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TLIF 12/19/11

Trisha68TTrisha68 Posts: 32
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
After two microdiscectomies/lamimectomies this year, the disc has ruptured. I am scheduled for a fusion next Monday, December 19th. He said he will take a less invasive approach, incision will be posterior and will use cadaver bone instead of my own so that will lessen the time I'm on the operating table. Cage, plate and screws. I'm quite nervous do please, please send encouraging stories if you have them but don't sugar coat. I want to know what I'm in for. He said ill be in the hospital for three days but I've seen where some people are in for longer. Thanks in advance.!! Trisha


  • I have been writing about my tlif in the recovering from surgery forum. I think you will find it helpful. :)
  • I'll try to find that forum. Thanks.
  • I had my fusion two years ago, but it was an ALIF. I, too, have osteopenia and to date haven't had any problems with the hardware.

    I had a laminectomy/discectomy the previous year which didn't help and contributed to more instability in my spine.

    I'm very pleased with my fusion because it enabled me to walk without pain and enjoy life again.

    I do have other issues with my spine, so I'm not pain free, but then I'm much older than you.

    I'm in Australia and for fusion, the average stay in hospital is 5 days. My pain was well controlled in the hospital and the only thing I remember in the recovery room was that I was super thirsty and kept asking for ice (which I didn't get).

    You'll be hooked up to a pain pump and fluids initially - for me 3 days. A catheter was in for about the same time and I had the Flowtron DVT things on my legs, as well as the TED stockings. Each evening I was given an injection in my stomach - think it was Warfarin - to help prevent blood clots.

    On day 2, I was assisted to the shower and able to walk very slowly around the ward. The physio gave me gentle stretching and mobility exercises.

    I had one of those dreadful spinal headaches on day 2 which the pain meds didn't help, so I had to wait until it went on its own. I had scans on that day, which showed that I had a blood clot, but it dissolved and I was fine after that.

    I had nausea and was given medication in the drip to help.

    It was so good to get home to my own bed so that I could stretch out, and I got the big welcome from my dogs. They knew things were different and were very gentle with me.

    I was sent home with Gabapentin (Neurontin)to help settle the nerve, and Oxycodone and Oxycontin, and the meds lasted for about 6 weeks.

    At home I found I needed to rest heaps because I was so fatigued, which is normal during the healing process. Also needed to do lots of short walks around the house and patio because my legs felt so restless.

    I had lots of friends and family call in to help and cheer me up. I got pretty bored watching so much TV. I listened to lots of my favourite music and read a little bit.

    You'll need to observe the bending-lifting-twisting restrictions and your surgeon will guide you on this. It's very important to try and keep looking forward because you'll have some bad days. I got the "four walls" syndrome before I was able to go outside the house and a bit tearful - that too is normal. The post-op back ache which went on for 6-7 months is also normal.

    I prepared enough meals to last for 3 months and had a domestic service come in once a week. You won't feel like cooking or doing chores.

    I started driving at about 6 weeks out, but only locally. Don't be in hurry to drive because you may have to brake suddenly and that could put extra strain on your back.

    Once I started walking outside the house, I used a walker. When I got tired, I was able to sit on it and rest for a while. I only needed it for a couple of weeks. Walking short distances each day is very important during the healing process. When I became more active, I felt pain in other areas of my body and my understanding is that the spine is adjusting to being in a different position.

    I saw my surgeon at 6 weeks out, and at five and a half months had a CT scan done prior to my 6 months check-up. By that time I was fused. It would have been between 12-15 months before I felt the fusion was strong.

    Physio wasn't successful for me and increased my pain. I was unable to lie on the floor, so I modified some of the exercises. Walking and gentle stretching and squats worked best for me.

    Pain meds usually make you constipated. I eat about 10 prunes every night along with a high fibre diet.

    Be prepared for a long recovery time and do your best to be patient, which is easier said than done. Recovery is a time to concentrate on getting well again. The day will eventually come when you'll be able to say to yourself "I'm starting to feel normal again". My surgeon aims for an 80% - 90% reduction in pain. You'll always need to take care of your back for the rest of your life. You may have to modify activities. Sitting should be restricted to no more than 15 minutes at a time initially and gradually progress to longer times. Even now, I can't sit comfortably for longer than 30 minutes. Your back will tell you when you've done too much of any activity. Getting comfortable enough to sleep well has always been a problem for me, and you may experience this too. Use lots of pillows to support you - behind your back, under your knees or between your knees, etc.

    I hope your surgery goes well next Monday. In the meantime, treat yourself to something that makes you happy - say out for dinner, etc.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi Trisha

    One of the nursing staff will show you how to log roll in and out of bed. This is something I still do most days.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Thank you so much for the response! I'm nervous about this surgery but when my son had to help me get out of bed this morning I was reminded why I need to get it over with. I'm not looking forward to recovety. Ive had two other surgeries on my spine and went stir crazy sitting in the house. I have a question, are you able to feel the hardware? Or see it through the skin?
  • Trisha I am 10 weeks out from a l4/l5 tlif..I was doing well, but just ended up with bronchitis which has set me back badly with the pain. I will share some of my experience as i was so nervous before going in after reading some of the stories!

