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L5/S1 ALIF Recovery, 10 Mos. Still in Pain, Anyone Else??

I had fusion surgery last Sept. on the L5/S1 and I have been in a lot of pain ever since surgery. I had another MRI last Friday and today the surgeon called to say that it looks like I will need rods inserted in my back (I didn't have any originally placed) because my L5 has movement causing the pain.

Apparently my surgeon inserted the "cage" but was not able to place the plate on the front to stabilize it, due to me having a "mess" of arteries they couldn't get around w/out severing them. So basically I just have the cage and cadaver bone in there. He says that the movement needs to be stabilized now with the rods.
I am having to quit the job I have as a dental supervisor due to not being able to sit 9 hours a day without having debilitating pain. I only feel good when I walk, and even that is getting more painful.

My question is, has anyone else ever had this after the L5 surgery?? I am so afraid of more surgery and not getting the relief I need to function. I am fortunate that I can quit my job for a while to try to heal, but I'm not so fond of having more surgery to have rods put in.

I'd love any advice or to hear of anyone going through this also. I thought I was going crazy with all this pain 10 mos. out from surgery.

Thank you all.


  • Hi. I am sorry to hear that you still have a lot of pain after ALIF. I am in the 10th weeks post surgery and I have no pain at all. I have some soreness on my lower back if I do too much around the house. The debilitating pain on my leg disappeared like magic when I woke up from the anesthesia. May I suggest you to get a second opinion before letting the same surgeon put a rod in your back. Good luck.
    Jessica Ling

    ALIF on 5/20/2014
    L4,L5 and S1
  • I appreciate your concern and am so glad you had such great success. I am a little jealous though. I truly thought it would be that way for me too. I have missed having my life for the last 2 years. I have totally thought about the second opinion as well. Thank you for your input, and I hope your recovery continues to go well.
  • I can't imagine that he didn't place rods after he couldn't get the plate secured. I personally don't see how a person can fuse correctly without some form of fixture to stabilize the fusion area.

    Just a suggestion - get a second opinion from a different surgeon. Ask why a surgeon wouldn't place some form of fixture to your spine during a fusion procedure. To me, it seems that you have a failed fusion (since you have movement) because the doctor didn't stabilize your spine during your first procedure.

    Good luck!

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • BEFORE you have any more surgery .my ALIF is fine but the damage done to the nerves prior to that operation is for life and I am also in pain every day and night so {to the author of this post} I understand how you are feeling .did you have any surgery prior to your ALIF ? I ask because I am on my third and last spinal operation .the more operations you have obviously you run the risk of more damage .my consultant told me that if he was unable to obtain sufficient stability from the anterior approach that he would have to use the willits stabilisation method too {IE rods in the back via the posterior route } but thankfully he did not need to go that far .I am sorry that you need more surgery but I would urge you to find another consultant... al the best
  • Thank you for your input on my situation. I am waiting for a call from my surgeon to get in and discuss the situation further. My fear is if the fusion has moved, and he puts the rods in, won't he just be stabilizing the fusion in the "wrong" place?? Shouldn't he remove that cage and replace it and then put the rods in??
    It's all very scary to go through this again.
    Thank you KB for your input about having another spine surgery, I can imagine having 3 of them like you. I don't mind having the other surgery, but I guess knowing it might not solve the problem is not a good thought.
    I will keep you all posted as to how this goes. I may truly get that second opinion soon.

    Thank you again.
  • Going in from the anterior approach poses problems with the major abdominal vessels that run through your abdomen , so your surgeon made the right choice in not attempting to put the plate in if the vessels were in the way. Moving them creates scar tissue on the vessels and can cause a significant, life threatening bleed if they are damaged and torn.
    He was most likely hoping that once fusion occurred that the fusion itself would stabilize the L5-S1 area of the spine, but now is going to put the rods and screws into place to secure /stabilize that area of the spine so that the pain diminishes. Nerves, if they are not in the cord themselves can take weeks and months to recover and it doesn't sound like that is the problem but rather stabilization of the area is.
    Hopefully, once this is done , your pain levels will subside and you will be able to return to your position at work with no further problems.
    Good luck with your surgery and if I can be of any assistance, feel free to pm me.
  • edited 08/06/2014 - 1:06 PM
    Thank you Sandi for you input and reassurance. My surgeon wanted me to have another "facet" joint injection before he considers doing the surgery, so I go on the 19th for that.
    I am still nervous about him putting the rods in if the cage has shifted and is not in the perfect position before he stabilizes it, any thoughts.
    I am trying to think of as many things as I can to ask him when I go in for my appointment.
    Thank you for answering.
  • If the cage is not in the proper position prior to him putting the rods and screws in, I'm relatively sure that he will remove the cage and reinsert a new one. The rods and screws are there to hold the vertebra into the proper alignment until the fusion heals/occurs.
    Make a list of questions you have and discuss all of them with the surgeon. There are lists of questions at the top of the back and neck surgery forum if you need some help in thinkiing about what you may want to ask him.......
  • I am trying to get the concensus of whether I should get a second opinion before undergoing even another injection. I had a neurosurgeon do the fusion, but I have heard that orthopaedic drs might actually do a better job with this type of surgery, any thoughts on that too? I actually have to say that I truly feel like I am in more pain then I was before surgery and I used to think it was bad last year. If I get a second opinion, do you think my surgeon would have to know? Thanks again for your input.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 08/12/2014 - 4:40 AM
    I suggest to people that before undergoing surgery, that they consult with at least two surgeons.........one neuro and one ortho. That way, if they both recommend the same surgery, you can feel more confident in the type of surgery you are being told you need. If they don't agree, I see nothing wrong with a third opinion. Although I do recommend that you ask why each surgeon recommends that specific surgery type and what the risks and benefits are......what the recovery period is, not just the acute phase but the extended recovery as well........limitations and restrictions, etc....
    As far as one specialty being better than another, I am not so sure about that. I have had both do surgery on me, and for me, when it came to my spinal cord nerves, I chose a neuro, for mechanical issues, I chose an ortho. The biggest thing for me was being comfortable with what the surgeon was telling me and that I felt heard and listened to prior to surgery. If they don't listen and address your concerns prior, are they going to be any different post surgery?
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