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post 8 level fusion, seeking advice

Hi everyone,
I was wondering if anyone out there has had an eight level fusion, and would mind sharing their tips for their new life style?
On February 28, 2013, I had my sixth (and will be final-I can't do this anymore) spine fusion. I was fused from C3 down to T3, posterior approach. I have pedicle screws, rods and clamps down the back of my spine, along with a titanium cage, peek cage, and other assorted screws and clamps down the front.
This surgery was by far the hardest; and the recovery has been the toughest.
I was wondering if anyone would mind sharing with me their tips for how they endured this extensive of a fusion. I've had two level, three level, four level and five level fusions done in the past, but at eight, this one is a whole new ball game. Thankfully, I am finally out of the brace, which I wore just over three months 24/7. I'm going to start physical therapy tomorrow-primarily from a pain management standpoint. However, the pain medications just aren't cutting it anymore. I imagine part of the problem is that I've just been on too many of them for too long; but most days I'm just on my heating pad crying, hardly anything can touch the pain (and I have an EXTREMELY high pain tolerance).
This surgery was medically necessary; I really had no other choice. I went to six neurosurgeons prior to surgery, and all had the same opinion, although with slightly different instrumentation. I was warned this would be extremely painful (it was), that I would probably lose what little range of motion I had pre-sixth surgery (I have); and that the surgery was NOT to get rid of the pain (it hasn't), but was necessary as I had had vertebrae fracture again, within previous surgical sites.
I just want to get back to LIVING, rather than just trying to survive. I know I'll never regain the lifestyle I once had (and I am grateful that I did); but I've got to find some way to cope with the pain. I want to be a partner (as much as possible) to my amazing husband, and not just a burden.
Thank you.


  • Read your post and it touched me. I just get it, I completely understand... Check out my profile picture, I think it "says it all". Massive fusion levels are brutal, plain and simple brutal... I didn't actually become an active part of this forum until the most brutal parts were over with... pain/grief... its just so personal. I wish I had become more active in this forum during the hardest part. I think I could have really used the encouragement. I thought my life was going to be sooo different... I thought I was going to be giving up sooo much. I am one week away from my "year mark" of my 2 major.... well, we call it "spinal revision". And I can't run, I tire easily, I can't keep the house the way I want, but I can do soo much, I love my life, I cherish what I can do which is actually so much more than I thought even 6 months ago.... please, PM me if youd like... I'd love to be part of your support system.
    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.
  • I just wanted to say thank you for your post, and your offer of support to another poster who is in a similar boat. THIS is the reason that Spine Health exists!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    edited 06/12/2013 - 3:57 PM
    I'm not there yet but I am so close, contemplating the continuation of extending my fusion which the final result will be C3 thru T2 or to T3. I am putting it off till we re-visit the situation in 4 months. I know I'm a "walking time bomb" but it is hard to be enthused and go after it seeing what you ladies are dealing with. Be strong "H" too.busymom & AllMetal, we need each other for support and encouragement. We can and we will get through this, we just have to. You can also PM me anytime.
    Keep us posted on your journey, I'm anxious to hear.
  • GoldenwoodGGoldenwood Posts: 3
    edited 08/26/2014 - 7:45 AM
    Hi Everyone,
    I'm so glad to have found this posting. I too have had an 8 level fusion. On June 2 I had the first of two surgeries done through my side. June 3rd I had the posterior surgery. T9-L5 are now fused. I spent 4 days in the neuro ICU. It was a rough experience. You are now a year post surgery and I'm wondering if you might have some advice for me. I'm out of my brace and in PT twice a week. Aqua therapy is going well but I'm still in pain daily and need pain meds and muscle relaxers to get through the day. I also use a bone stimulator device every day.

    Some days are better than others. I often feel defeated because recovery is so slow. I'm 52 and have 3 young grandchildren that I can't even pick up. How long did it take for you to see yourself as "back to normal"? I'm giving up my teaching career and using disability retirement. I see neighbors out walking each day and long to be out there with them. This is my goal right now along with sleeping through the night. Any advice that you and others who read this message can provide would be greatly appreciated!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    I'll echo what Sandi just posted above, patience is key. I being one of little patience has learned after a few fusions that I had no choice but to accept the fact that some days will be better than others and if I listen to my doctors I can get thru these journeys and will do just fine after I am fully recovered. I am very fortunate for what I have, to have access to some of the best medical professionals, and to have such wonderful support, this site included.
    Set goals that are attainable then move forward from there, you will surprise yourself what you can do.
  • I know so well the pain associated with this surgery. My fusion was 7 levels in 2012 and I still require my collar to sleep and in the evening if I start to get spasms. My options were a wheel chair or the surgery, and I opted for surgery. Overall, I still do things around the house, I can drive short distances and still enjoy life with limitations. I say hang in their and work with a pain management clinic, the medications really help to live a good quality life and allows you to enjoy family functions and going out to dinner even though you may have some discomfort and require rest afterwords, it's still well worth it. I try not to be a burden on my wife, but sometimes I need a little help since I've lost a lot of hand and leg control. Life's still a joy and I love it. Things will get better, it just takes longer to heal and learn how to cope with the new limitations. I wish you only the best and hope you feel better soon.
  • Ajbaker22AAjbaker22 Posts: 3
    edited 11/04/2014 - 4:50 AM
    I currently have a 9 level fusion. In 2004 I was injured at work and had to have a fusion going thru front and back. I was fused from L2-L5. After several months of recovery, L5-S1 needed to also be fused due to the stress of the prior fusion. It was clear that the level of L5-S1 was beginning to deteriorate but my neurosurgeon didn't want to fuse that area in hopes it would recover on its own. Well, I had my second surgery to fuse the L5-S1. After years of continuous pain and nothing else working, the discs above the fusion deteriorated and I had developed flat back syndrome which left me hunched over and unable to stand erect. Mind you, I was only 39 years old. On September 19, 2012, I had a complete revision surgery. All of the hardware was removed and new hardware was installed for a larger spinal fusion from T8-S1. Again, the recovery was a very slow process and I was still experiencing great pain. In addition, I was feeling a crunching in the lower back. One year and two days from my last surgery an x-ray revealed a broken rod! A broken titanium rod within one year. I was told by my neurosurgeons PA that it's not uncommon due to "wear and tear." I responded, "How can a titanium rod break from "wear and tear" in less than a year when I'm immobile?" No real answer was given but I was battling cancer so that took priority over another surgery to replace the broken rod. So now that my cancer is under control, I went for another x-ray approximately two months ago. Well, again bad news. The x-ray now revealed two broken rods in several places and a broken pedicel screw. I could not believe it. I asked my pain management doctor (who ordered the x-ray) how this can happen, he replied, "Unfortunately, you received a lemon."

