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Lumbar fusion

Hi. My name is Meg. I am a nurse, I was injured moving a patient and
will require a lumbar fusion (scheduled for 7/23/13). My doctor has
proposed using a minimally invasive method with 3 smaller incisions
instead of one large incision. I would love anyone's advice,
suggestions etc to help me prepare for my hospital stay, after
surgery/hospital and home care, etc. I am not familiar with spine
surgery patients and I am scared to death. I am not physically close
to my family/friends as I recently moved to a different state, so I
will be relying solely on my husband. So please feel free to offer
advice etc.

Thank you so much!!



Things that I am greatly concerned about-

1- How long is the hospital stay after surgery? I was told 4-5 days.
My surgery itself is suppose to be 6 hours long. I have a pars defect
that has to be corrected.

2- Could you walk up stairs after leaving the hospital? I have stairs
I will have to walk up to get into my home.

3- Did you need a shower seat? We have a very deep bathtub I will have to step in to.

4-Could you care for yourself immediately after returning from the hospital?
personal hygiene, preparing food etc

5- How intense was the pain post op? Was your pain controlled well?
I have been on pain meds for eight months with elevations in doses of medication. I am worried about issues with pain control post op.

Thank you!!!!!!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    Here are just some of the highlights:

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    - As a bonus, Spine-Health provides these patient forums. Here is where you can meet thousands of other people who understand and can relate to your situation. You will soon become part of the Spiney family who provide comfort and the advantages of a Support System. You are now part of this family that is approximately 20,600 International members and growing daily.

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    All of this will help make your threads better and improve the times and quality of responses you will receive.

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Thank you so much for your advice and sharing your experience and knowledge. I will review the must haves link.....thanks for providing that to me. If possible, I'd like to keep in touch if any questions arise.

    Thanks again!!!!
  • Hi meg. Good luck with your surgery. I had an open plif L5/S1 on 6/12/13. Hospitalized from Wednesday to Saturday. The first day/night in the hospital was the worst. Thankfully my husband was with me because the 3-11pm nurse was very late with pain meds!! Have someone there with you if possible to speak up for you. Thankfully my night nurse was wonderful!
    Up and walking the next day after they removed the foley. They controlled my pain pretty well, still the first day post op was hard. Day 2 much better.
    Was able to do stairs and walk well before discharge.
    Could shower and care for myself at home, but very glad to have help. I had cooked and frozen a weeks work of meals.
    I did not need a shower seat.
    I did use my reacher/grabber thing alot
    Have your husband set his alarm for your pain med schedule. Missing the night doses the first week lets the pain get in front of you.
    Walk twice daily if you can it helps.
    After 2 weeks I was off all pain meds.
    4 weeks out now and very little pain left, just a little soreness at incision area. Walking a mile 2-3 times a day.
    Good luck and well wishes for speedy and full recovery!
    PLIF L5/S1 fusion 6/12/13
    ACDF 5-7 7/17/13
    44 year old Mom of 10 and 12 year old girls, full time veterinary technician.
  • Good Morning Chris!!
    Thank you for your post. I was reviewing the list of must haves for surgery and I was getting fairly anxious with all of the things suggested. Your post put my mind at ease. Did you receive your reacher/grabber from the hospital or did you get it prior to surgery? Did you do PT at the hospital to practice stairs and walking? Thanks for the advice re the pain meds. Definitely don't want pain to get in front of you....it's hard to play catch up! I hope that my recovery goes as well as your seems to have gone. Wishes for continued recovery! :-)

    Thanks again!!

