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Fusion questions

zillano9zzillano9 Posts: 18
edited 10/12/2013 - 8:24 PM in Spinal Stenosis
Hi there. Been lurking here for a bit reading some very informative and at times opinionated posts about stenosis and lumbar fusion. First of all thanks for all of that. Secondly I'd like a few views from those who have gone through the same situations that I have instead of the few people I know that have had the procedure done or the Dr's I'm seeing.

Got in a work related car accident in mid December of 2012 and initially had the normal post accident issues like overall soreness and the daily pain issues. I was sideswiped by a bus while we were each driving about 30mph and there was a sudden jolting impact. I was in a work vehicle which wasn't a great fit for me because of my size.

Since this was a workers comp injury I was ok'd to see a Ortho and get an X-Ray. X-Ray didn't show much and Ortho didn't think there was much going on besides soreness. He sent me for some land based therapy and asked for an ok from work for an MRI.

After the holidays I started therapy and after 2 months and no improvement was sent for an MRI. That MRI showed a small l4-l5 herniation along with some foranimal narrowing and retrolithisis. The ortho, who is a spine guy didn't think there was much going on here and that I'd get better in time. I had been between being off work and doing some light work until this point.

Since no one seemed to have any major concerns, myself included, I decided to go back to my regular routine at work. A lot fo sitting in cars, standing, some carrying items, but nothing like roofing or construction. I did have a bit of leg tingling at this point but certainly nothing that I thought was too bad not to work as normal.

Almost immediately after returning to work I started having major issues. After sitting for more than 10-15 minutes Id' have really bad tingling and numbness in my legs as well as the feeling of having my feet in ice baths. Back pain was still there but nothing I thought was as concerning as these leg issues. I stayed working and then I started to really get worried when I'd get out of the car and have to grab something to stop me from falling or loosing my balance. The weakness in the legs was scary.

I went back to office work only and the spine Dr. I'd been seeing sent me to a PM dr. He gave me 2 Epidural Injections in about a 3 month period with zero relief.

I decide to see another Dr. as recommended by a friend. I go to a board cert Nuero who has good credentials. He gives me an exam, this is September now, and immediately thinks there's a lot more going on here. He sends me to a sitting MRI where I also lean forward and backward. I get the call a few days later that I need a fusion due to severe stenosis. Here's exactly what the new MRI said...."L4-L5 herniation with annular tear with retrolithisis producing moderately severe stenosis".

So here I am at 36 years old looking at this surgery. I've started to try and lose some weight since at 6'6 and 330lbs I could use it either way. Not being active the past 10 months has certainly made the weight issue worse. I have 2 kids already and 2 more on the way so a long recovery that would case any issues for the wife or endanger the pregnancy is not gonna work.

IF you've read this far I appreciate it more than you know. I am going to see a Dr. xyz who is a top Dr so I've been told for another opinion. I have yet to be back to the first Ortho I saw. I'm stressed for a number of reasons here but would love to get some insight from those who've gone through this and decided to have or not have the surgery and their experience.

Best of health to you all....Z

Forum rules prohibit the naming of specific doctors and facilities
Post Edited by Liz (moderator)

Alif with percutaneous screws L4-L5 scheduled for 12/17. Can't wait to start getting better,


  • For 4 yrs I had back pain ,leg siatic and while cleaning houses m y leg was so painfull I almost fell down the stairs.I was sent to pt, chiropractor,pain dr nothing worked.The MRI showed 2 crushed discs,DDD,stanosis,scoliosis.In March I had ALIFL4L5S1 double fusion.I was cut front and back.rods,2 cages,nuts and bolts and 12 screws.I had a orthopedic surgeon and a vascular surgeon to make sure the nerves don't get cut.It was a tough surgery and a long recovery,but after pt in my 4th mth I got stronger every day and now I am back cleaning houses full time and feeling great.My drs success rate with this surgery is 98%.I hope this helps you and I wish you luck stay strong Kathy.
    Kathy B
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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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

  • I am sorry to read about your accident and that you have been told that you need a fusion.
    It is a big surgery and has a long recovery but it certainly can lead to great relief of pain.

    I had a L4/5 fusion and laminectomy due to a spondylolisthesis.
    Beforehand I was having extreme sciatica in both legs and lower back pain that was really limiting my life.
    The recovery was not as bad as I had feared although it was long.
    It was very much worth the relief I got and if I had to decide whether to have surgery now I would definately go ahead with it.

