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L5/S1 lumbar fusion

Hello I am a 30 year old male in good shape physically with a healthy diet. I have a herniated disk @L5S1 and am looking at lumbar fusion surgery. My surgeon says he will be going through my tummy and my back to remove the disk and perform the fusion. From what I understand, this is a pretty heavy surgery with a lengthy recovery time. I would like to hear from others who have had this procedure to get their experience with the surgery and recovery. I would love nothing more than to be back to normal life working out and going to work within 3 months but I know that's a long shot. Thanks in advance and I look forward to all responses.


  • I had an ALIF done at L4-S1 in October. The first week was rough, but my recovery went smoothly. By week 3 I was walking roughly 2.5 miles a day and since I work from home, I didn't take any time off. Just dropped to part-time for a bit until I was able to sit for extended periods of time. Best advice I can give you is to walk as much as you are able to after surgery and don't just lay around in bed. The restrictions are the hardest to follow, I'm 5 months post-op and I still can't bend or twist, no lifting anything over 30 lbs, and I have to wear my back brace when I'm not home, but my surgeon is more conservative than others.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • 3engle33engle Posts: 10
    edited 03/31/2014 - 7:55 AM
    Thank you Steve. Have you gone through any physical therapy? My surgeons nurse said if the healing from the surgery goes good then I will begin PT 3 weeks post-op.
  • 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
  • 3engle said:
    Thank you Steve. Have you gone through any physical therapy? My surgeons nurse said if the healing from the surgery goes good then I will begin PT 3 weeks post-op.
    No, my surgeon believes walking is the best therapy. I've continued to walk every day and I have no pain at all at this point. That seems awfully quick to me to start PT.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • My L5/S1 fusion was done on May 1, 2013 and it was a great decision. The first few weeks were rough but after about 2-3 months of walking and therapy I felt great. At 6 months I was fully fused and am about to celebrate my 1 year anniversary! :-D
    Olivia Douglass
    MIS TLIF L5/S1 on 5/1/13
  • Congrats on the anniversary and thank you for sharing that. You don't know how happy that made me to read that, it gives me a lot of hope. I know everyone's recovery will be different but 6 months to fully fused sounds great, that's what I'm hoping for. My surgery hasn't been scheduled yet, it's going through workmans comp, but shouldn't be long from now. I'm just looking forward to getting it done so I can begin healing and get back to normal. Thanks again.
  • Isn't sort of fast to jump to a fusion first? Have you tried the microdisectomy route, or even PT?
  • 3engle33engle Posts: 10
    edited 04/06/2014 - 1:55 PM
    Hey, I am very new to all the procedures and methods to fix my back as this is my first back problem/surgery. When I visited with surgeon #1 he reviewed my mri results and explained it. He scheduled me for an epidural steroid block one week from the visit. I had the injection, which gave no relief, and had a follow up appt one week from the injection. He asked if it helped, I said no, he then said we would have to do the surgery and he then explained the fusion. I kind of thought that was the normal route. Since this is going through workers comp I had a second opinion. Surgeon #2 said he can see why the first surgeon wants to do the fusion but did suggest discectomy to me as a first option. I thought that sounded great since the procedure and recovery seemed better than fusion. Since the first surgeon will still be doing the operation I called his nurse and mentioned discectomy. She told me that he looked at that as an option but guaranteed I would be back within a year to have the fusion. She said the discectomy would only band aid the problem. I guess I have to trust them but since I'm at the mercy of the insurance adjuster I will only have to wait a little longer to see what they decide.
  • There are some details you need review and ask your doctor about. I had the same procedure but for two levels. I had a butt load of rehab afterwards. The best hands down was aqua therapy (Google it for details). Having the ALIF does present some possible issues. In my case, something got moved that didn't like it and I ended up with erectile dysfunction after surgery. The surgeon also has to be careful to not cause you to have a hernia since they are moving things around.

    The positive about an ALIF is that the surgeon can visualize the disk space much better and makes the procedure a bit safer.

    Overall, get on a level with your surgeon where you can ask and get answers to all your questions before the procedure.

    Good luck!

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
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