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Has anybody had a three level spinal fusion?

SpudSSpud Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
After 17yrs of back pain, endless waste of time visits to my GP and thousands of pounds(i kid you not!!) spent on private physio I have finally been referred to a consultant at a specialist hospital. Thanks to a fantastic specialist consultant I have had X Rays, CAT scans, CT scans MRI scans facet joint injections, pain management course and finally last week a discogram. All of these tests have confirmed that I have degenerative disk disease in three of my disks in the lumbar region and that my only option is a three level fusion. This is a major op and i would take great comfort in talking to somebody else that has had/is going to have the procedure. Also if anybody is about to go for any of the above tests and want to know about my experience i'm happy to share.

Thanks :-)


  • I am fused from L1 to S1. It happened in 3 fusions but the middle one was L1-L5. I have had many of the procedures you have had. The fusions were what got rid of the pain and other symptoms I had. I am very active and had a fairly easy recovery from the 5 level fusion. Of course you can't lift anything, do any housework, stuff like that. Lots of walking. I was able to swim after 3 weeks. Listen to your doctor and take it very easy. I was off work for 3 weeks. That was per the doctor. The total recovery is a long time. Since my first 2 fusions were only 7 months apart I never really recovered from the first one. I would say it took 2 years to totally recover from both to where I was back doing the things I was able to do before. I had a bone graft from my pelvis on the 2nd fusion and I think the recovery from that is worse than the spine surgery!!
    I have incisions both front and back, the first fusion was a 360, the multi level one they went in from the back. I have lots of hardware in my back. I do core exercises religiously and flexibility too since now I am only flexible at my hips. Hope this has been of help. Don't hesitate to ask more questions.


    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.
  • Jani, thank you so much for your reply it has eased my mind a lot. The fact that you were only off work for 3 weeks is a real surprise to me. I was under the impression I would be off for months!!! I'm looking at fusion at L3/4 L4/5 and L5/S1 and was led to believe that a three level fusion is quite rare, maybe i'm miss informed about this. You say that the recovery from the bone graft from your pelvis was quite nasty, would you recomend the use of bone from a "bone bank" eventhough they say that the results may not be as good. Also you mention about your flexibility now being from the hip, how debilitating do you find this activity wise? I am apt to unconsciously tighten the muscles of my lower back reducing my lumbar mobility as a bit of self preservation from the pain plus the level of degeneration that i have that makes me suitable for the surgery I have convinced myself that the lack of mobility following surgery won't be that dramatically diferent, or am I just kidding myself!!??!! :-)
    Did you have your procedures in the UK?
    Sorry to bombard you with questions and i understand that everybody's condition and experience is different but this is the first time I've managed to be in contact with somebody that has had a similar procedure!!
    p.s sorry about the spelling, where's the spell checker when you need it!!

    Kathy :-)
  • I had a 3 disk fusion a year ago. C4-7 in my neck. I am needing another in my lower back. I have had all the tests you stated, will never go through a diskogram again, mine was so bad I have PTSD just thinking about it but that was someone I didn't know. Check out your surgeon well, look the dr up on the internet for ratings, mine does Nasa surgeries & is qualified for anti-gravity surgery. The sooner you fix the problem, the better. I went through 10 yrs of injections/PT before I lost 40% use of my arms & now unable to work. I got relief but the nerve damage is too severe & I still need further surgery. But I recommend it for relief on the nerves that are being pinched to prevent total nerve loss and loss of use of limbs. Best of luck!
  • Thanks for the replies they have been very informative. I'm posting this now as I am due to finally have my three level fusion (L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1) next week on the 11 January 2012 i'm dreading it but at the same time I feel like i've won the lottery as for once I have a real chance of reducing my daily pain and having my life back!!! :-) :-) if anybody is about to go through the same thing or has just gone through it and would lke to compare notes feel free to message me :-)

  • i know you requested input from people who have had 3 level fusions; but i can tell you my experience with a 2-level fusion. the only diagnostic test i had was an MRI. here in canada we do not have the luxery of having all the tests and procedures that i read that a fair number of american people on this site have had. my MRI showed the herniation and nerve root compression, spondylolisthesis and stenosis.

    i am presently on canada disability pension (america's equivalent of SS disability). i had this surgery in 2008 and have not returned to work. the sickening sharp pain that i got whilst sleeping (trying to sleep i should say - lol) is gone; however the cumulative issues created by 3 surgeries have complicated things. i also have OA in my back, hips and hands plus another painful neurological condition that adds to this already vulnerable state.

    i find it interesting that your surgeon fused you without objective indication that there was spinal instability; also, that a fusion was performed for DDD without any indication of nerve compromise (perhaps you did, but did not state that in your post). from my review of the fusion literature that i read prior to deciding on my fusion, it has been reported that fusion surgery on patients with DDD alone does not respond, on average, overly well. nonetheless, i wish absolutely only the best for you. i wouldn't wish spinal problems on my worst enemy.

    was this your first spine surgery? also, how old are you? i hope that you never require another surgery in the future. keep us updated, eh spud?
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