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L5/S1 fusion

SineadAFCSSineadAFC Posts: 6
edited 10/27/2014 - 8:08 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've had severe low back pain and moderate leg pain (particularly in the left leg) for a year, which stops me from sleeping properly and interferes with my daily activities like walking, studying etc. They found spondylolisthesis grade 1 slip as a result of bilateral pars defects, moderate osteoarthritis of my facet joints, degenerative disc disease in both vertebra and bilateral foraminal stenosis, but more severe on the left side as my nerve has been flattened.

I've exhausted all non-surgical treatments, so when I went back to my doctor he said that my only other options were to put up with it or have spinal fusion surgery. He explained that although he is willing to do the spinal fusion surgery now as I'm in so much pain, he suggested that I think about putting it off for as long as possible because I'm only 16 so obviously having a spinal fusion this early could lead to more problems in the above vertebra, and also that spinal fusion is very successful for treating leg pain but is less successful for back pain, so he was saying that he would prefer to do the surgery when I have more symptoms in my right leg.
It's so frustrating being 16 and not being able to do anything because of the pain, and I really want to have the surgery now but at the same time I don't want to kind of go against what my doctor says, even though he said he is willing to do it. Any advice or has anyone had a similar problem?
Thanks x


  • Im 32 and pretty much in the same exact boat as you, I feel I'm too young to have surgery right now too. I have almost no leg pain, but my lower back flares up pretty bad. My surgeon wants to do surgery, spinal fusion and replace 4 disk. Im not sure what the right answer is. I guess when we both can't take the pain anymore its time for surgery.
  • Owie_999OOwie_999 Posts: 176
    edited 10/27/2014 - 5:37 PM
    Although I'm older than you at 37, my dr was happy to perform discectomies (of which I had 2). He was reluctant to fuse when I herniated for a third time, but in the end the possibility of bone on bone (as I didn't have much disc left) & my crap quality of life made the decision for me.

    It's not a decision to be made lightly. I'm 11 weeks post fusion & although I'm glad I had the fusion recovery is a slow process & I'm still having some nerve pain. I left it untreated for too long & think the nerve damage is permanent although time will tell. I'm definitely in a lot less pain than before.

    Have either of you sought another opinion?

    Microdiscectomy L5S1 January 2014
    Microdiscectomy L5S1 March 2014
    Fusion L5S1 11th August 2014
  • SineadAFCSSineadAFC Posts: 6
    edited 10/29/2014 - 6:12 AM
    Similarly to you the main reason that I want to have the surgery is because my quality of life is pretty bad. 3 months prior to seeing my current doctor I saw another doctor who recommended that I 'exercise more', even though at that time I was still in severe pain and it was written in my file that even walking short distances, let alone exercise made my pain and mobility far worse, which I repeated to him during the appointment. Even though they are the qualified ones I feel like sometimes I'm not being taken seriously as I'm 16 and 'still a child'. Requesting another referral on the NHS would take approx. 4 months in my area, if not more as I'd be placed on the bottom of the waiting list
  • 16 is young to have a fusion as you are still growing. Just my opinion but I would try to tough out a few more years if you can just to get to a point where your growth will stabilize and you can better assess where you are. The only teenagers I know that have had fusions are individuals with scoliosis or other issues severe enough to warrant the major ordeal so young.

    I know a YEAR is like an eternity when you are in pain. In my case, I was 33 at my first surgical consult, and I ended up waiting a year, until I was 34 (although he was ready to operate the first time) before I went through with the fusion. In the end, I am glad I put myself through that last eager round of alternative therapies before I truly decided the fusion was my last option.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • I feel for you Sinead! I had a skiing accident when I was 16. I fractured a vertebrae and prolapsed two discs. I am now 32 years old and going in for a fusion of my L5/S1 tomorrow. It's been a long road and the constant pain is a battle. Try to stay strong. Determination got me a few extra years with my back and really its only been the last two that I got to the point where it stopped me from doing things. Doctor was amazed at what I was capable of with the amount of damage in it!

    They suggested fusion when I was 17. My mother, as my guardian said no. I am glad she did. I know I have put up with a lot but at the same time medicine is always advancing!

    I wish you well and try to stay strong as long as you can!
  • EMS GuyEEMS Guy Posts: 916
    edited 11/17/2014 - 12:59 PM
    My surgeon said that it's not uncommon 8-10 years from a fusion that the next level up/down would probably need to be done because of the excess strain from the first fusion. at 16 yrs old, that could be a lot of surgery down the road!

    I would suggest trying aqua therapy. See if there is any physical rehab places near you that have a therapy pool. Most therapy pools keep the water much warmer than a standard swimming pool. After surgery, I had rehab in a pool which was 94 degrees. I never wanted to get out of the pool! One of the best things for me was to hang in the deep with float noodles under my arms to keep me from drowning.

    It may not be the fix for your pain, but it may prolong how long you can go before having surgery.

    Best of luck!

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