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Just joined am terrified of PLIF sugery in 4 days

I have spent quite a bit of time reading posts and FAQ's and looking at other information on the site. Everyone here is so helpful.

MRI showed bulging discs at L3-L4 and L5-S1, DDD, and stenosis. Discogram indicated L5-S1 disc was causing the pain and that I had a annular tear and the contrast leaked into the epidural space.

The discogram was by far the most painful experience I have ever had, but it gave the surgeon the information he needed to go ahead with surgery.

PLIF surgery scheduled for next Tuesday and I am completely terrified. I watched a PLIF video on youtube that seemed very brutal. I know it is major surgery and I have a long road still ahead. I have looked over the very comprehensive list that someone put together of items that I might need. It was extremely helpful. I just worry that I won't be able to return to my supervisor position at a manufacturing plant.

Will I be able to go back to normal activity or will I always need to watch what I do? My doctor said that there is a chance that the surgery may not fix the pain completely. I can live with the mild to moderate back pain it is the sciatic pain that I cannot tolerate. The opioid pain medication doesn't touch the pain and I am worried that after surgery the pain medicine will not help.

Any suggestions or encouragement would be appreciated. Thank you in advance!


  • Hi Kansas, Welcome to Spine Health. I was wondering if you had looked at the May Surgery Buddies thread. You may get more responses there. I'm fairly new here and haven't had surgery and just starting to learn about everything regarding spine and surgerys. There is so much to know. I thought mabe if you re posted on the May Surgery Buddy thread it may help.

  • Hi Kansas!

    I have had surgeries and am fused in the lumbar from L4 thru S1. The hardest parts are after the surgery for a short while, but walking truly does help with the initial healing. You'll definitely need help for a little while with things, and yes, give it time to heal. You may find that you're feeling better soon enough, but be your own judge. However, I cannot stress it enough that PLEASE be sure to follow your surgeon's specific instructions. Fusions can take up to a good year to fully fuse and the last thing you'll want is to have to have it done again. I have been there and done that, in part due to genetics and in part due to my own stupidity.

    Good luck to you, and please keep us posted. :-)

  • Kansas Farmgirl:

    Welcome to the forum. Continue to read all the information available, including searching for previous posts with relevant subjects. So many of us have faced the same situation that you are facing AND felt the same way.

    I had a TLIF (L4-S1) in January 2011. Afterwards while recovering I spent additional time on this site and that is when I came across the video that demonstrated lumbar spinal fusion. My reaction was "yuck." I told myself that I was glad that I had not viewed the video prior to my procedure. Here's my point. Surgeons do what they do and they are use to it. We are not. In my situation it was best that I did not see the video. So forget the visual. You will be deeply under the influence when the surgeon does his thing.

    My experience with post op pain was not that significant. You will have a new pain (temporary) as a result of the incision and rearrangement of tissue. That pain subsides on a daily basis and within a week or 10 days it will dissipate. The other pain (if any) is what is of concern. Those pain levels and types of pain indicate the success of the surgery. It will take weeks or even months for these pains to dissipate.

    As has been previously mentioned, follow the surgeon's instructions regarding restriction of some physical activities (bending, lifting and twisting) and the inclusion of some physical activities (walking). DO NOT attempt to accelerate the recovery process. Let it heal.

    Also, realize that your emotional health will also be affected by this surgery and recovery. Depression, either short or long, is a very common cousin to back surgery. Remain cognizant of any symptoms and then address that issue as well. The two (spinal health and mental health) feed off of one another - in the negative sense.

    Lastly, understand that the definition of courage is taking action in spite of fear. Believe it or not, you are a courageous person. You are taking action.

    Good luck to you. Many of us on this forum have been where you are and where you will soon be. Stay in touch.

  • Is there a June surgery buddies thread yet?
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 05/19/2013 - 6:55 AM
    Hi Booboobegone,
    I am not sure, but check the surgery forums. If there is not, then you are welcome to start one.....

  • I had a PLIF of L4/5 3 years ago.

    I didn't watch a real video of the surgery beforehand, but I did watch the animation on this site, which helped me to understand what would be done, which in turn gave me confidence that I would be helped.
    My surgeon and other doctors I saw all said that the surgery was likely to deal with the leg pain (sciatica) that I had bilaterally but that I may be left with the lower back pain. It did actually get rid of the sciatica completely and even the lower back pain was greatly improved. My recovery was not as bad as I had feared it would be. :-)

    You are going to have to be patient during your recovery and don't be tempted to break the rules and overdo it, especially in the first 6 weeks. So many of us have felt that we were much better, overdone it and then lived to regret it.

    Think ahead now of things you would like to do to pass the time while you wait for healing and fusion to take place. Have some things ready for when you get home from hospital.
    Once you are well underway in recovery boredom becomes a real issue.

    Do come back and let us know how you are getting on. You will find that being able to speak to others either going through, or who have been through, the same thing is a wonderful support and it helps to pass the time too. :-)

    Good luck, I will keep an eye out for a post from you once you are able to make one.
  • booboobegone said:
    Is there a June surgery buddies thread yet?

    Here is a link to it :-)


  • Just wanted to tell you good luck! Nerve medication will really help with the nerve pain. Hang in there, lots of people recovery from fusions and are able to return to their normal life (after healing, which shouldn't be rushed). Hang in there, I find the anxiety before surgery can be one of the biggest hurdles.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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