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3 Days Until My Spinal Fusion (L4, L5S1 Laminectomy/Discectomy/TLIF with 6 Screws & 4 Rods) - What s

barbwiretnbbarbwiretn Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I am scheduled for TLIF surgery on Tuesday, 8/2/11. They will be doing a laminectomy and discectomy on L4, L5S1 and putting in 6 screws and 4 rods, crushing up the bone from the laminectomy for the autograft fusion. They will be removing several synovial cysts as well, and doing any "clean-up" work needed. I am told it will be a posterior entry with about a 6-8 inch incision. Has anyone had similar surgery that would share their post-op experience?

My background: Degenerative Disc Disease, with lower back problems since age 20. Now 52 years old and L4 & L5S1 facet joints are totally shot, and synovial cysts are present and impeding the nerve roots. I have been in considerable pain for almost 10 years now, and have had to rely on pain medication just to continue working for the past 5 years. I have tried PT, pain blocks, joint injections, decompression, etc, etc, over the past 10 years, and have repeated all alternatives to surgery again in the past year, just to say I tried - but all have failed. In the last two years, the pain has become almost unbearable at times, with constant nerve pain running from my back through my buttocks, the backs of my legs and calves, and down to my feet. I get extreme pain and muscle spasms in my lower back with any walking or standing over 3-5 minutes. I have not been able to perform a lot of the ADL's that I should. I live alone and have not been able to prepare meals, clean house, go to the grocery store, walk down the driveway to my mailbox, etc, etc, etc. I have been unable to participate in any social activities and my quality of life has greatly dimenished due to the pain. I have finally found a neurosurgeon that I trust and that is willing to do the surgery. Of course, they cannot cure the degenerative disc disease, but have advised that there is a 70% chance (standard odds for spinal fusion)that I will get some pain relief and will be able to have a somewhat normal life at least for a few more years. I am now willing and ready to take the gamble!


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find others whom have gone through the same surgery. Be sure to check out the post in the surgery forum, at the top of the page, on post op needs. It is a very complete list on things that will aid you in your recovery.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Good luck on your surgery and please post as soon as you are able and let us know how your doing. During your recovery, if you should get bored, stop in the chat for some laughs and discussions on spinal issues.
  • first as you live alone .have you got a plane for when you come out of hospital? like home care some to clean your house make you some food etc? {in the uk it would be don to the social services and relatives and maybe good neighbors} i don't know what your system is .the operation is a complex on as eve says {tamatam} and your recovery will be long expect some dark times and do get to frustrate when things aren't going your way.if you have not already got one .a rise and recline recliner would be a good investment .as you can sleep on it and it will help you stand {unlike a flat bed } because you are not supposed to twist /lift of bend post op .it a long road to recovery and the fist years wont be much fun .i am only repeating what my consultant told me .you and i have a similar background regarding our backs .i wish you well and the kind people here at SH will always offer support .but a few kind words on a laptop wont make your tea and vacuum the lounge ! try to get a good support network in place NOW as you wont feel like doing much post op.take care and good luck
    tony {uk}
    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
  • Welcome to spine health! Tamtam and Tony have given you great advice regarding post op needs. Since you live alone, alot of surgeons want you to have someone with you 24/7 for the first week or so, and even after that for help with showering and dressing. As you begin to feel better, you will want someone to help with household chores, cooking etc.

    You have been dealing with this for a very long time, have tried many conservative measures, and sound ready to get your life back. Positive outlook is a very important part of the healing process.

    We will be hear cheering you on! Look forward to getting to know you better. Please let us know how you are doing post op when you feel up to it.

    Thinking of you on Tuesday!

    >: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
  • Did you just ask if barbwiretn has a plane ready after geting out of the hospital? Like a private plane? Who you think she is married to Donald Trump eh? Lol. Good luck Barb. Best wishes with your surgery,
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • I really appreciate all the replies to my post regarding my upcoming TLIF surgery on Tuesday!

    I am still laughing about the plane! I wish I did have access to a private plane to fly me home after the surgery instead of the 100+ mile trip back, and I wish Donald was a distant relative, but no, I'm just a poor ole country gal with a fishing hole in her back yard. (I haven't even been able to fish at all this year due to the pain.)

