I had L5-S1 spinal fusion surgery on January 25, 2013. The surgery was to repair a fractured vertebrae that led to spondylolesthesis. I had fractured the vertebrae twenty years earlier playing football but had been fine until I developed leg and foot pain while playing basketball at the age of 35. Over the course of a spring the pain grew worse until I finally gave it up. I went to PT believing that I had plantar fasciitis. Over the course of the coming months the pain grew worse. Not knowing that my problem was related to my lower back issue I carried around a heavy outboard motor several times during the course of the summer. By the fall, I couldn't stand for more than twenty minutes and impact sports were out of the question. The pain eventually traveled up my legs and came to rest in my lower back...at which time I finally realized the root of my pain.
As an active and athletic person I opted for surgery and interviewed three surgeons at premier Boston hospitals. I visited with two Neurosurgeons and one Ortho. The ortho suggested anterior surgery which the neurosurgeons rejected as too risky. I opted for xxxxx Mass General. Given my age and health I was told the prognosis was good and that I would be active and without restriction within three months.
After awaking from the surgery I felt discomfort in my hips and some in my legs. I was advised this was normal and I imagined that the recovery would take time. In the coming weeks I stayed with my mother and lifted very little but was by no means completely immobile. I was generally good about bending over and things of that nature. I walked, but felt pain in my legs and kept my activity light. I also felt a light tugging in my lower back.
By the two month mark I had moved back to my condo and resumed most of my life, though my pain had not abated in my legs (mainly calves). I was in a relationship and resumed sexual activity. By the three month period both CT and MRI scans were taken. The doctor assured me that the fusion looked strong and my pain was likely nerve/muscle inflammation. The nerve root appeared free and open. I asked if I could do any damage through lifting or physical activity. In spite of my pain I was told I could not. By this time my lower back basically felt fine. I no longer noticed any tugging sensation.
A few weeks later I was doing some yard work and brought some steel yard chairs downstairs for a party. There was no searing pain. But over the coming days my legs felt progressively worse and my back felt unstable, as the tugging sensation returned.
That was in May. I am going to PT and doing exercises. The surgeon remains committed to my care and I am going for a reflexion x ray and new MRI today. But everything feels inflamed and my lower back remains very unstable. I have muscular twitching in my calves that abates but doesn't go away. I now lift almost nothing.
I am convinced that my surgery has failed. Regardless of what the scans show, I believe there is a structural problem. I am afraid that if the scans come back looking good, I will be told that everything is fine and nothing more can be done. This terrifies me. I am not ready to accept the possibility that I will be so disabled. At this point, I can't lift a bag of groceries, never mind play golf, run or ski.
My question is: have people out there seen improvement after six months? Is revision surgery a realistic option?