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Getting an ALIF in August

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Everyone,

I've just found out I will be having an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion on Aug 8. They will a 2 level (L4 and L5) with a plate for stability.

Needless to say, I am experiencing a little anxiety over this. I would love to hear from people that have been through this. Any advice what the real deal is...what to expect, recovery, etc., would be greatly appreciated.



  • I'm having an ALIF on L4/L5 this Friday so I can let you know next week what it's like during the hospital stay part. :)

    I just posted the very same comment as a new post myself about feeling so anxious and scared. I know we need to do this surgery, but it's so much and there are so many things that can go wrong. When I had my general surgeon consult, my eyes were as big as saucers coming out after knowing the extent.

    We will be alright and we will be glad we did this after it's over and we are healed. (keep repeating after me). :)

  • Thanks so much for the encouragement. I am sure that your surgery will go well and I can hardly wait until you are well enough to post here afterwards... I want to hear all about it as you and I have similar issues. I will keep repeating after you :). God knows I am so flipping tired of feeling like this!

    Take good care.


  • Just want you to know there is life after fusion! Had my L4-5 done 16 years ago! Wow, I can hardly believe it's been that long! Get your house ready, put needed things within easy reach. Cook ahead and freeze. Get a grabber, a raised toilet seat and a walker. Talk to your doc about these, mine were ordered through the ins co. Those are basic minimums. Be prepared to hurt like h*ll for a couple of days. Hit by a bus hurt! Fortunately this only lasts a couple of days. It's nearly impossible to roll over without help, so don't be afraid to ask your nurses for help. Also, take all the meds they'll let you. It really hurts and you're going to need them! After a couple of days you'll be thrilled with how far you've come. They'll get you up the first or second day after surgery, you may think you can't do it, but try your hardest to comply. It really is better after it's all over, I promise. If you're not walking now, do it! You'll be grateful. Best of luck to you both.

  • Hi Kelly,

    I just found out that I have to have pretty much the same thing (L-3/4 and L-5/S-1) on August 6th so I'll be thinking of you. I was supposed to get a total disc replacement but insurance denied it (after initially approving it). I'm anxious too, but more about the post-op and recovery than the actual surgery. I just recovered from a shoulder reconstruction.

    Good Luck!
  • Just so you know, you will be having a one level fusion if they are fusing L4-L5... that would be the L4 vertebra with a disc separating it from the L5 vertebra...after you fuse, the L4 and L5 vertebrae will be as one. Hope that makes sense.

    Here's some information you can read over while you are waiting for surgery:
  • I too will be having ALIF L3-4, L5-S1 8/6/09.
    This will be my first majorr surgery and first on my bck.
    Have had low back pain and 3 herniations since 1999.
    Have failed multiple Phys Ther, Chiro,Epidural Steroids inj x 5
    Was suppose to have Art disc replacement at L3-4 but my insurance comp denied it.

    Having much anxiety as well, think this is quite natural(fear of the unknown)!!!
    Mostly about the anterior approach and risks, but feel good about my mtg with my vascular surgeon. Had to donate 2 units of blood,etc.

    Would like to hear more about your preparation for surgery,etc
    Do you know if patients need hosp bed at home for recovery???
    Good luck to you and my prayers are with you!

  • Hello Fred,
    I too will be having ALIF(anterior approach) 8/6/09 as well!

    Also was sch for Art disc at L3-4 but my insurance comp (Personal Choice)denied it so NS revised to 2 level fusion.

    This will be my first major surg and 1st on my back.

    Any advice/experiences to share would be welcomed
    frightened to say the least.

    I am new to the Forum and trying to meet others to share info with.
    Best wishes and prayers.

  • Did you see the "stickie" at the top of this category entitled "Post Surgery Needs" ? It is an extremely complete list of things to help you prepare you house for recovery. It is helpful to read through it, as it will get you thinking about what you will need after surgery to be comfortable, how to rearrange items so they are more convenient, etc.

    Some people do rent hospital beds but it is certainly not necessary. They will not let you out of the hospital until you can climb stairs, if that is a part of your household. When I had my fusion, we moved a twin bed into the den. Most of the activity occurs in our den and I wanted to be surrounded by it. Also, we have two big dogs that do not go upstairs. I wanted to be around them during the day when my husband went to work. This worked out very well for me. With the addition of lots of pillows, I was able to prop myself up, make myself "comfortable," etc. And I was close to the kitchen when I wanted to get a drink or a snack.

    At the beginning you will want to stay in bed most of the time. I would schedule my walks to coincide with the trips to the bathroom, and then, back to bed. Sitting is allowed, but only briefly at the beginning of your recovery.

    There are many excellent websites with information pertaining to spinal fusion, including little videos. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the type of procedure you are having, so you will be able to communicate with your surgeon and understand what is happening to you.

