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L5/S1 fusion surgery success?

BackcreekdanesBBackcreekdanes Posts: 1
edited 12/01/2014 - 8:28 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am scheduled to have my L4/l5/S1 fusion surgery on 1-19-15. I was diagnosed many years ago with spondylosis, with sciatic pain starting about a year ago. Initially, I thought nothing of the "nagging" new pain until it seemed like it was always there and getting worse by what seemed the day. 1st dr wanted to put me on a pain medication regiment (I hate taking pain Meds, I don't do well on them) so I wanted a second opinion as I felt fixing the problem was a better solution than living on pain Meds or trying to go through life with increasing daily pain. The second dr gave me two options...Meds and hope its controllable or surgery. I chose the surgery. I know this won't be an immediate fix, but am wondering, of those who had sciatic pain and had the fusion surgery, has it helped you? I was told that it has a 90% success rate and in a year I shouldn't have any pain so I'm just trying to get the input of those who have had this surgery in the past. Thank you advance for your time and any replies I might get to this post.


  • 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
  • I had fusion of L5-S1 2 years ago. I think your doctor's estimate of your future is over-optimistic, though.

    First, fusion surgery is usually not intended to relieve back pain, but does seem to help with leg pain. And your recovery can be anywhere from 18 months to years.

    I am one of the lucky ones. Mine was successful be , on medication. In fact, I will be surprised if you don't have to have some kind of medication to get you through. You may want to do more research so that you understand what you are going to be going through.

    That being said, I would do it again in a minute. I couldn't put any weight on my left leg, the pain was so bad. I had no choice. Now, I am back to working full time and working out. But the meds I am on are very strong (Butrans patch and Tramadol).

    Good luck to you, and keep us informed.
  • cmarie22ccmarie22 Posts: 12
    edited 12/02/2014 - 9:34 AM
    Hi all...I am scheduled for my Fusion Surg on 12/19/14. I am really on the fense about wether it is going to help me or make me worse. Here is a bit about my story. My lumbar back pain started in 2011 with sciatic pain in both buttocks. In 2012 I started to have horrible right leg pain along with worsening low back pain...Finally got an MRI and had a herniated disc at the L5S1 level...Went through a series of 4 ESI injections, Phys Therapy and lots of nsaids, pain meds and muscle relaxers....All which were of some relief but it was all temporary and the symptoms eventually came back. In Nov 2012 I had a Microdisectomy to get the herniated disc off the nerve. That helped for about six months and then the pain slowly came back again...Went through another 2 ESI injections after that...Long Story short I am now feeling like I am back at square one....Continued leg pain in both legs now but more so the right still with horrible lower back pain. I am also recently getting hip/thigh pain...Does anyone else experience pain in this area???
    My Ortho Spine Surgeon mentioned the Piriformis Muscle and that could also pinch a nerve and mimick the same symptoms of sciatica??? I just don't know which or how to tell what is causing the pain and if this fusion is going to help at all...I am hoping for the best!
  • Your situation sounds identical to what I went through. My original pain from the herniation was in my hip (I thought I had hip problems, not knowing then that the sciatic nerve runs through it). Yes, the piriformis can mimic sciatica but usually doesn't go further down the leg. There are stretches for the piriformis which you could try (or physical therapy, which your ortho may prescribe). Fusion surgery is a last resort. And remember, you will most likely still have pain, though perhaps not as bad, which has been my experience. But there are others whose pain has never gone away. I know it is a tough decision. So much to think about. I would say, try all other options first, and if and when they no longer work, and your quality of life is too affected, then consider surgery. Keep us informed as to what you decide and your progress.
  • Ditto here...I had apparently broke my back in my teens and wound up with a 50%slippage and numerous bone spurs. I'm in my 40s and had a2-level fusion 6 wks ago. I could tell the day after surgery when they got me up to walk that it was fixed...I didn't crunch, crackle or have leg pain at all. I was off all pain meds by day 5 and am feeling awesome as of today. Muscle stiffness and some pain is there but you need that to heal properly...Your body will tell you what not to do. And I'm a firm believer in healthy eating to heal properly...yogurt, real chicken or beef broth(homemade), plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. There are delicious premade smoothies that are worth the extra investment...a few months of healthy eating to build the fusion will last a lifetime (hopefully). Oh, and positive thinking...mind over matter!
  • I have tried all other options including PT, Injections, Chiro, Meds and streching. The only thing I have not tried is accupuncture...My Surgeon gives ma a 65% it will make me better so I shall see. I am getting a lot of sciatic pain nad I am wondering if that pain is coming from the P muscle. But I also have pins/needles and sharp pain across my whole lowe back along with "nerve" type pain down my lower leg into my foot. So IDK hopefully the fusion helps me.
  • I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis when I was 17 and had my L5-S1 spinal fusion surgery when I was 18, after I had tried all other treatment options (PT, prescription anti-inflammatory meds, bracing, and cortisone injections). I was in virtually constant pain before the surgery. My lower back and my right leg were killing me all the time, so I was more than ready to get the surgery. I can tell you that the recovery from surgery is anything but fun. It is a long process and I can promise that you will take pain meds - you will want them! After the first few months, I finally started feeling better and could return to my normal activities. I could stand for long periods of time again and could go back to working out and doing what I wanted. Unfortunately, my pains started returning over the summer. I just found out a few months ago that my fusion failed and I now have pseudarthrosis, or "false joint," because the bone graft did not fuse. I am 20 now and have to take my next semester off of college to get the fusion surgery re-done in January. This time they will do an anterior-posterior approach instead of just posterior like last time, and they will also remove my disc and replace it with bone graft. We will see! I am not telling you this story to worry you about the odds, but more that I DID experience a period of relief before the hardware became loose. This makes me hopeful that a good recovery can occur! Best of luck!
  • Since my first fusion six years ago, my sciatica is completely gone. It went away immediately after the surgery. Last August I had to have another fusion because of spinal instability that made standing and sitting very difficult, yet I did not experience any pain. After each surgery they put me on pain medication that made me sick. I asked it to be discontinued and I now only take pain killers for the occasional headache or arthritic pain, not for my back.
  • I had L4/5 fused 5 years ago and the sciatic pain has gone away completely - most of it just after surgery and a bit lingering for a few months. I still have back pain and need to be on Oxy for flares. I fused within 6 months and I would have surgery again if the pain should get worse.

    Hope your surgery goes well for you.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
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