    My surgery was on a tuesday afternoon and I was home on Friday. I have 2 kids at home and wanted to get home. I wish I had stayed a little longer. The day after surgery I was up and walking(in pain) but was determined! I did great in the hospital and reluctanlty took a walker home as I didn't need one in the hospital. Thank god I did.. Anyway the 1st 2 weeks the pain was beyond what I ever expected. I was on heavy pain meds(dialotin) but still..After about a week home the muscle spasms started. The 1st time I had one I thought I was dying! The dr tried me on so many different relaxors yet nothing really helped. A few things to keep in mind once home, toileting, impossible! My hubby bought one of those chairs that go over the toilet which helped, but still couldn't wipe myself..Once you lay down in bed, you are there until someone helps!

    I did from the first day home start walking. Outside with my walker. They told me 20 minutes 3 times a day, which I did religously. Most of the time while crying but I did it. I am 10 weeks and now walk 3 miles a day.

    I believe by week 6 I was starting to feel somewhat normal again. Actually went out for dinner with the family(miserable pain but I did it). I started PT at 8 weeks which was too much for me so PT had me do their water PT for the last 2 weeks which was much easier.

    Trisha, Its a rough couple weeks, the boredom and depression sets in quickly but I have to say I am thrilled I had it done as I have none of the original pain..I do have some nerve pain but they are giving me meds for it and told me that will take several months to resolve. I understand now when the dr told me a full year recovery he wasn't kidding. I laughed at him and told him I had 2 csections I can handle anything...boy I was wrong..

    good luck and remember it will be worth it in the long run.
  • Hi Trisha

    I don't think I can feel my hardware, probably because I've got a bit of covering over my spine !! Whilst I'm not fat, there's enough flesh there. However, I did find it painful lying on the floor on my back trying to do certain exercises. I modified the exercises and did them lying on the bed.

    You'll probably get that stir crazy feeling again during recovery. I found lots of little walks outside on the patio helped me. I handled the recovery from the fusion much better than the first surgery.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi there Trisha,

    I was 42 when I had my fusion done. Plate, screws and 2 levels fused. I was told 3-4 days(I think) in the hospital post-op (that didn't happen).

    On the good side, even though I had my hardware removed at the 18 month mark, I am doing extremely well. Have lost a lot of weight (a good thing - did it deliberately), I exercise regularly and only ever have limited pain and soreness upon occasion - I am a success story at long last!!!

    ...plus I've not had to have the next level done yet - I was told 6 months to 10 years before I'd have to have it done, but so far (knock on wood) so good. I'm 3.5 years out and doing very very well.

    Good Luck Monday!

    Here is my real-time posts after surgery - -

    24 hours out (sick to my stomach, but doing ok)

    36-48 hours out (complications set in and a second surgery)

    5 days out...and still in the hospital

    8 days out and finally home on day 9!

  • Thank you for sharing! I will go read your story. I am so nervous this morning. I wish I could calm down about all this. I wasn't like this with the other surgeries. Not sure what's wrong with me.
  • I too had had many surgeries before the big one - my back - I was also very very nervous. It's just such a big scary surgery for some reason. Just keep working on those deep breaths, toss in some meditation maybe pop in some super relaxing music - have you heard of this from Marconi Union - billed (and proven) as the most relaxing music ever:


    (I think this is a link that will let you listen)

    I'll be thinking of you.

  • Weightless by Marconi Union on YouTube

  • I had the TLIF Monday morning, its now Friday night. I hate to complain because it could be much worse. I can't get my pain level under control but it seems to get a very tiny bit better than yesterday. Will write more tomorrow.
  • The first few weeks aren't easy but good that the pain level is just a tiny bit better than yesterday.

    I guess you'll probably have to wait until after Christmas, but if you still can't get sufficient pain control, then contact your doctor and perhaps you may need a review of your pain meds. In the meantime, make sure you're taking your meds on time, even during the night. I found I needed to get up at all hours and do lots of small walks around the house and patio to relieve the pressure.

    Hang in there


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Woke up today and my legs didn't want to work but after I walked to the bathroom they got better. I think my issue with pain meds is that I have been on so much of it for a year that I'm tolerant. After thisi hope i never see another pain pill. I don't know what they will do for me. The hospital staff was frustrated because they couldn't get it to a level I was comfortable with.
  • I had TLIF on Friday December 15th, 2011
    on L5-S1
    surgery was supposed to last 2 1/2 hours but a screw stripped basically and it postponed surgery to 6 hours long...
    Was supposed to go home on Sunday and stay because of pain issues til sunday.....
    The first week home was a blur.....
    Christmas I didnt take as much medication and dealt with the pain so I could see my kids and try to make smiles for Christmas...That night was a nightmare...
    So today, I managed so far with less pain meds but again without being able to have Advil, or Anti-immflammatories it has been rough..
    I am 46 and 5 8 1/2 and 140 pounds so dr. bone cutter seems to think I dont have enough fat (LOL) to handle the hardware over time...I just pray that he is wrong because the healing time so far is heck
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