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Newbie - upcoming fusion surgery at L5/S1

Hi all,

Just found your site and joined. I thought an intro would be the best way to jump in, as I don't currently have any burning questions.

I am a 46 yo mother of 2. I've had lower pain for several years. I'm currently unable to work (last 9 months) and taking oxycodone to help manage pain. I'm considering trying marijuana, as others have found relief that way.

How I got here: First I worked with a chiropractor on and off with no success. I talked my doctor into an x-ray because I was convinced there was something wrong. Doctor said I was fine.

Next, I took the x-ray to orthopedic surgeon who said I needed to build up my core muscles, as the pronounced arch in my back put a lot of stress on the L5/S1 joint. About a month into PT to strengthen, I herniated the disc at that same location. First tried mega does of Prednisone, Percocet and strict bed rest for 3 weeks. Felt better and went back to work (office, heavy computer/desk time).

Two months later, I took a longer than usual walk, about 1 1/2 miles. I was miserable thereafter for days. Back on Prednisone, Percocet and bed rest for 2 weeks. Returned to work.

Three weeks later, I was in too much pain to get out of bed.

Ortho ordered MRI, confirming herniated disc; sent me to neurosurgeon. I had a microdiscetomy at L5/S1 a month later. Recovery was slow, complicated by the fact that the disc re-herniated 2 weeks post-op (confirmed by MRI). Neurosurgeon said give it time and PT. Finally started PT at 12 weeks. Made it much worse. Went back to neurosurgeon and decided on spinal fusion. I have 5 weeks until surgery.

Like I said, I don't have a question now. I just wanted to connect with others in similar situations. The pain, the limitations, the depression and isolation is understood best by those who've experienced it. I hope to both find and give encouragement to others. Thanks for the forum.



  • Hi

    My first spinal was L5S1, it's a fun one as they are screwing your spine to your pelvis.

    As far as pain relief, we have all tried many things. FWIW, and I pass no judgement on anybody trying to cope with pain, but if you get into a pain contract to manage it, I would reconsider anything not legal unless your in CA and have an understanding PM doc.

    Anyhow, L5S1 is a common one, my advice is get 2nd and 3rd opinions. Get those films seen by many eyeballs and have, a discogram done before surgery as an MRI only shows so much. One of my bad discs was bright white on an MRI, it made my leg leap of the table during the discogram. Trust me you only want to do this once if possible, I am on 3 surgeries now. They can be tough and best to avoid a repeat if possible. Also ask about a bone growth stimulator and what they will use for your graft, auto, bank, or ? Self has the best rate of return. My last was synthetic and self with my marrow mixed in.

    Again, welcome aboard, and exhaust all things first. Fusion can be a good thing done right, but it changes you, exhaust everything first, then a discogram to make sure L4L5 is a happy guy as he is about to take on the load of the guy getting taken out.

    Jun 2011 -TLIF @L5-S1
    Mar 2012 -NonUnion @L5S1
    May 2012 -Multi Level Discography
    July 2012 -XLIF 2Cages @L3L4/L4L5
    Aug 2012 -All New Hardware @L34L45/L4L5/L5S1
    Mar 2013 -FBSS = Pain Management until they figure it out.
  • I am also looking at a fusion at L5/S1 (ALIF with screws & a laminectomy). I am just waiting on insurance approval. This is a great site to be on. I have had many questions answered and learned a lot from different people. I do agree with Double on getting the discogram. It hurts like hell but it gives your surgeon a better picture. My MRI said I had issues but the discogram showed how bad it was. My disc is all but gone, collapsed with 2 tears, and my MRI just said it had a minor buldge with no tear. I would definitely at least ask about having it done before your surgery. Keep doing your research, ask lots of questions, and read the posts. It has definitely helped me. Best of luck to you!

    Single level L5/S1 360 fusion with 6 screws and a rod (10/29/12)
    Diagnosis: Grade 1-2 spondylolithesis, Pars Defect, L5/S1 disc tear anterior and posterior, DDD, spinal stenosis
  • backache99backache99 Posts: 1,338
    edited 10/10/2012 - 10:22 PM
    i had my third operation .it was ALIF fusion {that's where they go in through your tummy} i have had laminectomies and discectomies over the past 16 years and countless spinal injections .but things got so bad in the last 5 years that i was desperate to get something done .unfortunately ..after seeing the MRI scans many consultants did not want to operate on me due to previous poor surgery being done .but i found a wonderful kind and extremely experienced consultant who deals with spins that no one else want to deal with and he did a ALIF on me ...it was no picnic and i had a week of pure hell in hospital .its been nine months now and i am in a 3 years recovery program {its very long for me as my spine had been hacked to bits by idiots!} the surgery went well but i woke and though i had died and gone to hell ! as i was in so much pain it was untrue .it took diamorphine and ketamine in massive amounts to just take the top of the pain .but after about 2 days i was back down to normal amounts of diamorphine in my PC .i hated being catheterised .it feels horrible and i have happy when that was removed ,the ALIF has helped a little with the pain but its making my legs and feet swell {its due to the sympathetic nerves being moved during surgery } any spinal surgery is massive a fusion is about as big as it gets ,even if you have a text book operation you will need plenty of time to recover and lots of help .if you don't already own one a rise and recliner recliner is a must {you don't even have to buy a new one as places like eBay and the local press sell them for a fraction of there new price {many are bought for ;;granny in her last few months } and the relatives just and to get rid .. your chance to pick up a bargain .get a leather one if you can .good for keeping clean ..i forget how many cups of tea i have dropped on mine when falling asleep with one in my hand !! .i have also just bough the lasted dormeo octaspring mattress for my rise and recliner bed and its fantastic {miles better then a solid tempur type foam bed} i bought that new and it was very expensive but worth every pound ..a grabber {amazon 9.99} pounds worth every pound will help you pick up things ,,also there is a device called a micro pedi again a very handy tool for looking after you feet {you will find getting down to your feet almost impossible and they soon get horrible i found this very distressing but the micro pedi has been wonderful {amazon again}.there is a list of post op must have on the is site and it well worth a look ..but the most valuable thing you will need is help when you get home .it took me 6 weeks before i could shower myself with hardly any help ..i was absolutely knackered for the first 8 weeks and spent 8 weeks on my recliner .life has been hard work since the ALIF and for me i should think that it wont get much better [you may be different } and i hope you are .i wish you a successful operation had a speedy recovery but remember is a major operation with a long recovery ..i am male married and 46 just for reference .my consultant ..who has worked in the military and is one of the uk's finest said my spine was one of the worse he has to deal with ,i wanted ADR but the spine was too damaged to hold the implants .once again good luck
    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
  • Hi Tony,

    I'm so sorry to hear the agony you've been through! Thank you for the honest insight into your experience, and for the hints for post-surgery. I am getting more nervous as the date draws nearer. I continue to research the procedure, but nothing I find ever truly makes me feel like it's the right choice. I know, at the very least, it will get much worse before it gets better, and it may never get better. Those are scary odds. I actually used to wonder why people with back problems had multiple surgeries. Ha! Now I get it! Living with chronic back pain is like living in a bubble. You can see out, and others can see in, but they don't really understand you. I sincerely hope your quality of life does improve. Thank you, again!
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