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Upcoming l5/s1 discectomy

mj1978mmj1978 Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone,
I have an upcoming l5/s1 discectomy and I have a ton of questions that I am hoping to get answered. I have been dealing with back and leg pain for a year now and all other treatments haven't worked so I finally opted for surgery. I am having a regular discectomy done. I would like to know what to expect throughout the whole process. I understand that everyone has different experiences, but any information would be very helpful. I tend to be very curious by nature so not being well informed isn't an option for me. First off I would like to know how long the surgery usually takes? Will I have to spend the night in the hospital? How will my pain be controlled in the hospital? IV meds, oral, or a combination? What type of pain meds do they typically use (morphine, ect?) What should I do before surgery to prepair myself to come home? How long will I be unable to drive for? (I live alone, just me and the dogs.)Will I be sent home with medications and if so what types? I ask about the medications because alot of narcotic pain relievers tend to give me headaches. Kind of ironic how something that treats pain can cause it. I once had a shot of morphine.....worst headache of my life. Is six weeks recovery time long enough? Will my siatic nerve wake up after the surgery and hurt worse? Will I have to wear a brace? Will I be able to shower and dress myself ok? Will I be able to prepair meals ok or should I stock up on microwave and easy to make stuff? Is it realistic to have this surgery and live alone? I'm sure I can think of a million different questions and any help would be greatly apperciated. Thank you for taking your time reading and hopefully responding to all of my questions.


  • MJ....
    So many questions, where to start..here goes..
    Surgery could be from 1 to 3 hours, you will spend the night, you'll have most likely an IV, and some oral pain meds. I dont recall being given morphine, but vicodin is a must.
    Prepare for surgery by setting up a table or tray next to your bed and/or recliner chair where you will spend the majority of the first week. Set eveything in an easy to reach place and near where you will be laying. I was driving in about a week afterwards. I would get someone to watch the dogs for you. That might be your most challenging task while laid up.
    They will teach you how to shower and dress yourself without hurting yourself. The nerve will still be sore, but better than before. That soreness will go away depending upon how intense you make your PT on yourself.
    Cooking should be ok, keep in mind that you shouldn't be lifting things as heavy as a gallon of milk right away, so buy small.
    I hope this helps and good luck with your surgery!
  • I really appreciate the feedback that everyone has given me so far. It had been very useful information. Thanks again!
  • :jawdrop: Hello gang! I am now about 84hrs post op and sitting at home now..(thank god...impossible to get any sleep in hospital...go figure..lol)Had a L5-S1 disectomy fusion on Jan5.Fortunately pain is mostly managable with drugs however still hurts like hell..lol.So far so good and only time will tell.If any of you ever have this done..have a wlaker and a rigged cane handy...makes it MUCH easier to stand up and sit down...Good luck to all you out there!
    Thanks Matthew
  • Welcome to spine health! My husband and I have both had discectomies. His was a regular discectomy and his surgery was about an hour and a half, and he spent 3 days in hospital. I had a two level microdiscectomy/lami, and was also about 1.5 hours. I was released to go home 5 hours after surgery.

    Since I was far from home, I stayed in a hotel for a couple of days, mostly sleeping and small walks.

    We both had IV medication and then switched to oral to go home with. If you have trouble with narcotics, I am sure that your surgeon will find something for you to take.I was on MS contin,lyrica, and percocet before surgery and continued that after. Are you on any meds now? When is your surgery?

    My husband drove about 3 weeks after surgery :O , but unfortunately my surgery was not a success, so I still don't drive. I would ask your surgeon these questions, as well as asking about physio, and restrictions.

    Wishing you all the best! Please keep us updated on how you are doing.

    Apimo, welcome to SH as well. Glad to see that you are recovery well at home. All the best to you!

    >: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
  • Kwilson400KKwilson400 Posts: 42
    edited 07/15/2012 - 4:28 PM
    Good luck
    June 2011 L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    Dec. 2011 Repeat L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    June 2012 New tear L5-S1 w/ Perm. Sciatic Nerve Damage
    Currently- restrictions (including no work duties) for a min. of 3 months to allow disc time to heal
  • It depends on how they access the disc. What I mean by this, is how they cut you open.

    Some surgeries can be done with only small perforations in the skin. These are closed with a simple bandaid. (I had this version, twice)
    This version is done in about an hour and is "outpatient." A person can go home in a couple hours.

    Others have an incision several inches long and then they cut open an access hole in the vertebra(the bone). These are of course, lengthier both in operating time and recovery time.

