Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Should I get a spinal fusion

AmanduhpotatoesAAmanduhpotatoes Posts: 4
edited 07/02/2014 - 6:34 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My name is Amanda. I was an active very fit very strong 30 year old then 2 years ago I ruptured my L5/S1. I have had numerous epidural's and facet injections. I have even had bilateral nerve ablations of L5 and L4. The pain is still consistent and seems to be getting worse every procedure. I have a rehabilitation protocol that got me back to regular activity with seldom flare ups from 2 years ago but my back have out again about 4 months ago and I can not get the pain to go away. The new MRI suggests some stenosis, transitional vertebrae, increased disc degeneration, a small synovial cyst and a new herniation. I have had 3 surgeons and 2 chiropractors suggest a lumbar fusion. I am 32 years old. Some days my pain is at 2 others it is at 6/7. The good days make me think I don't need to go through this, the bad ones make it seem like a necessary procedure to survive. We are currently in the process of ruling out SI joint issues. I have back pain as well as pain that shoots down into my right glute and left hamstring periodically mostly when sitting as well as a lot to tingling in my feet. Has anyone shared this experience? Has anyone recovered from a fusion? To be fully active again?
Thanks I appreciate any feedback.


  • I am moving your thread to the Back and Neck surgery forums. That way, you can get more responses......however, the decision to have surgery or not is one that you have to make with your surgeon's input, based on what you both feel is the best option for a good outcome .
    Most spine surgery is considered elective, meaning that your life is not threatened if you don't have it, but that being said, only you and your surgeon know the condition of your spine, and I have found that it was easier to make the decision by asking my surgeon what the likely outcome would be if I went ahead and what if I didn't......I am including some links for you that might help you come up with questions to ask your surgeon while you are discussing your options.

  • Hi Amanda,
    Sorry to hear of your issues. I'm in a similar situation to you in that I too am in my early 30's (about to turn 32) and am contemplating a fusion at L5-S1. My personal experience started 5 years ago and has seen me have numerous steriod injections, a microdiscectomy, local anaesthetic put straight into nerves, nerve abalations etc... Now we're looking at a fusion and also looking at a SCS.

    From my personal opinion, like Sandy said, only you can decide how much pain you can live with and what you're prepared to try and do to get back to that active lifestyle. I've been unable to participate in most sports for the past 5 years, although have in the good periods been able to play a little basketball with my sister (not a real game, but at least do some shooting) and some swimming...

    Right now I've got a neuro surgeon who wants to do an ALIF surgery (we're waiting on insurance) and a PMS who up until 2 days ago was wanting to do the SCS. They are now having discussions to work out what the best course of action is - the thoughts at the moment is to do the fusion first to make sure my spine is stable, and then look at the SCS once the fusion is set.

    The best thing I've found while trying to make these decisions is to keep asking questions - if you don't know the answer or don't think that you've been given enough information, ask for more. If they can't tell you why they are recommending something then I'd start asking around.... I asked my neuro the other day why he'd want to do an ALIF rather than a PLIF - just because I'd read about the different types of surgery on here when the fusion was first raised - he gave me a great explaination of why he thinks it would work better in my situation, but then said I was welcome to get a second opinion on if other surgeons think it would be the way to go based on their interpretation of my case.... That made me feel more comfortable with the idea - he has no issues with either myself or my husband asking any questions we want during the appointments so we always feel like we've got the info we need before committing to anything.

