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New Memeber - Having ALIF S1-L5 soon - scared

oonamilkooonamilk Posts: 62
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in New Member Introductions
Hi All,
I've been reading this site for a while now, since receiving the news from a first doc then a second that a spinal fusion at S1-L5 is recommended. I am very scared, but need to get rid of this pain. When I cough or sneeze I have to brace myself for the pain. I can't lift my to her carseat. So many of you have gone through these same feelings.

I just wanted to say hi and thank everybody out there who have gone through this pain and these operations for sharing your feelings and experiences. It has helped me to deal with my own pain and fear.

I am having ALIF in a couple weeks, with instrumentation and synthetic bone graft material. My doctor recommended only the S1-L5 level at this time since I am young. Even though L4-L5 is also degenerating and will probably need an operation in the future.

Have any of you gone through a single level fusion like this knowing that you may need another in 10-15 years? I hope that by then artificial disks will be more available to us in the US, and that our insurance system will allow these technologies.

I'm really scared about this operation.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    You found a great site! Besides the forums and articles and videos..the search on this site is so usefull to read..to read past posts.. about whatever question you may have as you go along.

    I have not had surgery myself, but know of friends who have done quite well after theirs.

    And it is awesome to think of the current and yet future technologies for relieving pain and healing! Thanks for that reminder that there's always hope for a better tomorrow!

    Keep in touch!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • have sent you a PM
    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. Glad that you have joined us, but sorry that your pain brought you here.

    I have not had a fusion, but many on this site have had a single level done, the same as yours. I am sure they will chime in with their experience.

    Please be sure to check out http://www.spine-health.com/forum/back-surgery-and-neck-surgery/post-op-must-haves-0 it will give you an idea of the things you may need post op.

    Wishing you all the best. Look forward to hearing more from you leading up to and after surgery.

    >: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
  • Thanks for your kind words. It helps so much knowing that there are others out there going through the same feelings and similar struggles.

  • Welcome to Spine-Health. As you know from lurking, there's a lot of great articles, videos and information on this site and the forum is full of great members who are very knowledgeable and supportive. We understand many times when nobody else does.

    I've had a fusion at L4/5, but posteriorly (a TLIF), not anteriorly.

    I'm not sure I know the difference in recovery other than perhaps anterior is a bit better in that your major back muscles and facia don't have to mend themselves back together, causing extreme muscle spasms. But either way, it's major surgery and comes with a long recovery period.

    It's very understandable that you're scared abd nervous about it, there's a lot to think about, but try to concentrate on getting things ready for when you get home. Setting up your "station" - where you'll plant yourself during recovery, getting the things you'll need such as a grabber or two, toilet seat riser, shower chair, satin sleepwear or sheet for helping you to logroll out of bed, etc. Karen posted a link to items that will help you post-op, but you won't need them all (it's a daunting list) and some you'll find you need after you get home and your home helper can go get it (or them).

    Also be sure to keep up on your meds in the first few weeks post op to stay ahead of the pain because it's very hard to get back under control once it gets ahead of you.

    I wish you luck on your surgery and post away until then with any questions or just to vent. We understand what you're going through and are all wishing you a successful surgery. Just understand that recovery takes time and you'll most likely feel at times like you're taking three steps forward and one step back. It's best to measure your recovery in weeks, not days - it's just easier that way.

    Again, welcome to Spine-Health and I'm glad you finally joined. We'll be here for you before, during and after your surgery. This place can be a god-send while you recover and find yourself bored. It seems like the restrictions go on forever, but it's so necessary to help fusion by adhering to them and starting a walking regimen when you can, starting with small distances (even down the driveway and back) and increasing as you can. Walking is our friend. :-)

    Take care and keep us posted.
  • I'm also preparing for fusion surgery, on L4-5 only, at this time even though I have problems with L5-S1 as well. I don't really know what to expect, but have reached a desperation point with the pain, that I can no longer function like this. I'm not really scared of the surgery itself, oddly. Mostly scared of what will happen if it doesn't help, and the thought of having to face another surgery down the road for L5-S1.
    The pain I'm in was "manageable" with minimal meds a year ago. But I cannot imagine another year, or even 6 months like the last several months have been. Chronic unrelenting pain now dominates my life and everything I do. I am trying to learn more from others about their post-op experiences, so that I can be prepared. I don't know what to expect in that regard. I know it won't be a picnic, but I pray that the "surgical" pain is easier to manage than this pain I'm in now.
  • First, oonamilk, I don't want to hijack your thread, but would like to address Sib's concerns. Please forgive me.

    Sib, welcome to Spine-Health. You've found a great place for information and the forum members are very knowledgeable and supportive.

    I totally understand how you feel as I've had the same issues and had surgery at L4/5. I have to say that the recovery can be pretty brutal in the first few weeks, but some are better than others. For me, I had increased nerve pain down both legs while recovering because my body was revolting against the assault it took. I had to use a walker (which I didn't have to pre-op) after surgery because the pain was so intense I couldn't walk on my own. Then the spasms come while the muscles try to grow back together in the back. Meds helped with the majority of the pain, but not the nerve issues.

    However, with that said, after the initial problems, it got easier and easier as the weeks passed. Try to measure your recovery in weeks, not days, as it's a long recovery. It's been said, and it was this way for me, that it takes about 6 months to feel pretty decent and a year to feel back to normal. I actually don't think I'll every be back to normal with my job and actually living life, but it's manageable and I'm glad I had the surgery because the previous pain was too much to handle. I couldn't even stand for more than a few minutes without having to bend forward or sit down.

    What are you having surgery for: disc, facet, stenosis, spondylosis/spondylolisthesis, some or all of the above? When is your surgery?

    Try not to worry about the future after surgery as far as adjacent disc/level problems. They may or may not become an issue and if they do, it may be years down the road. I also know that many surgeon will do more work once they get in there if they find serious problems. I had a 1-lvl surgery and have a 7 inch scar - my surgeon told me that my spine was much worse and much more unstable than he thought going in so he had to do more work than he planned for.

    Anyway, I hope this helped in some way, even if just a little. We'll be here for you when you need support or answers to questions.

    Take care and keep us posted.

    PS You might want to start your own threat so we don't hijack oonamilk's thread any further. :-)
  • Thanks Cath111! and sorry Oonamilk...I'm new here :-)
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