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Newbie, Spinal Fusion in 4 Days!

Hi, you can call me KayK!

I'm a 35 year old mother of 3. I am a psychology student and make pastries and cakes while putting myself through school. I had an on the job injury last January. My doctor diagnosed it as a lumbar strain, sent me to physical therapy and it seemed to get a little better but the pain never totally went away. I reinjured it at work again in July. I was once again given the same diagnosis and sent to physical therapy. This time, it never improved and kept getting worse. In October, my doctor finally agreed to an MRI which I had last month.

The MRI showed the following:

1. Mild lumbar levoscoliosis, minimal spondylosis, minimal facet arthropathy, and multilevel DDD (esp L5-S1).

2. Large disc protrusion casing marked central canal stenosis and touching each S1 nerve root -- make L5-S1 the most likely level to be symptomatic.

3. Multilevel foraminal stenosis (esp. left L3-4). Left L3 nerve root is displaced by disc protrusion in the foramen and could be a source of pain/radiculopathy.

I'll put the detailed segmental analysis below.

I've been on pain medication since January. I've had a partial gastrectomy so I'm unable to take NSAIDS. I started on Norco 5/325 1-2 every 8 hours and Flexeril 10mg once at night, 1/2 a tablet in the morning. When I started feeling better, I took Tramadol 50mg 1 every 6 hours. When I reinjured, I started back with Norco 5/325, 1 every 8 hours. It gradually bumped up to 1-2 every 8 hours and now it's 1-2 every 4 hours plus the Flexeril at night. The Flexeril really doesn't do alot other than help me sleep. The Norco just doesn't seem like it's strong enough. It does relieve the pain but never takes it away.

Most of the pain feels like a dull but sometimes sharp pain in the middle of my lower back. It is dull and burning if I'm not doing anything but sharp and very painful when I move. I don't have much leg pain. Sometimes they are achy, sometimes I have sciatica. It's almost all in my back. On my worst days, I might rate it a 6-7. On the best days, a 2-3.

I saw the neurosurgeon. He was surprised that I didn't have much leg pain and said that the herniation was very impressive. He recommended a spinal fusion. I am scheduled for that on December 17th (in 4 days.) My neurosurgeon said that I will be in a back brace for 3 months and it would take 6 months to a year to recover.

I'd love any feedback, tips, etc. I can't wait to look around the forum and get a feel for what I'm in store for. I understand that it's going to be a long and difficult journey. I've had several surgeries before, but never on my back.


Segmental analysis:

T11-T12- Tiny posterior disc bulge does not contact the cord or cause central stenosis. Each foramen is patent.

T12-L1: Normal

L1-2: Normal

L2-3: Minimal right and small left foraminal disc bulges and minimal facet arthopathy cause minimal right and mild left foraminal stenosis. Left L2 nerve root touches disc bulge in the foramen. No central canal stenosis.

L3-4: Minimal concentric disc bulge and superimposed mall left disc protrusion (2.8mm AP x 14mm transverse) cause mild right and moderate left foraminal stenosis. Left L3 nerve root is mildly posteriorly displaced by disc protrusion.

L4-5: Minimal concentric disc bulge and minimal facet arthropathy cause minimal/mild bilateral foraminal narrowing. No central canal stenosis.

L5-S1: Minimal concentric disc bulge with superimposed large midline protrusion (11mm AP x 16mm transverse) and minimal left facet arthopathy cause minimal bilateral foraminal narrowng and marked central canal stenosis. The disc protrusion is centered between and touches both S1 nerve roots.

Large L5-S1 Disc Herniation
Spinal Fusion scheduled for 12/17
Multi-level disc degeneration and protrusions


  • will you have having ALIF or PLIF {alif is through your abdominal } plif is through your back} .i had ALIF last dec it was hell and i woke in an amazing amount of pain i asked them to kill me and i meant it ..the pain was unreal .eventually they managed with two PC's running through diamorphine and shots of ketamine and diazepam and oral medication ..and i was still awake ! and in pain .i spent the night in surgical recovery as i was too ill to go to the intensive care unit .so i had my own anesthetist /theater technician .acute pain nurse and my consultant all looking after me for 24 hours while they got me stable enough to transfer me to the spinal unit .i had a tough week in hospital and was unable to talk due to the anesthetist scratching my vocal chords during intubation .when i get home i spent the next 6 weeks zombied on my recliner .for the next 6 months i need so much help to do any thing my wife had to shower me as i was too weak to do it myself .then all i could do was flop back down on my recliner .as the year has gone on i have got a little stronger but i am no where near the fit person i was a few years ago .walking 5 miles a day swimming a mile a day and going to the gym 4 times a week..i have had 3 spinal operations and the lat one has done a lot of damage to me i spend my days on my recliner as i am too ill to do anything .on the odd day i may have enough energy to go for a short swim but even that will make me ill and increase my pain level .sleeping is almost impossible i get 2 hours a night then wake with a 9.9 pain score and need large amounts of pain killers to help me ..the fusion has changed my life for the worst .i hate myself for putting myself through such a massive operation as i am still young.ish {46}.but feel like 96! .my prognosis is poor and i have been told that i wont get any better .i hope that you have a better result .i did everything by the book regarding recovery but its not helped me at all..my home has been kitted out to help me {downstairs loo/rise and recline recliner /a massive floor level shower./an electrical adjustable bed with the latest octaspring mattress .but despite all the adaptations and a fantastic wife life is still very hard work and i depend on her for so much .i do hope you do better but remember it major surgery and you will need a lot of help and recovery is long at least 6 months {if your very fit an it was you first operation on your back} and if like me its your 3th operation you could be looking at a longer recovery {{{it was a horrible operation i remember when i first woke thinking what the hell have i done i have never known pain like it in my life it was off the scale be warned it may happen to you } but you may sail through the operation and be back at work within 8 months ans wonder what all the fuss was .it depends on the individual .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
  • i had mine 3months ago and surgery wasn't that bad.. If you have a trusted surgeon and Dr.to
    Follow up with you will be fine... Have some help afterwards and listen to all restrictions....
    No bending,twisting,lifting,etc......
    Best Wishes to you!
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