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L5-S1 ALIF 10 weeks ago...continued pain, help

Brief history - successful discectomy 2/28/12 at L5-S1 for herniated disc; sciatica in right leg returned in late May. Two MRIs revealed disc degeneration. I wasn't comfortable proceeding with a PLIF with my existing surgeon, and after some research and recommendations I decided to go with an ALIF on 8/30/12 with a highly recommended surgeon. Recovery seemed to be going well with moderate but manageable pain up until about 3 weeks ago, when I began feeling sciatic pain in the right leg again that at times is close to what I was experiencing before the fusion. Not as bad, but very painful and disruptive to work and life in general. My ALIF surgeon put me on a 7-day steroid pack which did nothing to help. He then OK'd temporarily bumping me back up to oxycodone (I had been on Lortab 3x/day for the prior 4 weeks) and requested a new MRI to see if anything stood out.

MRI results revealed a small pocket of fluid back there but the images suggested it was not impacting the nerve. No other significant findings. With that, the only suggestion is the pain I'm experiencing is just part of the recovery process as the nerve grows out, which obviously can take months. I expected some continued pain in the months following the surgery, but not at the level I'm currently going through. They are also referring me to a pain management MD, because according to my surgeon's gopher they're not allowed to continue prescribing me pain medications.

A couple of things are bothering me now. I can't tell if my surgeon is trying to get rid of me (I do still have another follow-up xray appointment Dec. 10) and they feel like I'm making things up, or if this is truly part of the post-surgical recovery. I'm very concerned about the level of sciatic pain and whether or not I can expect things to get better, since technically my MRI didn't show any problems. Ten weeks out, is this common for L5-S1 ALIF patients? Neurosurgeons/orthopedic surgeons often say it can take a year or more to resolve, meanwhile other patients go a few months and they're back to a (mostly) normal life. How concerned should I be right now? Tips/suggestions?

Worried as hell in Atlanta-


  • I don't know if I have any tips or suggestions but I can tell you that you are not alone. I had a triple fusion L3-S1 on July 23 of this year. I am still in pain. Seemed to be progressing normally but about 2 weeks ago things got much worse. New pain, pain i did not have before my surgery. I am waiting for authorization for another MRI and CT...surgeons PA says maybe something moved. i dont know what is going to happen....Im sure they dont either. Of course my fear is that L2 blew out...bigger worry is what if they find nothing and I am left in this kind of pain for the duration. I don't have much room with meds as I am on a pretty high dose now. My PM says no more! So while i dont have an6y answers for you, I can tell you that there are a lot of us out there that still have a lot of pain...its sucks. I think it might be the nerve pain that we hear about so often. My surgeon said that that pain can take a really long time to subside...of course what a really long time is I dont know. I will see him after I get the MRI and CT...so I hope to finally get that journal together for him and remember to ask him all of the questions. I keep telling myself to write down all of the new pains...usually I notice them when I am laying down. Like if I lay on one side, I get a pain here...turn over the the other side the pain is here....try laying on my back...my lower back kills me...legs up still hurts...just plain hurts all of the time now. Was getting better. Maybe we just got back into life a little more! I don't know. I am sorry for you pain. Peace, Ellen
    3 level fusion L3-S1 July 23, 2012
  • llrufinlllrufin Posts: 3
    edited 11/27/2012 - 5:29 AM
    Post deleted, under review
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