    I actually do have a pretty good plan in place, as far as a support system. I will be going from the hospital to my Mom and Dad's. Dad got me a used “lift chair” and moved it in yesterday so I can sleep in that and won’t have to worry about hurting myself trying to get out of a bed. I sleep in a recliner now anyway due to sleep apnea, so the lift chair is great! (Thanks, Dad!) Mom and Dad both turned 80 in June. Mom is still recovering from a total neck dissection done in Feb due to thyroid cancer, which had metastasized into the lymph nodes. They removed 37 malignant nodes, along with her thyroid during the surgery, and then she went through the iodine radiation treatments but, amazing to everyone, she has really bounced back like a 20 year old. Dad has Alzheimer’s, but he is okay most of the time. He might forget what he walked into a room to get, but as long as someone is there to remind him what he is doing now and then, he's a great help! (I might ask for a glass of water and he might bring me a roll of toilet paper, but we'll get through it somehow!) No, just kidding, it's really not that bad (most of the time)! (We have to have a sense of humor about it - better to laugh than to cry, right?) I have a house and 18 acres and Dad has taken care of the place for me for the past few years. He spent the last 3 summers running a dozer and backhoe all over the property, cleaning up the land, upgrading the ponds, etc. Mom has restricted his dozer and back-hoe operating somewhat this summer, but he still mows my yard every week (not all 18 acres, just a couple of acres or so), takes out my trash, etc. He still works like a 30 year old, and could outwork any 30 year old that I know, but unfortunately his mind is going a little more each day. I am truly blessed to have the greatest Mom and Dad ever!

    Anyway, (sorry for the rambling), I will stay with Mom and Dad until I am able to take care of myself. Right now my house looks like something from "Hoarders - Buried Alive" as I haven't been able to clean or do much of anything for so long, and I am too embarrassed to ask anyone to help me clean because I don't want them to see the mess I have let it become - but I am not worrying about that right now. It can just stay locked up and in shambles until I return a new, healthy person. I am looking forward to the day when I can clean, clean, clean - the whole house top to bottom - and I promise that if I do get back to a normal life where I am able to clean my house again - I will never complain about having to do it, ever again! I have taken so many little things for granted that I "had" to do every day, and bitched about them incessantly, but when pain consumes your life, it takes most everything away. I have spent the last 2 years either sitting in my recliner at home, or sitting in my nice office chair (w/lumbar support) in front of my computer at work. I have only been able to continue working by taking pain medication (Lortab 10mg 4xday, Soma 350mg 4xday and DayPro 500mg 2xday) for the past 4-5 years. Since I have been so inactive for so long, I have gained over 100 pounds and that has put a huge stress on my body (knees and feet are starting to go on me as well). I can't wait to start exercising and working out again! I am blessed that I have an office job that allows me to sit in an office all day, or I would not have been able to work at all. I have a disabled driving tag, so I can park right at the entrance to my office, so I don’t have to walk but a few steps to my desk and I stay there all day, with the exception of a couple of bathroom breaks right down the hall. Hopefully, this time next year (or sooner?), I can park in the parking lot with everyone else and take that long walk across the parking lot and up the sidewalk, past the “reserved for the disabled” sign and feel how blessed I am to be walking pain-free again!

    I wish all of you the best in your recoveries and I look forward to posting again next week when I get settled in after my surgery!

    PS - Sorry for the long post but I just wanted everyone to get to know me better and I hope to get to know all of you better as well! I am very grateful to have a place to go for support after my surgery. I wish I had found this site years ago!
  • Welcome and good luck with your upcoming surgery. I am glad you have family support. I have had 3 fusions and am fused L1-S1. I live alone and it was a challenge at the beginning. Very important to have someone with you. I had a safety bar installed in my tub/shower, got a long handled shoe horn (couldn't live without one). Don't worry about socks, they are overrated. I also have a long handled dust pan for sweeping. Lose, elastic waist band pants are the most comfortable. Be sure they are easy to pull on. I recently installed a water saver toilet and got one that is higher than the regular ones (they make 2 sizes!!) and that has helped a lot. Anything I use often I made sure was in a place I could reach, not in a low drawer or cupboard. Its a long slow recovery but well worth it. Follow your doctor's instructions. And let us 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.
  • Thanks for your reply and all the advice. How long before you could go back home to care for yourself?


  • I was in the hospital 5 days and went home after that. I did have someone to help after the first surgery but not the 2nd. I knew what to expect and had friends stop by if I needed help. The 3rd surgery I had someone stay the first night and again, people came over when I needed help. It was hard but I survived and had successful recoveries. Still recovering from the last one which was in march. Take care.

