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What to expect post ALIF?

ezraeezra Posts: 72
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:00 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello all. I'm supposed to have a L4L5, L5S1 ALIF on March 6th. We are currently just waiting to hear back from my insurance to see if they will cover it. I've been on this site for a few years reading and I've learned a lot but I really want to be prepared so my biggest question is what should I expect after surgery? Please also feel free to share your experiences.


  • My first and important advice is to wear loose fitting or elastic pants. The incision will be VERY tender for quite some time. Mine is still sore after 2 and a half yearss. It taks quite a while to heal. I am a bit overweight and I admit I have a belly, and that might have something to do with it. Also, while it is healing my therapist said to use two fingers and masage the incision sight. Nerves will probably be cut and you may have some spots around the area that are totally numb for some time until they grow back. I'll be honest, it's painful, but manageable. Stick to the pajama pants that have elastic or loose pants because it will be resting on the incision. Don't even think about trying to wear a belt for a while. Keep us informed on how you're doing. Kevin
  • i have has a 2 level ALIF 7 weeks ago in the uk .the operation lasted about 4 hours but i had sever pain on waking in recovery {as i already take a large amount of pain killers} i stayed in hospital a week .i was a weak as anyhting .i was unable to eat anyhting except custard yogurts etc anything else just dried up my mouth ,i need a lot of help my wife had to give me a stand up wash when she visited as i was too tired and i mean tired to the point of collapsing .its a very draining operation .i always were baggy shorts and i would advise you to do so too.you wont feel like doing much for about 6 weeks .when you get home you wont feel like doing much and will require help with the most basic of things .my wife was a saint and helped me with everything .i have an electric recliner and its been fantastic as i can sleep on it and it helps me stand .use memory foam or normal pillows to get comfy .be careful in bed .i had to lay on my back for a month as being on my side was too painful ,TAKE BOTTLED WATER WITH YOU AS YOU WILL NEED IT .you mouth will be dry .at night .take you time getting in and out of bed .i bought a pee bottle that's also been a help .also a must is a grabber as you must not bend until you get the ok from your consultant .i am at the was it worth it stage ? and i still can't make my mind up as i am in more pain now that i was before the operation {i have already had 2 previous ops on my back}as people have told me take baby steps but its easy to say and harder to do .the operation will drain you more than you will know and recovery is VERY LONG so don't expect miracles .good luck be brave .and remember its a very big operation .contact me any time i can only tell you my experience .but again its a big operation and you will know about it afterwards expect reactive depression .post op this is NORMAL its your body reacting to the fact that you can't do stuff that you may have been able to not long ago.i think the object of a fusion is a long term one .i know i have said some stuff that you may be did not want to here but this is my own experience your my be different
    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
  • Tony, I don't mind hearing the bad parts. I feel like I need to be aware of these things, so thank you for sharing your experience, I hope you start feeling better soon.

    The depression after surgery scares me a bit because I am already Bipolar but I'm still in therapy and plan on staying there after surgery just to make sure I stay in a healthy frame of mind, or at least have someone to talk to if I do get depressed.

    Kevin, I too am a bit overweight. I've lost 30lbs in preperation of surgery but it's not enough in my opinion. I'm still trying to lose more and worried that the ALIF will be more painful because of having a tummy. Thank you for letting me know about the loose fitting clothes, thanks to my weight loss all of my clothes are a bit big on me now, so I'm glad I haven't gotten rid of them yet.

    I'm so afraid of this surgery because it's so big and I feel like it's my last chance. I've done all the conservitive treatments but still my back pain has been with me everyday for the last three years. This has changed my life so much. While I'm afraid I'm also very ready to hopefully get my life back.

    Anyways, thank you both for the advice.
  • hi; and i am 10 weeks post-op a l5s1 ALIF.
    I would say everything kevin just posted is exactly the same thing i went thru.
    His recovery and mine are the exact same, considering post-op complications.

    So be a good idea to buy yourself a couple pair of sweatpants. or something comparable.
    I was in hospital 9 days, but i had some problems come up, and the doctors would not release me until that was resolved.

    Best of luck to ya.
  • Hi there!
    I had PLIF at L5/S1 instead of ALIF.
    I just wanted to make a small comment. I was shocked at the recovery time. I read all the comments about the slow recovery and thought that really couldn't be true. lol

    I found that with back surgery things are different. I did have PLIF so my back muscles were involved. But what I found is one day recovery in normal surgery is like one week in back surgery. So one week in a regular surgery is like one month in PLIF. Normal recovery is 6 weeks, well in comparison to back surgery, that is 6 months.

    It took 8 months for me not to have any muscle pain in my back. I will be one year on March 18.

    Sadly, due to my issues, I am having issues with L4/L5 now. Ugh. Just taking things one step at a time.

    As for other things with recovery. I wore silk or slippery shorts which really help in moving around in the bed. I had a basket by my bed with all my stuff in it (meds, small notebook to track time of meds, tv remote, snacks). I had the long handled grab it thing. My grab it could even pick up a pill off the floor. Bought a power recline theater chair so didn't have to worry about getting stuck in my chair. stay soft ice packs. the new insultated cups with lids for drinks. I had one of the small portable DVD players so I could place it where ever was convenient to see while in any position on the bed.

    I slept on my side all the time but I didn't have the front incision. I think front incisions always make it hard to lay on your side. Have a pillow handy to wedge under the side of your belly to support it while laying on your side.

    Well, best of luck.
  • There you go ezra. I think That is the best advice and a thorogh list of things to have handy while recovering. I'm a back sleeper anyway, but it was not too bad laying on my side. More in a fetal position. Great advice babsohio!
  • I just wanted to say thank you again for the advice and sharing your stories. I do sleep on my side, I haven't been able to sleep on my back in years so thank you for the pillow tip. I'm thinking about making the recliner my home for a few days post op so I'm closer to everything I need.

    Babsohio, I'm sorry you are now having issues with another level and hope you feel better soon.

    I looked through the list of things to have post op and made my own, I went out last night and bought what I thought would help me most. I feel a little more prepared now that I have the things I will need and if push comes to shove and the insurance company denies me I will have it for any future flare ups that put me down. I am going to call today and see where we are with the insurance I'm 15 days away from surgery and really need an answer.

    I think I just need for it to get here quickly because the longer I wait the more afraid I get. I just hate it's come to surgery but I've been in off and on pain for 9 years and constant pain for 3, I need it to be over and I'm hoping this surgery is my answer because I feel like it's my last chance at a life. I'm 24 and I feel like I'm 70. Sorry I think I just needed to talk/vent a little bit. My family is super supportive and help me out so much but they don't understand what it's like on this side of things so it's nice to talk to people that do.
  • So I called and I am approved for surgery from insurance so that is great news. The not so great news is they pushed my surgery back from March 6th to March 27th. I'm annoyed because they didn't bother to call me and tell me they changed the date, they are bad about doing that. But either way I'm still getting surgery in March so hopefully I'll be on my way to feeling better soon.
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