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Feedback, advice please: Looking at fusion

LA_runner_chickLLA_runner_chick Posts: 91
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Spinal Stenosis
Ugh, I just now got back from a consult with a surgeon for a problem I've been chasing, with no great success, for almost two years. He picked up on something that no one else had seen: a pars defect, a fracture. He says its the culprit behind the Spondylolisthesis, contributed to my DDD, all of which is giving me grief -- numbness on one side, pain on the other.
He is recommending an Anterior Lumbar Interbody fusion and a minimally invasion instrumented posterior fusion.
He believes because of my age and my health, I am a good candidate for a successful surgery, and he thinks I could be back to living an athletic lifestyle within 6 months.

Needless to say, it's been a bummer of a morning. But there's been some relief: I finally have a diagnosis. And I've been blaming myself for this, for so long, wondering if my stubbornness and OCD running tendencies made this worse. That fracture has been there for a long time.

Big decision, big decision. Anyone else had this? Results?
I may also post this in the SI forum, because he says he thinks this procedure will also eliminate my pain (he says the joint looks pretty healthy).


  • Yes me!

    I was found to have a grade 2 spondylolisthesis in my 50s, caused by a pars defect and stress fracture.
    I was also told that it had been there for a very long time; probably since my early teens.

    They were amazed that I had carried three pregnancies without it being diagnosed. It is known to cause awful pain as the weight of the pregnancy pulls the slipped vertebra even further forward.

    I did have back pain and sciatica when I was pregnant but thought it was part of being pregnant.

    By the time I had surgery, I have very severe stenosis and they were amazed that I was managing to walk about. I was very scared of surgery and initially was determined that there was no way that I would have it. I asked them what I could do to avoid it, and said that I would do whatever it took. Eventually I agreed to go and talk to the surgeon and he told me that if I didn't have the surgery, I would end up in a wheelchair and eventually incontinent. That convinced me that I should have surgery! I had it three weeks later.

    I had a decompression and fusion (PLIF) on L4/L5. It was a circumferential fusion that he managed to do with an incision only from the back, but with a 6-7 inch incision (not minimally invasive!)
    My recovery wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. It got rid of the awful sciatica in both legs and even my lower back pain was so much improved. I am much better now (even with other problems showing themselves) and would class the surgery as a success.

    I am 2 years post surgery now, and am so glad that I had it. I am so much better now and able to do much more than before. I had experienced sciatica that would sometimes have me in tears, and my ability to stand was down to about 5 minutes before I had to find somewhere to sit. Slow walking was difficult after about 5 or 10 mins, although if I walked briskly, I could do much better. My surgeon told me that was because I would engage my muscles when walking briskly, and so my spine was better supported.

    I have DDD throughout my spine, which is now causing me problems again. I do have symptoms in my legs and feet again, but they say it is due to cord compression in my neck. It looks like I am going to have to have surgery on my neck now!

    It is good that you now have a reason for the pain you are in. I would check with the running you are doing. I was told not to run because it would jar my spine which was unstable. You might have to find something else to do for a while.

    Let us know what you decide to do and do ask any other questions you may have.

  • Yes, me too. What a coincidence, you registered on spine health close to the same timeframe I did as well.
    I'm 41 and about 11 years ago roughly, I started having issues with some slight tingling, numbing sensation going down my left leg. I saw my first chiropractor, he said I had some kind of birth defect, something didn't form right, and it was trying to fuse, suggested several adjustments and it would clear out. So I did that, and roughly 6 weeks later, the sensations were gone.

    Over the last 11 years, once in a while I would get a flare up, always on my left low back, around the SI joint, a little massage and a couple chiropractic adjustments keeped it in check for several weeks until the next little flare up.
    Last summer, my flare up turned into, major flare up, pain at 7 or 8 in low back, and couldn't get comfortable sleepinng. Many tests, later, I find I have bilateral L5 pars defect, left foraminal stenosis, and l5 hemangioma, and rudimentary s1-s2 disk.
    Not sure if the pars defect rudimentary s1-s2 disk or the hemangioma was what chiropractor had seen initially 11 years ago but I know that the pars defect has been there for many years and the way I understand it, half-way healed itself with bone/cartilage/scar tissue whatever. So I've obviously tore the poor repair job my body had attempted and probably because I'm physically active. Because my doctor said many people have pars defects as children but if they lead a sedentary type lifestyle, they may never feel the effects. I assume that means, tear the poor fracture repair later in life.

    Interesting your doctor is recommending a ALIF, and jellyhall had a PLIF and my doctor recommended a TLIF, we all have pars defects.

    I absolutely dread having to do a back surgery, I've always lived by the motto, you try to take care of your body, and with some work, excercising etc, you can manage a pretty good body. That seems to be not the rule with this pars defect, I've tried everything under the sun conservatively, and spent a few thousand dollars on doctors/gadgets and even more with missed work trying to rest it, and I'm just able to manage it at very best, but I've altered so much of my life, no golf, no bowling, no skiing, my coworkers are pulling more weight for heavy type things in my job.
    Basically, I am 41 and feel like I'm living the lifestyle of an 80 year old to not provoke my back anymore, but when do you say enough, I'm so tired of not living. Then I think what if something really bad comes out of surgery, and I can't do my job anymore, my income, plus so much more, oh man, yes, decisions, decisions, you are so right.
  • Ms. Jellyhall:

    It's so nice to hear about someone who considers their surgery a success. I know most of the people who post here are here because they haven't had much luck anywhere else, so you get a skewed perspective. Just going by the numbers, I KNOW there are a lot of people out there who have been helped by surgery. Glad to hear you're one of them. Keep plugging away -- prayers to you that you don't have anything wrong in your neck, and keep us posted.

  • to Egypt and all the walking that the site seeing there entailed. Well, my back stood up amazingly well and I managed so much better than I would have before my lumbar fusion. It just adds to my pleasure that I had the surgery. I really do feel like I have got my life back again.

    I do have ongoing problems with my spine, particularly now my neck, but I am sure that would have happened anyway, surgery or no surgery. In fact before my fusion, the surgeon told me that it wouldn't sort out the symptoms and pains in my arms and shoulders. He said that I had problems in my neck and that we would sort that out next!!

    Unfortunately, I am now facing a cervical 2 level fusion. I don't feel so terribly nervous this time, but am not relishing needing more spinal surgery.

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