    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.
  • Cctxmitzi72CCctxmitzi72 Posts: 36
    edited 05/16/2014 - 9:37 AM
    I'm 41 year old mom of 3 kids, 24,20, 15, and a grand mom of 2 small boys ages 3 in July, and 8months. I can't do any house work walking sitting standing and laying hurts. I have lower back pain, leg pain, tingles and numbness, and electrical like shock feeling in my heels and two toes on both feet, my legs are week, and buckle often. I have no social life anymore. Due to so much pain.i feel 90, I was in a roll over due to me falling asleep 6 years ago, I flipped 4 to 5 times. This is the reason for back issues along with aging I suppose. I'm having TLIF, June 9th. I'm nervous, a bit scared, yet ready to feel better soon. Hopeful for a good outcome. I have done PT,water PT, 3 ESI injections. Nothing has helped. I can't function any more, I've gained weight cause I can't even do simple exercise such as walking due to pain. I having a two level TLIF fusion open procedure, will be in hospital from Monday till about Sat. I'm wanting advice, as to things that will help during hospital stay such as what type of pjs things helpful to have in hospital and after to make things easier?where did you find it most comfortable to sleep your bed ,recliner? What things did u have at home after useful? I'm concerned as to what things I will need help with such as showers, using the potty, tmi I know, but since you can't twist and bend ECt, is going to the potty going to be a hard task? With what things will I need help with. I have small grandchildren, how in the world will I let them know I can't pick you up? ECt.
    How soon did you drive? You best and worse part of the hospital stay after surgery and at home? Things that help you stay comfortable at home? Did u have therapy in hospital and after y returned home. I was told I'd have home health nurse coming daily to change my dressing to make sure I don't get infection? I'm hoping it won't be to bad, but also know to expect major pain after surgery. And will get better after a few days and slowly better as weeks go by. Any advice is appreciated also is there certain questions I should ask my back surgeon?
    Mitzi Arredondo
  • Hi .. I had a two level fusion with all sorts of bits and pieces ... Also had arthritis for many years and also tried every type of injection, therapy etc. I was drained from the constant pain which didn't respond to any painkillers all that much and it was demoralising and relentless and I also had a very small life. My kids are gone and married but I am a hands on grandma to a five year old girl and identical twin boys now 2 and a half ... so I know exactly where you are coming from.
    It is scary surgery and I found the month before waiting for it the worst bit ...
    They will keep your pain down in hospital and when you come home it proved a good thing for me to keep a pain diary ... what I took, what time, pain score out of ten. The best advice is TAKE the painkillers REGULARLY and don't wait for pain to build up. The first three weeks I needed a lot of help ... no bending, lifting or twisting. Take it seriously and if you are given a corset, wear it! It will give your back support and be a constant reminder not to bend, lift or twist! I bought the following which have proved really useful and you can see the sticky on the forum too.

    A long handle shoe horn, a long handle grabber, a long back scrubber and a SOXON (Amazon) for helping to put on socks or tights. I bought a baby step which I kept by the bed ... if you put your feet on that before sitting on the edge of the bed you will get closer to the middle of the bed and not worry about falling off the edge! When I was in bed I put a towel next to me with the remotes, kindle, lipsalve, pen etc so all I had to do was pull the towel up to me rather than bend forward for anything. I got a cage to go around the toilet so I had handles for getting up ... I am very short and found the raised toilet seat too high for me! Put the stuff you use regularly on the kitchen counter so you don't have to reach far. I kept a small plastic jug next to the water tap and filled the kettle only enough for cups of tea and coffee so I didn't have to carry a kettle from tap to socket. I kept a pillow on the settee downstairs and a lap tray in there too. I found sitting to be the hardest thing and even now. three months post op, there are still days where sitting is hard and I start eating sitting down and finish standing up.
    I didn't drive until 9 weeks ... could have earlier but just didn't feel I wanted to go anywhere enough because you are still too tired to walk around much when you get somewhere. Friends came and took me to a coffee shop or a garden nursery and that was enough. I still get tired mid evening, so dinners out are still a bit of a challenge as every chair to find will be different ... I take a pillow and small foam cushion everywhere with me so I can support my back.
    As for using the toilet and behind you when showering .... I managed fine ... you can just do it.
    The babies ... yes it is hard to tell them you can't pick them up but I get my daughter to put them next to me ... on my lap proved too much weight on me for a while, but easier now. Just explain ... with me it was ages since I could lift them anyway.
    The back surgeon ... I took a list of questions in with me to ask in advance and I also had a pre-op assessment with an orthopaedic nurse which was very useful.
    Expect the first few days in hospital to be difficult ... my op lasted four hours and I had two scars about 6" long each side.
    They will teach you how to logroll out of bed and that was hard at first ... a few tears and shakes at the start as it really is an assault on your whole body, but I even walked with help to the commode on the first night as I refused a bed pan. Being upright and walking was the best position for me... lying on my back, surprisingly, was easier than on my side. Try to walk around your room a few times each day ... At home extreme tiredness was a big factor the first month or so . ... my husband made me get into bed after lunch and I would sleep a couple of hours, no problem! The drugs help you to sleep as the narcotic effect builds up a bit over the course of a day .... I was reducing the dosage at about 5 weeks and now am off them altogether and take a stronger version of Tylenol for the most part.
    It is not easy .... but the pain post op and as you go along is not as bad as the pain before which made me feel generally ill as it was so relentless and this pain now is getting less. I do still have sciatica down my right leg ,,, not as constant and generally duller than before. As the nerves wake up after being squashed for so long, they do give some trouble, but it is not all day, every day like before and clears up over time. As time goes by try and walk little and often ... say ten minutes a couple of times a day ... don't try to be superwoman and go for one long walk, your body won't take it.

    Good luck ... keep in touch if I can help and it does get better!
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