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Freaking! Anyone have 3 or 4 level lumbar fusion?

To try and make a long story short, I am 38 years old, and have already had four back surgeries since 2008 (plus tons and tons of injections over the years, physical therapy, trial of the spinal cord stimulator and am a walking pharmacy. The last surgery was March of 2011 and I had a more extensive two level fusion from L3-5. Typically after I have a surgery I have relief for awhile and then the bilateral leg pain starts back up, changes, etc. So over the past year I have steadily gone down hill with a worsening of leg symptoms to the point it is pretty unbearable. Now my entire legs hurt fronts,sides, backs, all the way down to my feet and toes. It is throbbing, burning, tingly, numb, achy, you name it. My back pain is getting higher and higher in my back, though my leg pain is worse. I Had a recent MRI and met with my surgeon who has done my past three surgeries who I really like..Anyways, so here is the latest and greatest problems. So my bottom disc L5-S1 is collapsing under the pressure of the two level fusion on top of it, and has some lipoma something down there. What was a perfectly fine disc 14 months ago (the previous MRI before the latest) my L2-3 disc now has major spinal stenosis. I heard a lot of "argh but you are so young" and kinda having that all too familiar "your'e screwed look I am getting accustomed to seeing. etc as he was thinking out loud with figuring out the possibilities of 3 level fusion, 4 level fusion and of course looking at the rest of my life. It sounds like for now he is just going to focus on the bottom level and I will have a diagnostic injection to see if that relieves the leg pain at all for my bottom disc, tho he said if it didn't help he wouldn't necessarily taking surgery off the table. I am feeling pretty down because I thought I was done with all of this crap and certainly wasn't expecting on hearing that my L2-3 disc has already deteriorated so quickly. Has anyone had a three level or four level fusion? Is it far worse than a 2 level? Any thoughts?Any success stories? I am scared to have surgery. I am scared to have my bottom level fused which makes sense, but then have my top level continue to worsen. It just seems like it is never ending and I am so sick of being a disabled chick that is in constant pain and watching the toll it takes on my 6 year old daughter. Im scared I am going to end up in a wheelchair at the rate I am going if I do have surgery and if I don't. Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated...thanks.


  • I'm sorry to hear of such troubles in someone so young. I don't blame you for your state of mind considering what you've already been through and still face. I am 65, which makes a difference to a number of things, but I'm happy to share what I can with you.

    I've had a 2-level fusion (L4-S1) 2 1/2 years ago, with expectation and hopes that would solve my problems. It did, and I had a wonderful surgical result, until this last year. The details don't much matter, but I'm now scheduled for laminectomy and scoliosis correction, with fusion of 7 levels--T10 on down to join my fusion at L4. Having this done in two weeks and will be posting how this surgery goes for me and hopefully I may be of some help to you. This surgery will be followed by a 3-level cervical spine fusion (C2-C5) for entirely different problem.

    Others will jump in and offer friendship and help, I'm sure. In the meantime, welcome to Spine Health, a friendly place for everybody who is scared or in pain or just looking for information. :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Gigiboo2GGigiboo2 Posts: 3
    edited 06/27/2013 - 3:34 AM
    Holy moly! I wish you the best of luck and will be anxious to hear how you come out. That is part of my fear is that the more they fuse they will have to keep going higher and higher. I guess that's why part of me is not totally understanding the thought process of my surgeon, though I understand the concept less is what they aimfor , and the concern over my age, but I'm so worried I will have the bottom level done and be right back the next year having the top level above the fusion done. I have had a surgery every year since 2008, barely made it thru 2012 and here I am again. Most days in ready to just chop my legs off. I'm just fried with being in so much pain and like everyone here just wants to feel better and normal and not have this stuff take over their lives. My prayers are with you and I wish you tons and tons of positive energy and thoughts as you go through this. Thanks for your response!
  • Thanks, Tammy, you're a sweetheart.

    Let me share what my spine surgeon (world-renowned) explained--it's not a minimalistic philosophy, it's a philosophy of doing as small a surgery as possible if he feels confidant it will help, and if not, doing a big enough surgery that hopefully the patient doesn't end up coming back every year or two. With my neck, he said he could fuse most of my neck (both posterior and anterior approaches) or he could try a "little" surgery which did not involve fusion and thus would not put pressure on the adjoining disc levels. That's what he did (foraminotomy) and it was perfect for me at the time. Now, I have other problems with my neck and he feels that fusing 3 levels is what's needed. Because he aims to fix the problem with one surgery, even tho it may be a big one, I have complete confidence in his judgment. He aims to avoid adjacent disc disease wherever possible--a huge benefit to the patient but probably not so beneficial to the surgeon's pocketbook.

    Having said all of this, you need to remember that with you being young maybe a different treatment plan might be appropriate for you. My lumbar discs were calcified and flat--yours would probably still be soft. Even though I sound like I'm backing up your surgeon's approach, something seems basically wrong with the number and frequency of surgeries you've been put through. I'm not trying to make you distrust your surgeon, am just giving you my gut reaction. I would have no way of knowing if your treatment has been appropriate--I certainly hope it has been!

    Keep sharing your concerns and fears and know that you've got friends here to share your frustrations. Sending healing thoughts your way.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • I am not an expert by any means but I did have a three level fusion at L4-L5, L5-L6 and L6-S1 (I have an extra vertebrae). I waited too long to have the surgery and some of the things going on, like scar tissue from a micro discectomy, made it hard for the surgeon. He did a great job and the whole reason for the surgery was to stop further damage. That has happened. I am not any worse in this area of my back since the surgery in 09/10. I have changed my lifestyle..I retired from a physical job and try not to over do.. Sorry you are having so many problems.
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