    I wish you luck with your decision. Remember, there are plenty of people on here in similar situations who are more than happy to discuss their stories with you... I'll give you more info once we get a date for my surgery so you can get some more info on how it works out.
    July 2009 - L1, L3, L5 disc hernation
    Jan 2011 - L5/S1 Microdiscectomy
    Dec 2012 - return of neural symptoms
    June 2014 - fusion recommended - awaiting insurance approval
  • I'm also in a similar boat. I've already had 2 spinal surgeries, my most recent was this past January. I'm 29 years old and loved being active. My L5-S1 disc has started to re herniate again which will cause bone on bone very soon due to loss of disc space. I was set for the SCS trial due to nerve damage. I'm now contemplating whether the implant will be effective enough considering that it won't do much for my back pain, and that is continuing to get worse. My surgeon said that the "natural" fusing process can be very painful should I decline surgery. As of right now I'm going to at least give the implant trial a shot because it's non invasive. I have decided not to go forward with the surgery at this time but who knows what the future holds. My 2 disc spaces above are also damaged so he said that I would most likely be looking at a total of 3 fusions over time. It's a big decision and all I can recommend is that you write down a ton of questions before deciding what to do. Are there other options? What is the chance of improved pain? What can you expect during recovery? Will it cause more damage if you wait? Etc. There is a good link on here of other questions to ask. Are you currently receiving any treatments? I wish you luck with your decision. You can always get another opinion if you think it may help.
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • AmanduhpotatoesAAmanduhpotatoes Posts: 4
    edited 07/04/2014 - 5:10 AM
    Thanks. I appreciate the input. My L5/S1 has many issues due to my partially fused due to severe arthritic deposits transition vertebrae a fusion will be needed at so a point in the future. I have known this for a while. I have been putting it off for years because the pain was never at this level or this frequent and I am terrified. I have had 2 knee surgeries and my knee has never been the same.
    They are recommending the ALIF. They have told me repeatedly that it is a minimally invasive procedure and recovery is quick. Does anyone know of this is true? Do people really come back from a fusion like this with minimal issues? Are people really able to go back to their normal life and do normal activities ie. Running, jumping, lifting, wake boarding etc in the future? I have not even been able to swim for the last two years without excruciating pain. I mean can't be in any type of water for more than 10 mins just floating or walking. I am an Aquatics Director so that in itself has been a major hold up in my life.
    I would say I am at 60/40. 60% of the time pain is or gets to 6 or higher throughout the day. 40% of the time it's manageable pain 2-4. I just don't know if I am ready. What if the surgery makes me more immobile. That is my biggest concern.

  • is located between your hips.......there is not a lot of movement in that area of the spine, so it's effects on your mobility are not as pronounced as it might be at L2-3...
    As far as running, etc goes, that is something that you would have to ask your surgeon. Some patients do running, others not, and it seems to vary somewhat with the surgeon. Running is not good for the spine, especially hard pavement running.

