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l3 herniated disc after l4-s1 spinal fusion

It has been 3 1/2 years since I had l4 - s1 spinal fusion. The surgery went perfectly and recovery was fairly easy. I have had no pain in that area since the fusion took. I was told by my doctor that I could return to normal activities within reason. I am 53 and walk regularly and take Zumba twice a week. I do not jump or move as much as some of the other people in the class but am able to raise my heart rate while still having fun. A couple of weeks ago I was puttering about the house when I felt something happen in my lower back. Within 24 hours I was laying flat on the floor in extreme pain and unable to lift my left leg without assistance. I had an MRI and the result is a herniated disc between l3-l4. After 6 weeks I still have leg pain on the inner thigh and numbness around the knee but it is alleviating and working its way back up my leg. I had a cortisone shot into the affected area last week to no avail. Because of the hardware in my back right below the disc, the doctor was unable to inject directly into that area. He injected into l2-l3 with the hope that the medicine would trickle down. It did not work. I am now in physical therapy.

My doctor has assured me that the herniation will eventually go away and chances of it happening in that spot again are very slim. He has not considered surgery at this time and said he would not even consider it until 11 weeks and no lessening of the pain.

My physical therapist has a different view on the situation. She has said that the herniated disc is a common event on people who have had the same surgery as me because of the limited flexibility in the area below the herniation. There is extra stress placed on l3-l4. She also said that even if this does go away, chances are very high for more herniations and eventually I would need surgery. The surgery would most likely be a fusion of l1-l4 because the herniations would work it's way up my spine If they were going to do a second surgery they would do l1-l4 so they would not have to go in and do it a third time. She said that at that time my ability to bend over and tie shoes and similar actions would be extremely limited.

Has anyone else experienced the same situation as I and what has the future brought them. Right now I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Do I keep going on with my life thinking if I move this way or that I will have another herniated disc or do I believe my doctor that I should be able to go on as before and as long as I stay healthy and keep a strong core I will have little or no risk of a herniation? I would love to hear from people with the same situation.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 01/19/2014 - 6:21 AM
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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
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I also have a similar situation - 2 1/2 years ago I had a successful fusion but now I believe I have a herniated disc after falling on my back on a boat. I have an MRI and CT scan scheduled in 2 weeks, and then a follow up appt. with my nurse practitioner, and hopefully my orthopedic surgeon, though I'm very nervous about what he might have to say. I know how easy it is to have weakness above the fusion area, and so I expected this over time just not so soon. I am only 38, and don't want to have another surgery but would rather do that than suffer. Unfortunately so many out there have had botched surgeries and end up in more pain. I will post more when I have answers from the dr. soon, I suppose I shouldn't jump to any conclusions at this point.
  • I am going through a similar situation except I had L4-S1 fused in two operations 4 years apart, now all remaining discs are shot and my L5 nerve roots are being squished by whats left of the disc in L5-S1. I have been dealing with doctors for 2 years now trying to get this fixed and just now saw a RN that works with my neurosurgeon for the initial consult. If surgery is offered I am at the point where I will just say 'fuse it all and lets move on'. Surgery doesn't bother me at this point but being drugged up all the time and having my life put on hold at a moments notice for 8 years is too much.

    Obviously your case is unique to you but in my experience once you start, you don't stop fusing. I'm just hoping to get 6 or more years between this one and my next.
  • nicole76nnicole76 Posts: 2
    edited 10/10/2014 - 5:58 PM
    I hear you about the surgery -- it's suffering in the short-term versus long term pain. I feel like I can't enjoy the simplest of things until I can better manage the pain. If surgery is the solution, then sign me up. I don't want to spend my life on any kind of medication. It sounds awful and I've seen people lose control of their lives and form addictions to so many of these narcotics.

    I also picked up the results of my CT scan and MRI. No bulging/herniated discs according to the report from radiologist. There was one other thing in the report I didn't quite understand so I'll have the nurse practitioner tell me. If not, I hope that I can get in to see my orthopedist. I wish I had more answers, but I just don't know what to think. Is it nerves? Is it instability?

  • on my nervesoon my nerves Posts: 116
    edited 12/08/2014 - 1:22 AM
    I've been reading these posts and I'm in a similar boat. I had a fusion on 4/10/13 (l4 l5 S1) and I'm having significant pain in my hip, groin, back of leg and back of knee after a nasty fall almost a month ago.

    I see the NP who works with my surgeon tomorrow and am anxious. My symptoms are so similar to before and I can barely function at times.

    Just wondering if any of you ended up having a second surgery and what did you have done?
    Herniation of l5 S1 l4 , DDD , microdisectomy in June 2013 and re herniation in September
    Cervical herniation at C5-7 Jan 2014 with impingement of spinal cord. 2 level cervical fusion Feb. 2014 and 2 level lumbar fusion in April 2014
  • Bonnierait, can you give us an update? Just curious how you came out.
    I have a similar story and am looking forward to another fusion so your input is important.


    L4-5-S1 fusion 2004
    C3-4-4 fusion 2006
    Laminectomies, Foraminotomies
    Herniated or bulging from T12 to L3
    Complete disc collapse L3-4
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