    Each case is different, but most have many similarities.
    You will probably have a pre-op meeting with the anesthesiologist.
    In my case, we discussed what was going to happen, my medical history, and any questions, concerns, or comments I had.
    It was I.V. sedation. Subsequent injections were made into the I.V. line. You might experience a metallic taste on your tongue when the anesthesia enters your bloodstream. Normal.
    When that stuff hits your brain..... off to la-la land!

    Usually before the surgeon closes, they dump in more local anesthesia, anti inflammatories and other stuff. This numbs the local area pretty good and it usually stays like that for awhile. This post-op period of time is sometimes referred to as the honeymoon. Theoretically, you will not be feeling pain. At some point, those drugs wear off.

    I was prescribed a brace of sorts. It was an inflatable belt made by disc disease solutions Inc.

    It's possible that you will not be given instructions for stuff. It's a reality that levels of care to patients are not always where they should be at all locations. Hopefully you will be given great care and support.
    They won't want you to get the bandages / dressing wet. Be really careful with wet surfaces. Don't slip!

    I gotta be honest and say you probably won't have the stamina to make a meal for awhile. Your body will need rest, lots of rest.

    I had help for the first 2 weeks. After that I chose to be on my own. It can be done. Buy one of those grabber things to help pick things up off the ground without bending over.

    If you can swing it, maybe go over to where the actual surgery will take place. Ask if you can be given a tour of the place. This helps reduce your nervousness on the day of surgery because you are familiar with the location. One less thing to worry about.

    I asked ahead of time if it would be ok to eat something light after I woke up. (it's common to fast starting the night before) They said "yes" and I had my sis take a sandwich to the surgery with us. I was hungry all day and knowing that the sandwich was going to be waiting for me when I woke up kept my mind occupied. I really looked forward to eating that sandwich! LOL! Made post-op a better time.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Wow thanks for all of the feedback! I dont have a date for my surgery yet but I did get a couple of phone calls today about it. The first call was from my primary care doc. She said everything looked good and she was going to clear me. The next call was from my neurosurgeon's office. They told me that they recieved the clearance and would send me a packet in the mail telling me all of the pre surgical appointment dates along with the actual surgery date itself. Right now the only thing that I have for pain is norco 5/325. I got 20 of them from my primary care doctor last week. I was prescribed one per day at bedtime for severe pain. Needless to say all of you that are currently in my position know that one 5mg norco per day dkes not even begin to tame that beast. I come home most days after work and lie on the couch in pretty bad pain. I called my primary care doc today and told her that one per day wasn't cutting it. I was advised to talk to the neurosurgeon for pain relief because she isn't comfortable prescribing narcotics for pain control. I called the neurosurgeons office today and the nurse said that she was going to talk to him and call me back in the morning. I honestly do not have high hopes of being prescribed anything better for pain because I have not seen him in around nine months. I would say that I am pretty much sol on adequate pain relief until I actually have the surgery. I don't really have anyone that can help me out. All of my friends live over an hour away and I don't speak with my family members that do live in the area. I broke up with my girlfiend of 12 years not long ago and the mutual friends in town chose to be friends with her for some reason. With all of that being said pride isn't what is keeping me from having someone else to help. I just don't really have any other option. My mom is going to come down for the first couple of days after I am released though so that will help. After she leaves I am on my own. I am honestly scared about the whole thing to be truthful and I almost called it off for the second time. I have been dealing with this for a year though now and I can't really let fear stand in my way. As far as feeding the dogs goes I figured I would just put their bag of food on top of the kitchen table and dump it in their bowls standing up. I can use the little squirter thing on the kitchen sink to fill ther water bowls. I have a young austrailian shepherd that jumps onto my stomach constantly though when I am laying on the couch. My biggest fear is that she will jump on me and cause pain and harm. A friend offered to take her for a few weeks but she is my dog and it would tear her apart to be away from me like that. Dogs are smart though so I hope that they realize that I am hurt and be gentle with me. I just want this done and over with so I can hopefully feel better. I don't have any reflexes in my left knee anymore and I have started to lose some bladder control. There is nothing more miseable than peeing your pants on accident as a grown adult. I really do appreciate everyones feedback. Its nice to hear from people that are going through the same thing as I am. It does help to lessen the fear once I know what to expect. I will keep everyone posted on when my surgery is and of couse the outcome of it. Thanks again everyone! Have a good night all!
  • Kwilson400KKwilson400 Posts: 42
    edited 07/15/2012 - 4:29 PM
    Keep us posted
    June 2011 L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    Dec. 2011 Repeat L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    June 2012 New tear L5-S1 w/ Perm. Sciatic Nerve Damage
    Currently- restrictions (including no work duties) for a min. of 3 months to allow disc time to heal
  • I have had 2 microdiscecomties at L5S1.
    It is a minimally invasive process that has pros/cons.