    I think spine surgery should always be a last resort, but when all other treatments have been tried and the surgeon feels that he will be able to get you relief then it could well be the best decision.

    Good luck and do ask any other questions you may have. I suggest that you explore this site as it is full of information about spinal problems, the various treatments and surgeries and their recovery. The support from members of this forum is great too.

  • zillano9zzillano9 Posts: 18
    edited 10/13/2013 - 6:11 AM
    Thanks for the responses so far. My nuero feels very confident that since this is a 'simple' fusion meaning only one level with my issues all coming from that area that I will be much better after surgery and rehab. Hopefully I can get in for the other opinion I'm looking for and if he confirms the first opinion I can make a decision fairly quickly to get this done before my wife gets too big and totally unable to help.

    Anyone else willing to respond I'd appreciate it. I've been searching a bit more in the surgery forum lately and there's a lot of good stuff there.
    Alif with percutaneous screws L4-L5 scheduled for 12/17. Can't wait to start getting better,
  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 10/13/2013 - 6:23 AM
    There are several things you can do before your surgery, whenever it is, that could greatly help your wife. I suggest you start with frozen healthy meals for your wife and family.... from casseroles/one dishes that go straight in the oven to even frozen crock pot meals that you stick straight in the crock pot from the freezer. That is a huge help, so is reorganizing the kitchen/bathrooms/closets so neither of you have to bend over to get the things you use the most.

    Good luck and congrats on the twins!
    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.
  • Zillano
    Just my two cents worth.
    With stenosis and foranamale ((sp ?) narrowing. Don't wait like I did and have permanate damage which could have been fixed years before it damaged so much I will always have pain. Surgery is not fun recovery is a hard one but is attainable without to many problems.
    Good Luck
  • Hi Zilano. I guess what it all came down to for me was quality of life. I was in so much pain, and things were only getting worse. I had no quality of life, and I couldn't function. So my choices were to try the surgery and have a chance at pain relief and a return to some level of function.... or do nothing and continue in pain with little to no relief. I realize that everyone is different as to the cause of the problem and the pain we can tolerate, but if one is in extreme pain and not functioning, what do you have to loose by trying the surgery?

    I don't want to imply that it is an easy decision, because it truly is not. And it can be a very long haul through the healing process. I have had my own setbacks and doubts, but I am already better than I was prior to the surgery..... and still healing. To me, the surgery was a chance to improve, before having no alternative than to learn with chronic and crippling pain.

    48 year old freight handler. Bilateral foraminotomy, decompression of nerve roots and reduction of spondylolisthesis at L4-5 with open PILF and autogenous bone graft from left hip - June 13, 2013
  • Today is 6 weeks plus a day since my two level PLIF lumbar fusion and laminectomy. I'd suffered nerve pain and reduced quality of life for 6 years before deciding to go ahead. I am feeling great! It wasn't as bad as I expected, though the first week was pretty unpleasant. Planning meals ahead, definitely a great idea! A neighbour organized a bunch of meals delivered to us periodically by other neighbours for the first few weeks, now I'm back to cooking and have been for a few weeks now. A long handled reacher/grabber is invaluable! Not sure how old your kids are, but anything you can enlist them for to help? Bending/twisting are a definite no-no! If I had it to do again, I'd have done this much sooner. I feel like I have my life back. Good luck to you!
  • Thanks you all so much for the suggestions and sharing your stories. I'm scheduled for the fusion 12/17 at HJD in NYC with the top guy there. Trying to get as much done as possible to make things easier and enlisting the help of friends and family as well.
    Does anyone remember what they're travel restrictions were right after the surgery? I've been telling family that spending anytime together on christmas will have to be at my house since I'm sure I won't be either allowed or up for the back as forth.
    Alif with percutaneous screws L4-L5 scheduled for 12/17. Can't wait to start getting better,
  • My surgeon restrict riding in a car for 2 weeks post surgery. I have heard other people say they have been allowed to right away. Either way depending on how far you need to travel it could be very uncomfortable for you to sit for any length of time. So it would probably be best if they came to you. And if you need to rest for a little while you would be in the comfort of your own home to do so. I know I will be spending the holidays at home. I know I won't feel like traveling 2+ hours to be with family.
    Acdf C5 C6 12/13/12
    Laminectomy and Discectomy L5 S1 12/12/13
  • I had no travel restrictions...but when I got home at the end of the twelve minute drive from the hospital, I was never so glad in my life to get out of a car!! :-)
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