Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Advice request for L5 S1 surgery

catherine12ccatherine12 Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi All,

Iv'e just had my 2nd MRI revealing severe degeneration in L5 S1 caused by slipped disk 3 years ago. I've been doing physio with a great therapist for 7 months, (as opposed to the awful numerous other physiotherapists for the previous years) core strengthening, swimming (though too agrivating recently) and walking which I believe has kept me from doing too much damage to the vertabrae but I'm not improving, in fact, I believe if I don't have surgical intervention my condition will deteriorate as it's becoming increasingly more difficult to do any of the exercises that keep me limber enough to function.

My question is has anyone had disc surgryt in same area and how has it effected you? I would LOVE to avoid fusion. Im 32 btw, and am now affectionately know by my friends as "Grandma"

Cathy, dublin, ireland


  • Hi Cathy,

    My first lumbar surgery was L5-S1. I had years of pain prior to this, and had it fused in Feb 2006. I felt a lot of relief almost immediately.

    However, I have degenerative disc disease (DDD), and ended up having some movement in same area--which ended up causing pain later and resulted in a revision where the surgeon entered thru posterior side and added screws and rods. Initial surgery was thru anterior.

    I have had L4-L5 fused later and also C5-6 and 6-7 in cervical fused, but I am one with DDD.

    It's your call, ask lots of questions and good luck! :-)

  • Thanks Charlie for your reply,
    Can i ask did you know you had DDD before your first op? Do you think the fusion encouraged the problems with other discs? This is my main concern with fusion. Hope you don't mind me asking....
  • Hi Cathy,
    I had a fusion on the L5 - S1. I thank God everyday for having the surgery. Everyone was warning me NOT to have the surgery but I couldn't live life the way I was. I had the surgery back in May 2005 and boy am I REALLY, REALLY glad I did. I am better and stronger today than when I was younger. Talk to your doctor. If you can live with the pain then you don't need the surgery and if you can't... then you already know the answer to that. I could not live with the pain and took the chance on the surgery with a wonderful orthopod that I thank every day. Please let me know what you decide. All the best and take care. Cindy
  • Hi Catherine,

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    I'm currently in the pre-op phase of things as I, too, am facing a fusion of L4-S1 for not only a flattened disc, but also forward slippage and pars fractures - with DDD to top it all off! Sheesh...

    The reason I bring this up is because my neurosurgeon told me quite blatantly that once you have a fusion of a spinal segment, you have a very real possibility of herniating discs above and below the fusion site. This is because those joints are taking all the heat for the non-movable ones.

    So, while I'm certainly not a medical doctor, I've heard it's very common to have other discs fail if you have to get fusions.

    Please let us know how things are going, kay?
  • Hi Cathy,

    I actually didn't know I had DDD until after my first fusion in 2006. The surgeon told my then-wife that I had the spinr of an 80-year old and I was just turning 35 at the time. It was pretty much confirmed after the later revision at that same level and after my first cervical fusion in Sept. 2007.

    I do believe that many people who have fusions have had that "domono effect", but that doesn't mean everyone will. If you have this fusion, you may never have another issue, and I hope you don't.

    I worked in heavy machining for close to a decade and did other factory work prior. I'm sure that played a part as well.

    Feel free to ask anything! :-)

  • Hi Cathy -

    I've had two fusion surgeries in 2009, one in my neck (C5-6-7) and L5/S1, due to injuries resulting from trauma. The cervical fusion wasn't elective; the pressure on my spinal cord was too severe. I debated the lumbar surgery, even though my doctor told me that the disc was completely degenerated and surgery was the only way that I'd obtain relief. The pain was such that I couldn't get through a day without heavy painkillers, which I had to keep next to my bed, because there were some mornings when just getting out of bed felt impossible. So, I decided to have the surgery, even though there were a lot of people who did everything possible to talk me out of it.

    I'm glad I didn't listen to them. It hasn't been an easy road post-op, but I don't have to take pills to live my life each day. I can do almost everything that I used to do (e.g., work out, work a 10 hour day, go out with friends, travel). I won't lie -- the first 8 weeks after the surgery were rough, really rough, and I was scared the entire time because pain would come and go, including in places that didn't hurt pre-op. But slowly, things got better. Much much better. I was back to work part-time after 8 weeks. After 6 months, I felt noticeably more human. At the year mark, I felt great.

    Now, the hard days are when something happens and there's a flare up of swelling around the surgical site. The first couple of times it happened, I freaked, convinced that I had a new injury. My doctor advised me that things around the implant can "catch" on the implants and tug, which causes the swelling, and its no big deal so long as the pain goes away after a few weeks. This still happens from time to time, almost 2 years out from the surgery. When that happens, it's exhausting, the sciatica comes back, moving around can be difficult, and it's nerve-racking. But so far, it has always gone away.

    And there are lots of "surprises." For instance, during one of the flare ups, all of the symptoms that I list above came back, but on the opposite side from where my symptoms were pre-op (e.g., pre-op, I had sciatica down my left leg. During the flare up, it was in my right leg). That freaked me out, but again, my doctor said not to worry about it if it went away after a few weeks. It did.

    For some reason, I started waking up every morning with extreme back pain about 3 months ago. No idea why. Even sleeping with the pillows under my knees, or on my side with one between my knees, didn't help. Someone recommended a Tempur-pedic mattress. Before investing in one, I bought a mattress topper made of the same material, and -- morning pain gone (knock on wood).

