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L5-S1 fusion scheduled, what to expect

I'm scheduled for an anterior L5-S1 fusion on April 15. They're taking bone from my hip and placing 2 cages. I was just wondering what I can expect and get some tips. I've had a discectomy, but this just seems a lot worse because they're going in through the abdomen.
Lauren Davidson


  • I had a l5/s1 tlif fusion in July. I had a rough recovery, however, mine has beem very painful. My surgeons staff dismissed the level of pain and severity of my pain. My biggest worry/fear was this and it came true. I joined a pain management group 1 month post op. I would see if you can have a pain management doctor involved right away if it is a problem.

    The first month I was wiped out. I slept a lot, drank tons of water, and tried to eat as best as I could. I seriously disliked being dependant on others through this.

    Now, what I did to prep was read the lists on here for what they reccomend for preop stuff a grabber, toilet seat lift (The hospital gave me 2 walkers and a commode. I was not able to stock up on food preop, but I had plenty of non junk food to eat. Have lots of pillows to elevate you back and hips.

    My other problem is I had someone who was supposed to help me during the day and they stiffed me. I had someone home at night. I also had a brace. I wore it everywhere. I just bought a u shaped maternity pillow and I love it. It has helped my sleep a lot.

    Good luck ans PM if you have questions.
    40 year old mom
    Tlif July 18
  • kbbabykkbbaby Posts: 6
    edited 03/09/2014 - 5:20 AM
    surgery that you're having, and I had a speedy recovery. Actually, I've been told that it's better if the incision is made through the abdomen because they don't have to cut through the muscles in your back. My surgeon used donor bone. My cousin had the same surgery and they used bone from her hip. She said that recovering from the hip portion of the surgery took longer than the recovery of the spinal surgery.

    I would suggest that you get one of those "reacher, grabber" things, and put anything you might need like reading material, sewing, snacks, etc., on your counter top or a table so that you won't have to bend to reach them.

    Also, what helped me greatly (and I still use it), is a rail for the side of the bed. Part of it slides under the mattress and the other part stands up to support you when you get in and out of bed. I don't know how to describe it, but you can find it in a medical supply store. Also, a toilet riser is a life saver. I've had three spinal fusions, the L5-S1, and two surgeries on the C4-C6, and the Lumbar surgery was by far the easiest.

    I also wore a bone growth stimulator. It was two patches on my back with cords that connected to a unit that I wore at my waist, about the size of a cell phone.

    It might be a good idea to start now learning the "golfer's squat". You lower yourself by squatting on one leg and sliding your other leg out straight. Your back stays straight. I hope that makes sense. It will come natural to you if you should drop something.

    I'd be more than happy to chat by pm if you'd like.
  • My L5-S1 surgery took 10½ hours on a Jackson table. I had some physical anomalies and congenital deformities that weren't known from the MRIs and other films. I had missing lamina and an extra lumbar vertebrae which surprised my doc, to say the least. He had to call in help from a colleague, fortunately, the surgery was performed at Mass General in Boston where the consulting surgeon was one of the most notable bad specialists at the time. I mention the table because of what the affects were - all that time in a prone position (they rotated me a few times) cause some edema to my face and chest. I had two very swollen eyes and looked, as it was reported to me, that I looked like I just lost a fight with Mike Tyson. I only related these details in comparison to the latter two surgeries. I had no bruises, swelling, or other deficits post-surgically. I awoke comfortably lying on my back. Each procedure was a posterior entrance, and no bone harvesting from my ilium was necessary - they were able to use what they had to remove from the site (laminectomies, where I had them). Once I was at home, my progress sped up, and I was able to sit in a chair for short periods after about a week. I should mention that I have always been athletic and strong so my muscle support was a plus; I realize not everyone can be that lucky. I was able to go to physical therapy (to just move and begin to stretch) about three weeks after surgery. I drove myself once I could depress the clutch without pain - at about four weeks. I was able to go back to work after five weeks - as an artist/art professor I am required to stand to critique students' work and go from easel to easel. No pain, just fatigue at first. Expectations should be matched with one's commitment to physical therapy and one's desire to return to normal life. The surgeon just does the carpentry, and after that, only the patient's dedication to recovery matters.
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