joint isn't happy and it was the original part of the back that was affected after the accident. In the meantime it has come full circle. This is a bit of an unusual case but my 2 previous fusions it did get better just at the point when you think you can't deal with it any more. I hope that comes soon for you. It will be a year or even more before a complete recovery if there even is such a thing.

    Hang in there, do your exercises for core strengthening, do your walking or whatever else you are doing and know that slowly slowly you are getting better.

    I was never a patient person and that was one of the hardest things to learn because this is such a long recovery. Think of it in small parts. How were you in the hospital and hoe far you have come from then. Make little bench marks for yourself so you know you are progressing.

    I walked a lot after the first 2 so I bought a pedometer to see how far I walked. That made it fun.

    Let me know how you are doing.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • I hope the fusion goes well! It is not a walk in the park, believe me! There are many success stories on here and hopefully yours will be another! Although mine was not one of those success stories, I am always happy to read about the ones that are.

    I do agree with the others that if the other level is unstable, they need to consider it as well, because you will be right back in for surgery to have it done within a short period of time. I was told once I had my fusion, the stress on the discs above it would cause them to degenerate faster, so if you have one that is already bad you are already on that track.

    Hopprcyn, I am in a similar situation as you as a result of my fusion. I have nerve damage at L4-5 which controls my right leg (basically lost use of it)and since I could not go back to work they let me go when my FMLA was up. I got my 5-year employee gift package one day and my walking papers two days later... gotta love it! Have you filed for disability? My six months is up the 24th and I will be able to file, thank goodness! I pray I don't have to fight for years to get it!
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