  • first ALIF is about as bad as it get surgery wise and what worries me is like me you have had previous surgery ,I have said many times any fusions are for spinal stabilization NOT pain relief any pain relief would be a bonus my consultant is considered to be the uks finest and he explained to me ..when I asked him ..why am in still in awful pain after ALIF and the answer was the nerve damage was done from previous poor quality surgery and it will never get better ,,some nerve damage can be done during surgery and depending on what ie bruising of the spinal cord that may settle down over time but long standing damage done is for life and no surgery will fix that ,all any fusion is a like scaffolding around a building it prevent further disk damage .so please don't put yourself through a MASSIVE operation with a recovery time of up to 3 years yes years thinking your nerve pain will go away because it wont .and ALIF can cause other problems if done by in adequately qualified consultants there are 2 major vessels on your spine the aorta and vena cava any damage to these and you could be in big trouble you will also have a 8 inch scar from your belly button down to your pubic bone and if they take bone from your ilac crest that hurts like hell ALIF is not to be done without exhausting all other options its the last resort .please read the posts on here there are many from the members when you are looking at fusions or ADR [artificial disk } you are in to big surgery and long recovery you say you pain can be as low as 2 .??my pain never falls below an 7 and that's a very good day with me loaded on oxycontin .I also take oxynorm and valium and temazepam my life has changed for ever I can't tolerate anything on my legs .so I wear shorts in all weather I can't wear shoes I have pain in my lower back all the time I sleep for only 2 hours a night and I have been unable to have a sex life for the best part of ten years I also have no social life .I just wanted to warn you that if you can get by without any major surgery then do so
    good luck and please don't rush into anything and if you do have to have surgery get many opinions and find the best consultant that you can
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Thank you so much for this info. My surgeon is the head of spinal surgery at his hospital and rated the best spinal surgeon in Northern California. He told me the ALIF is the least morbid and least invasive of the fusions. Yes, I wish I could have my life back pre-injury. I wish I could just have a normal life at this point but I can not imagine anything being worst than this. What you described is certainly worse. I come from a professional and collegiate background in sports. I just want to be able to move again but not at the expense that things may become way way worse. I can get into the car get to work, work and get home most days of the week. Maybe that is my life now :(
  • LC84LLC84 Posts: 599
    edited 07/05/2014 - 1:33 AM
    You haven't had a spinal surgery yet correct? Only multiple surgeons that are recommending the ALIF? Yes it is a major surgery with a long recovery time, but there are people who have successful ones. Is that particular surgery recommended because you are partially fused at L5-S1? Do they believe that it will continue to fuse on its own? Have they discussed any other surgeries such as a Discectomy for the herniation? Or do they not believe that is your main pain generator? Since you have bilateral leg pain in different areas, do they suspect it is nerve pain? Is your back pain worse than your leg pain? I'm sorry if I'm asking too many questions but that particular surgery is very invasive. My surgeon believes that a fusion would provide some pain relief in my particular case, but he would do a PLIF. I do know a couple of people that are doing very well after having one. There is always a possibility of having increased pain with any spinal surgery, but Fusions have more risks. It is ultimately up to you and your Dr. If you're able to function for the most part and it won't cause additional damage, then don't feel like you have to rush into anything. Are you currently in PT or taking any medications? My surgeon told me that my activity will be more limited if I have the surgery ( which I've decided not to do, I'm hoping it will just fuse on it's without complications). Long term limitations would be a good question to ask your surgeon.
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • Thanks for the info. I have a transitional vertebrae at S1. The right side at this point is starting to fuse due to arthritic deposits. When I first hurt myself I had a superiorly directed paracentral extrusion measuring 1.3cmx.7 cm and far right extra dural extrusion measuring 1.5 cm x 1.1 cm. On top of that posterior and antirior cysts measuring 8cmx6. Clearly here we had some pineal stenosis. This was about 2.5 years ago. So for 2 years ago I went through all this. Evals with surgeons multiple injections. Laid on my back for about 6 months. Took tons of narcotics, anti depressants… you know the drill :(
    About 4 months ago I was doing a strict pull up when I let go of the bar (my feet were about 4 inches from the ground) and my feet hit the ground - I collapsed. I went into extreme spasms back pain leg. Pain until this time, I had never had any pain on my left. Now, I have bilateral pain. The injections and ablations have helped the back pain - but have not helped the nerve pain down my legs. It is getting worse. Last night i tried to walk to the fireworks - 4 min walk and I was in so much pain I could not enjoy the show and my brother in law had to carry me back to the card. Luckily for him, i have lost about 40 pounds with this injury as I no longer have an appetite and making food is just out of the question task most days.
    Daily I take gabapentin, flexural and indomethacin. I refuse to take narcotics unless my pain is above a 7. I take kolonopin for anxiety as needed as well as naproxen. I have weened off everything else as I just don't feel they help but i have pretty much tried every drug on the market.
    At this point they ARE telling me that if left unfused it will cause more damage due to the instability :(
    It is times like last night that make me think the fusion is necessary. I was certainly above a 7 for at least 8 hours yesterday but the other 4 hours I was at a 4. For me, I am either in excruciating pain or tolerable pain. There is no middle ground.
    Thank you for all of your input. I do really appreciate the feedback. Your strength and resistance to the operation makes me feel stronger.
Sign In or Register to comment.