  • Chris77 said two very important items... don't be left alone at the hospital... I made this mistake... TWICE... both ended very badly. And second, I agree that the first week it is important to set alarms and take meds during the night... again... advice I learned the hard way... TWICE...geez sometimes I do feel like an idiot. I also stocked my freezer with frozen meals I prepared in advance. I even had friends bring over some casseroles for me to freeze. I felt like preparing these meals before hand made me feel like I was being "helpful" to my family even if I wasn't.... as in, I might not get to cook many nights but at least my family had a home cooked meal to just stick in the oven. I also did some crock pot freezeable meals. And if you don't like to cook... there is always stoffeurs! lol. Best of luck to you!
    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.
  • The hospital gave me the reacher/grabber! They also offered a walker. I used it the first few times I got up then didn't need it. The PT person came in the first day post op to get me up, walked to the door then sat in the chair for a few min. They will teach you how to get out of bed and stand. Since I already had to log roll to get out of bed I was familiar with it. The surgery site hurt but the crushing back pain was GONE when I stood up! Lost all modesty and totally did not care that my
    hiney was hanging out of the hospital gown that first day :)
    Brought facial cleansing wipes to wash my face with and deodorant.
    Day 2 was better. Got to shower (I did use the shower seat in the hosp) and put on my own pjs. I brought a knee length nightshirt. PT did stairs with me on day 2.
    My surgeon used internal sutures and skin glue so I could shower.
    Do not hesitate to ring your nurse button for pain meds if they are not on time!!! My night nurse was so good to me. She wrote out all the times I was due for things on a board in my room so I would know too. Ask for them to wake you for scheduled oral meds as some nurses will skip your dose if you are sleeping.
    Do not forget the stool softeners!!
    Wore a t-shirt dress from Old Navy home and a pair of slip on sneakers. Still wear the slip on sneakers for my walks. They are great!
    I also brought a zip up hoodie to the hospital and did use it. Their AC was on full blast.
    Best of luck to you!
    PLIF L5/S1 fusion 6/12/13
    ACDF 5-7 7/17/13
    44 year old Mom of 10 and 12 year old girls, full time veterinary technician.
  • Thanks again for all of your advice! I would appreciate your prayers and well wishes!! I'm so happy you've done well. I hope I recover as well you both have.
  • odouglassoodouglass Posts: 264
    edited 07/16/2013 - 5:40 AM
    Hey Meg-

    I am 26 years old and had a Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion on May 1, 2013 at the L5/S1 level and I couldn't be happier. My husband was my primary caretaker before and after surgery.... my family lives close but my husband really bent over backwards to help me where they didn't. I was in the hospital for 2 nights, 3 days and my husband did not stay with me, making it REALLY rough when I had to call for someone to help me up at night or give me my medicine. When Garrett got there in the morning I really relied on him a lot- he was my cheerleader!

    Here are some answers to your questions from my experience:

    1- How long is the hospital stay after surgery? I was told 4-5 days. My surgery itself is suppose to be 6 hours long. I have a pars defect that has to be corrected. -- I also had a pars defect along with degenerative disc disease, large paracentral herniation and spinal stenosis. My surgery was 3 hours long and was one level. How many levels are you getting fused? Once I was able to climb stairs in PT I was able to go home- so I did that on Friday (Surgery was Wednesday) and went home that day!

    2- Could you walk up stairs after leaving the hospital? I have stairs I will have to walk up to get into my home. - As I said below, the PT and OT ask you those questions.... since I had stairs they ensured I could climb them. Yes, I needed help up and down when I got home but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

    3- Did you need a shower seat? We have a very deep bathtub I will have to step in to. I did not need a shower seat, it wasn't actually offered to me. But, I did have a raised toilet seat and a walker along with a grabber.

    4-Could you care for yourself immediately after returning from the hospital? personal hygiene, preparing food etc. Yes, with limitations. My husband did a lot of helping me up and down, helping me get changed, dried off from the shower, etc. The restrictions on bending, lifting, twisting were enough to keep me upright and focusing on only doing what I could. Garrett prepared meals and ensured that I got out of bed and walked a little each day as instructed by the doctor. I relied on him a lot for caring for me.

    5- How intense was the pain post op? Was your pain controlled well? I have been on pain meds for eight months with elevations in doses of medication. I am worried about issues with pain control post op.-- The pain medicine did take the edge off for sure, but what I suffered with the most was muscle spasms.... I took care of those with muscle relaxers and found myself wanting more of those rather than the oxycodone. ALWAYS ask for medicine if you know you need it in the hospital and they are late getting it to you. You never want to wait and wait, because getting up and down and all of that is VERY painful and the pain medicine and relaxers will help a ton!

    Feel free to shoot me a PM or a response on here! :) Good luck, I am praying that your surgery is very successful!

    Olivia Douglass
    MIS TLIF L5/S1 on 5/1/13
  • I had a L4-L5 fusion in Jan 2010 and my post op pain control was evidently a little less pleasant than some others. Unfortunately, I was taking opiates for almost 10 years before my fusion, so I was behind the 8 ball from the start. I was taking 90mg of morphine for 1.5 years before, and unfortunately that was what my surgeon elected to use in the pump. I stressed my situation to him over and over beforehand, and all he said was "don't worry about it". Well, famous last words there. They kept uping the dose but never enough...I jut stared at the clock watching the minute hand slowly move until that 8 minute mark when I could push that button again. He evidently did not see the need to try something different. I had/have more problems back there than just that one disk, so I never really reduced my Rx that much afterwards from what I was taking beforehand...I was able to reduce morphine from 90/day to 60 and one less Percocet, but that did not last long. I wanted to see how low I could go, but unfortunately now back to 90mg/day and 3 Percocet and would like more but it is what it is. But, enough of that sob story....main thing is get it clear beforehand that you have been on opiates for a while and it may take more than someone who just had a freak accident resulting in emergency fusion that was not taking Rx...and open your mouth if it's not working for you no matter what time of night...the nurse can always call the doctor on call for a bump up