    Surgery 1:
    - Surgery was maybe 45-90 minutes (actual operating time probably 45 mins but begin to end 90)
    - outpatient which means they generally plan to release you in <24 hours. My surgery started at 3pm so they kept me overnight to make it easier on everyone. I was pleased.
    - Yeah, I didn't sleep much that night b/c my roommate was, well, not the patient I would have chosen.
    - I was up moving within a few hours of the surgery which was good b/c I could go to bathroom.
    - IV out of surgery just to replenish fluids. I think 2 bags worth b/c they forgot to give me the 2nd bag and the next day I couldn't walk around for more than 5 mins before I almost passed out (not from pain, just light-headed).
    - Pain was manageable. Just felt like I got hit across the back.
    -They will teach you how to log-roll and before you are discharded a PT person comes by to make sure you are 'stable' from a mobility perspective.
    - They will help make sure your pain is manageable.

    TIP: Remember to ring for the nurse in advance of having to go to the bathroom. It takes time for them to get to you and time to get out of bed

    Surgery 2 (Revision):
    - This took longer and I was told to expect 4 hours b/c they had to go through scar tissue and were doing extra nerve monitoring.
    - Woke up and this time was a bit nauseous. If you are, do not hesitate to let them know b/c they will give you anti-nausea medicine before moving you to your room. The move to your room tends to create more nausea.
    (my advice here is do not eat chicken wings the night before surgery LOL; eat a meal that you'd eat before a run - enjoy it but remember you don't want anything too acidic)
    - Since it was a revision, I was told before going that I would be admitted overnight as a precaution. I almost stayed 2 nights b/c I just had a very weak stomach
    - They did special nerve monitoring on the 2nd surgery and honestly, aside from throwing up from the anesthesia, I never took any pain meds. I got a shot of herperin (?) to make sure I didn't get clots and about 24 hours after the surgery asked for Tylenol b/c of a headache (from getting sick).
    -They had to talk me into taking a percoset for my 40 min ride home which was probably a good idea

    Other stuff:
    - You will likely not be able to shower for a few days after surgery and maybe longer if they do an open discectomy.
    - Ask how big the incision is and ask your doctors to review recovery with you at the pre-op. Your mind will be better focused.
    - 6 weeks is a good estimate but in all honesty, surgery takes a lot out of you really figure on 3 months to feel like you are 'recovered' from the surgery. I felt like I needed a lot of sleep. I guess when I started getting more active, I also got more tired.
    - The nerve may/may not immediately wake up. The initial 'progress' will likely be a reduction in leg pain. Some people do get immediate relief from sciatic numbness but others it takes time.
    - you will have inflammation from the procedure so don't be too alarmed if you don't notice a difference immediately. It might take about 5-10 days to show progress.
    - Bending is a NO NO - get a gripper. They run about $12 and you can get it in the hospital medical/gift shop if you forget. Trust me, you will drop stuff and this thing is great...even for grabbing your pants to pull up after using the bathroom (LOL).
    - make a few meals in advance that you can freeze and use when you need.
    - indeed no lifting heavy stuff and nothing over your head. So laundry detergent and milk - yes, smaller.
    - laundry: you will need help getting it out of the dryer...no bending.
    - take help from friends. It stinks but honestly, you know you would want to help your friends so if they offer to cook or go with you to grocery store...gladly accept. When you feel better, you can bake them a cake to say thank you.

    Good luck!
  • I had a L5S1 discectomy on April 27th. Went well. GIven percocet 5-325 1 or 2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours as needed, oxycontin 20 every 12 hours and valium 5mg every 6 to 8 hours as needed.
    I have been using the oxycontin every 12 hours and percocet 2 tablets every 4 hours usually only 4 or 5 times a day. (5th time is in the middle of the night) for breakthrough pain.
    I am getting low on the percocet and have a follow up appointment this friday.
    Is it unreasonable to ask for a refill. I really can't do much but sit in a chair without taking the pain meds. I don't want to feel like I am abusing the pills, but I really really need them. I am afraid to ask for a refill. Am I being stupid or should I be off these meds by now?
    I have been getting back injections or over a year and have been off and on vicodin for that time period as well.
    Any advise/encouragement would be appreciated.
  • Kwilson400KKwilson400 Posts: 42
    edited 07/15/2012 - 4:30 PM
    Sorry! It's a tough road
    June 2011 L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    Dec. 2011 Repeat L5-S1 Lamenectomy/Discectomy
    June 2012 New tear L5-S1 w/ Perm. Sciatic Nerve Damage
    Currently- restrictions (including no work duties) for a min. of 3 months to allow disc time to heal
  • Yea you are right. Ice sometimes works better. And stretching too! Thanks for your response
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