    So, my experience with L5/S1 fusion has been that I am substantially better off than I was pre-op, and absolutely glad I did it, but it hasn't been a "fix." I will never be the same as I was before the trauma. And there will always be episodes of discomfort to deal with. Thus far, however, there have also been reasonable solutions.

    The fact that you have been engaged in physical therapy pre-op is a definite good sign. If you are committed to therapy, you do the walking that your doctor advises you to do post-op, even if you're tired and a bit achy, you do the physical therapy to support your back by building up your ab muscles and rehabbing the back muscles that are pulled apart so the surgeon can reach your spine, that should really help with a successful result.
  • I have had L5/S1 fused (as well as L1-L5). All my fusions solved the problems that necessitated the fusions. Of course you are never 100% after a surgery like that but the relief is immense. Recovery is long, do everything your doctor says (as in what NOT to do!!). Good luck.

    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.
  • Wishing you the best Cathy,

    My signature tells my story. But, everyone is correct in their own way. I had the grade 2 slip with no disc left between L5/S1, bone on bone, and crushed nerve. Similar to you it sounds. My Dr also said that no surgey could result in being paralyzed if the L5/S1 slipped farther and did more nerve damage. My pain was high and I elected the surgery. Complete succes!!

    Get a good Ortho/Neuro with a two to three opinions and follow all the advice here for pre/post op.

    I would say 3 months to start feeling a lot better, but year to be fully fused and healed. That vary's from person to person. I did yard work at 5 months (mowing/edging) and carried 50lb salt bags at 9.

    One thing my Dr did to allevitae the stress on above vertabrae was to only pull L5 back about half way and not force the full alignment. That may be due to my particular situation, but made sense at the time and hopefully will avoid future surgery. He is a highly recommended ortho.

    I quit PT after 2 weeks--they want to push you too much and I am 60. I just did whatever I felt comfortable doing. A little more each week or two. Just no straight down bending over or side twisting. But, even that increased month by month. Also, L5/S1 is very low and doesn't have as much movement as higher up.

    Recovery is like 2 steps forward one back. There are days or a week when you feel like you are going backwards, then a jump forward.

    If you have an upstairs and maybe even if you don't, highly recommend a medical bed for first month.

    Good Luck,

  • CAthy
    I am 4 months post-op from anterior L5-S1
    On Wednesday I drove for 5 hours, which would have been impossible pre-op. On Sunday I was in the gym and doing flys and bench presses for the first time since the surgery and it felt good.

    I am sleeping through the night and able to walk for 2 miles with only minimal discomfort.

    The first 3 months were a real trial, as everyone here will attest, but the last month has been a joy and I am so happy that I have my life back almost pain free.

    Sure there are bad days, usually after I have pushed the limits and overdone it but at least the pain goes away with a couple of hours lying down and an ice pack - not like pre-op where I was in pain all the time, just the level that changed.

    If you are confident in your doctor, listen to his post-op advise and, in my case do lots of re-hab exercises, you will be fine
  • Thanks everyone, it's wonderful to hear about your personal experiences.

    I saw a surgeon yesterday who was recommended independently by two specialists. He has given the low down on anterior and posterior fusion on the L5S1. It's up to me which one I go for and I am leaning towards anterior (no damage to supporting muscles). AdrienL's comment above gives me encouragement...

    Anyone else had this op from anterior? Anything I should take in to consideration?

    All feedback MUCH appreciated as I feel a little in the dark still.
  • I have had both anterior (2x) and posterior (2x) fusions. I believe the anterior is easier to recover from since they are not going thru the muscles of the back. I found the recoveries similar but the scar tissue seems more apparent from the ones on the front.

    I was back to work in 3-6 weeks in all of them. I started physical therapy at the same times post op and as soon as the incision had healed I got back in the pool.

    It still takes a long time for complete recovery and the progress can seem slow at times. I had the first 2 fusions 7 months apart so I can't really say how long it actually took because I hadn't recovered from the first one before they did the 2nd.

    I started walking in the hospital and continued when I got home. Several short walks were better than one long one altho I did gradually build up my mileage.

    Good luck in your decision and let us know what you do decide and when it will happen.

    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.
  • Having JUST had this on Tuesday I may not be best quailifed to comment but I will. I had surgery Tuesday night around 5 pm and came home Thursday about 4pm. Yesterday I was up and about most of the day walking and visiting with guests. Last night I began hurting pretty bad when I finally laid down. I firmly believe I did too much, while not actually breaking any rules about no BLT (bend, lift, twist).
    I was on diluadid pump in the hospital and now I am on 5-10mg Lortab every 4-6 hrs prn. I am very gunshy about taking the dope but I understand the need to let my body heal and I am willing to walk through that much dope to allow the healing.

    Given the now four major surgeries I have had in the last 7 years, this is the absolute fastest I have ever felt like being up and about of them all. The ACDF was much harder than this to recover from for some reason. Like I said, it's still very new so I could be crying and taking my words back shortly ;( but I hope not.

    Do whatever you need to do for your relief though. It had come to the point that the pain and uncertainty of change outweighed the pain of staying in the spot I was in and the gamble was worth it. I am glad I did it so far.
Sign In or Register to comment.