    Is there anyone on here that has had the same or similar problem with their hardware? After my last surgery, I swore I was never going thru another surgery again. Now I have no choice. EVERYTHING has to be removed and replaced with new hardware. I am getting VERY frustrated. I'm dealing with enough and this is the last thing I need right now.
    Alana Maranto
  • I've been off line for a while and just logged in again. Reading your encouraging posts really has helped me. As time has past I certainly see the wisdom in your responses. I've had a few setbacks along the way but am making continuous progress. Right now I'm battling inflammation in my ribs along with spasms in my mid back. My physical therapist is doing miracles as we attack each problem that arises. I'm beginning to come to terms with my forced retirement, but I think it will take time to fully adjust. I wish everyone all the best!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    I just saw this thread reappear and forgot I had posted on it.
    Well, I'm now 7 months plus post-op of a posterior fusion of C2 to T3 and I'm doing really well. It wasn't easy in the beginning few months but I am amazed how well I have recovered and am able to do most things I did pre-op with just some weight lifting restrictions. I am so glad that procedure is behind me and back to being a productive person again.
    Wish you all the best in your journeys.
  • lawjaw 1809llawjaw 1809 Posts: 13
    edited 05/30/2015 - 4:42 PM

    . Four mos. Post operative. I feel like I can do very little. I'm bored to death. I have to be in bed after exertion. Having to move in with Mom when at the ripe age of fifty. I am extremely down. I just want to fall deep asleep and feel no pain. 10% ROM. I go to PT the highlight of my day and then no more energy. What do you do? Work feels completely out. Am I alone???
  • foltzgffoltzg Posts: 1
    edited 06/26/2015 - 1:57 AM
    I just had an 8 level fusion from T9 to L4 as a result of a fall and vertebrae fracture. I'm concerned about what my life will be like after healing. My doc has me in a brace for 6 months after which I will start PT. I'm anxious I have to admit. I'd appreciate any feedback on how you all are doing. I'm 59 1/2, male, 6'3" tall. Any feedback is very much appreciated. Very happy to have found this site. Gene

    Welcome to Spine-Health
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  • edited 06/26/2015 - 1:58 AM
    I had an 8 level fusion in May of 2012 (see my image). I had lumbar surgery (lamenectomy) when I was 27 (1973) and a few upper back and neck ruptures over the years which were treated by chiropractors. I was told I had degenerative arthritis in my spine by my first surgeon in '73. In 2012 my Prius was hit head-on by a Chevy Suburban SUV and I was told by a competent surgeon to get the 8 level job, considering the damage done and the condition of my spine (or risk almost certain revision surgeries). 3 years later I still don't feel like it's completely fused, but much better than it was the first year. Had to sleep for a full year in a lazyboy because a bed just hurt too much. I've got some nerve damage in both hands from the surgery. The nerves in my left hand grew back at the fingertips but I'm still numb in my middle finger of my right hand and need to look whenever that finger hits a key. I can do laundry and grocery shopping. I lift 20 pounds with one hand without pain. I work out regularly with light dumbells, helps with upper body strength. Fortunately I was retired when all of this happened so I had the luxury of not needing to do anything really. And I've really taken advantage of that and am active when I feel good and not when I don't. I have pushed myself this whole time since the surgery to do more all the time, up to the point where I'd be hurting, then rest until healed. I think that part is important because you need to build up muscle to take the stress off the spine. I went in for xrays in '03, they were ok. But didn't see my doctor after that. I figure if something was wrong, I'd feel it and see him when necessary. Hang in there, this is definitely hard, but it does get better.

    Also, I used one of those electrical stimulators for a year after surgery (bought a used on ebay for $100) Cervi-Stim, I think. And I was driving within a month. Also, I only took pain meds for a few months. I got addicted when I had my injury back in the 70s and didn't want to go thru the withdrawls again. But in all fairness, the pain wasn't that bad after a few months, mostly just discomfort. There is discomfort right now but you just get used to it. Manageable with ibuprofen or similar.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on Welcome to learn more about SH and how to navigate this site for best benefit to you.
  • Not sure why my original post didn't make it.  Short version: had 8 levels of fusion six months ago: riding my mountain bike; motorcycle, exercising; sex; etc., little problem.  No pain except where the scar tissue is still healing.  My opinion is you have to start becoming active as soon as possible.  Also, I threw out the prescribed painkillers and went for four Tylenol twice a day.  Ao yeah, I'm 69. 
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