    I got to my room late afternoon on a Monday, and they were pulling the pump out of my room Tuesday morning at 9:30 giving me a 10mg Percocet...I just looked at the nurse like you have to be kidding...a hour later and I was getting fitted for a brace that would make its' appearance at noon for my first walk up the hall..my oh my. More walking the rest of the day and the next then I was getting kicked out Wednesday at 5:00. I think my wife found every pot hole on the way home...a pillow for the ride home really helped. I could not wait to get out of that place to get home so I could get doped up...

    I did not have stairs, but I imagine that I could have made it up them as a one shot deal, if necessary

    I had a towel rack in my shower which was enough for me...you may want to verify that taking a bath is okay...it may not be due to the stiches being submerged even with a covering. I know my surgeon said no bathing until the stitches were out, but everybody's situation is different

    I pretty much stayed in bed for a few days except for a walk around the house two or three times a day. I could not imagine having to cook anything. The raised toilet seat was a lifesaver...so was the wipey thing to help after going to the bathroom as I could not twist around nor bend...also a grabber...a walker no doubt...lots and lots of laxatives were needed on a regular basis-you think you're taking too much, but it was still not enough

    you'll do fine. I think not knowing the first time around is the worst part, but it got better quicker than I thought...just follow the doctor's orders and don't overdo too quickly
  • I am in the uk and I have had 3 spinal operations the last one was a fusion {ALIF} being a nurse I assume you know what that is ? unfortunately I am one of the unlucky ones and my story is not a good one but I decided to post so you can have a comparison from all the ..I was up sky diving after one week posts !.. I spent 6 hours in theatre and when I woke I was in so much pain words have not yet been invented to accurately describe the pain as it was through the abdominal wall I knew it would be painful but even I was shocked at how bad it was .even the team looking after me were staggered at how much pain relief I needed .anyway after 24 hours of hell I was safe to transfer to the spinal unit where I spent another 6 days .if was not a good experience .then when I came home I spent another 6 weeks unable to move of my recliner showering was hell my wife has to help me .I had no appetite {new problem} 18 months on...so my ALIF was not good I am still unable to work and I doubt I ever will .and NOW I have started with bowel problems ! my gastro team think the spinal operation could have triggered it off I am still being investigated for crohn's at best and bowel cancer at worst so my life has gone from bad to worse ..I hope that your operation goes well and you recover well .not all fusions go a wall as mine did,good luck
    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
  • backinsandiegobbackinsandiego Posts: 1
    edited 07/19/2013 - 9:38 AM
    Thought I would add some positive news and hope. Its only been 18 days since they went in front and back with 6 screws in the lower spine. The Meds help a lot. but I started weaning back 3 days ago. Not easy but possible only on 50% dose on the discharge meds Oxy Cont. Nasty stuff but NECESSARY. The Surgeon was right he said post surgery get Pool excercise, any type of DIY fitness JUST GET FIT, and when you get off the table day of operation day, WALK. Now I know what the walking dead are like, (Medicated zombies) that was me first 4 days. But that was the truth from the Surgeon WALK and do not stop. Common sense is necessary if you have to take 5 to 8 short walks a day. Now on day 18 I am able to go 30 minutes at a decent pace. With the prescribed back support belt and the cane for mainly mental comfort. Its not a crutch. Just carry it. I am 54 next week. I had been diagnosed 5 years ago with the back lumbar issues. I Tried it all, except Voodoo
    It is easy to get depressed after surgery I KNOW. It also Hurts like HELL the aftermath.. No lie about that. The broken leg as a teenager was a calk walk compared to this surgery. BE PREPARED> This site has some wonderful support from first hand been there done that. You also wonder I am today on my longest window since surgery feeling maybe the Doctor did fix my back issue. That thought along is amazing. I will add him and his team to my Will and trust. I will give it time but LIVE LIFE. Do not sit around, no matter how you feel, your still alive .
    San Diego
  • Hi Meg, here is a post op list that helped me when I had my two level back in January. Start gathering stuff now and have it ready and set up. I also got a long shoe horn and a sock assit....a little platic thing with ropes on the end that helps you put on your socks.
    here is the link:
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