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lateral lumbar interbody fusion LLIF Lumbar Laminectomy fusion instrumented

i am having both procedures done next month and would like to hear from anyone that has gone through this and what i can expect...i am totally afraid that i may end up in a wheel chair despite assurances from my physician i am an extremely active person i work out at the gym 5 times a week up to one hour to hour and 1/2 each morning..i can't bear to think i won't be active until a few months after surgery and totally afraid of this procedure I have never had major surgery but after 12 years of numbness and pain down leg and daily pain medication i know it's time to fix this...can anyone tell me what to expect before during and after? thanks very "fearful"


  • 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

  • Being fearful is very normal.
    I felt like that and tried very hard to avoid surgery because of it. A doctor commented, when he saw me lying down on the floor at the back during church because of the pain, that it is amazing how much pain people will put up with because of fear!

    Eventually I gave in. I had to because my life was becoming more and more limited and I felt it was not fair on my family. Also my surgeon told me I would end up in a wheelchair if I didn't have it.

    I had a PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion) with extensive laminectomy and wide undercutting of the facet joints. I had a plastic cage inserted between my vertebrae where the disc had been which was filled with my ground up bone that was removed in the laminectomy. I also had titanium hardware; 4 screws and 2 rods.

    I was expecting a very tough recovery. In fact it was not as bad as I had feared. It did need time though to get anything like back to being active again. I didn't have a brace, walker or even a stick. I was up and walking the day after surgery and didn't have heavy duty pain meds. I think I was unusual in that respect. I only had the morphine IV for about 6 hours. They then took it away from me because I had pin point pupils, which apparently is a sign of overdose, promising to give it back later. They never did, but I didn't really need it. I coped.

    I was told that the fact I had been in so much pain for so long probably meant that my body could cope with the post surgical pain. Also I had been walking and exercising desperately trying to avoid surgery. They told me that as I was so fit from that would have helped in my recovery. 3 weeks after surgery my husband and I went to a garden to walk around it. I slowly built up my walking each day. Taking several short walks outside at first and then less but longer walks.

    Now, I was prepared mentally for a very difficult and painful recovery and was pleasantly surprised. I think this is better than having a nasty shock with how painful it is. I would suggest that you do prepare yourself for a long recovery. You will need to be patient with your body and ease it back to activity slowly or you are likely to flare up your pain again. However, as you are so active and fit, hopefully this will make your recovery easier than for some. Remember though that every patient's recovery is different and some people find it very hard. Prepare for that and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised as I was.

    There is a thread about useful items to have once you get home. It is at the top of the Back and Neck Surgery thread. If you can't find it let me know and I'll post a link to it. It is very long! Don't be worried by that. It is meant for lumbar and neck surgeries and covers most problems that people can experience. There are a few basics that are very useful. A grabber is one of these.

    Do ask any questions that you have. We are a friendly bunch and will be happy to share our experiences. :-)

  • I haven't ever heard of this procedure, although it sounds similar to XLIF, which is also done laterally. My abdominal incision is just above my right hip bone. I'm 9 months post op and I believe I've had an 75-80% improvement. The first week, including the 4 days in the hospital were tough, but not unmanageable. At the one week point I started saying that I thought I actually felt better than I felt prior to surgery. Of course, I had surgical pain, was on narcotics, moving very slowly, etc, but I was getting up and showering each day and drying my hair, etc. I started going out of the house on a regular basis around day 10. I was very tired and worn down, with not a lot of energy, but I turned the corner at the 5 week point when I began resuming my normal activities and traveling. I didn't get off completely Scott-free, I realize I had other areas that also hurt (t-spine), but not anywhere near the point my low back was hurting. I am able to manage the discomfort I currently have with an anti-inflammatory, an occasional Tramadol and less occasionally, a Norco. My quality of life is so much improved and as much as I hope to never have another back surgery, I wouldn't be terrified if it. Best of luck to you!
    Lumbar laminectomy L-4/L-5, 2006
    XLIF with posterior pedicle screws L-4/L-5, 4-23-2013
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