    I had never been in a hospital except to have babies, and I was terrified to have my fusion. Fear of the unknown is stressful, so I learned as much as I could prior to the big date. I was actually OK by the time the surgery came around, which was fortunate because they kept me waiting over three hours in the "holding area" as both my surgeon and anesthesiologist had other surgeries that were running late. I didn't go in until 6:30 in the evening.

    There are many threads on here pertaining to preparation for fusion. You might want to read through some of them....

    Good luck.
  • I am going on 7/30 to have my fusion done had the first one done 2/21/08 and was a bad experience all the way, but I am not going to let that get in my way, I am thinking possitive and know that this time will be easy for me. Good luck and dont forget to keep us posted.
  • I concur with gwennie17. The list at the top of the site is fabulous. I converted our little "sun room" into my retreat for healing. We have what's called a Chair-1/2 that converts into a single bed, and I camped out there, but slept in my own bed at night. One door leads to the back yard where I could let my dogs in when I chose, and the other one goes into the kitchen. There's also a recliner out here & I spent most of my time in it. My cousin is my roommate/caregiver, and she use to work in a nursing home. Not surprisingly, she had almost everything that's on the list ready for me. I especially found the shower seat, toilet riser, bars for the toilet, and bed rail to be helpful. Oh, & a back scratcher. I hope that you have as easy a time as I did. I was up and walking the next day without any assistance, and needed very little pain medicine. My biggest complaint is the post-op restrictions, but I can certainly understand them.

    Best of Luck,

  • FredP and Tata -- Just wondering why your insurance declined coverage for disc replacement? Do they consider it experimental? (even though approved by FDA). Thanks
  • My insurance initially approved the total disc replacement almost a year ago. I waited to have the surgery because I had a shoulder reconstruction and wanted ski season to be over. The company sent me letters saying that the procedure is experimental and results are mixed. They basically changed their minds. I'm in great shape, very healthy, and only 37 so I was pretty frustrated.

    This Thurs. is my fusion and they also are going to "cement" some stress fractures in my sacrum. Don't go crazy doing wild athletic stuff when you are young!

    Thanks for all the input!
  • I've been listening to this great meditation cd by a lady (Peggy Huddleston) which is a guided imagery thing that gets you to imagine your body healing. I'm doing it without the recording now, but it really helped with my nerves when I had the shoulder surgery. Docs are telling me the ALIF surgery is worse but the recovery and PT are less because the shoulder is such a mobile joint. I really hope so!

    Good luck, prayers, and blessings to all of you who are getting your surgery soon!
  • I had an ALIF on L5/S1 on 7/13 of this year. Tomorrow is my 3 week mark on recovery. The first few days were pure hell. After that I felt pretty good. Until day 6 when I started throwing up and landed back in the hospital for 4 days.
    I didn't really need a lot of things once I got home. I tried to keep everything at waist level that I needed/use on a regular basis and a grabber has been a HUGE help. My church was great and had meals brought in for me (more for my family than me). Which was a big help as well. I would suggest preparing a bunch in advance and freezing them. Although for me. I couldn't really eat too much for the first 2 weeks. My stomach/bowels have been REALLY aggrivated since the surgery. I still have to be careful what I eat.
    I am feeling a bit more like myself now. I still get tired if I try and do too much and I still have back/leg pain. But I think the pain is just from the normal recovering part of surgery and the nerve relearning to work in it's correct position.
    My incision pain was the worst part for me. My insicion was rather large though. It ended up being 10" instead of the 3-5" I think that is normal. They had nicked my intestines and had to make a repair is why I think they had to make such a large incision. I just got my staples out last week and things are healing nicely.
    There are days that I feel really discouraged and wonder why I did this. But it is only because the recovery is so slow and I want to be able to get up and do everything for myself. But for the most part I am very glad that I did it and am looking forward to what the future has in store once I am totally recovered.
    I tried to stay really positive before and after my surgery and I think that helped me through the rough patches and also helped in the recovering process. I still have a long way to go, but staying positive makes things seem a lot more doable.
    You will do amazing with your surgery I am sure. (all of you facing it soon) These surgeons do this all the time and are very skilled at what they do. Trust them and have some great friends and family there for you afterwards and you will do even better.
    Feel free to send a private message if you want to ask more specific questions about my recovery.
    You all will be in my prayers for a safe and speedy recovery. :)
  • I had a two level PLIF eight months ago. I had a hospital bed and was glad I did. The rails are a big help for a long time in order to turn yourself. It also makes it easier to get comfortable after laying so much. You can get into different positions to take the ache off your back. It is not necessary, though. Recliners are ok, but I found it was hard to use them because you have to try to reach the handle which involves a certain amount of twisting, which is a no-no for sure. So make sure you have help with that. Make sure everything in the bathroom is at waist level. Kitchen too, think aobut rearranging the fridge to put stuff you will need high enough. Grabber is a must. Get one with rubber cups(sm) on the end. They work better. Also if you have a laptop, a laptop table will be nice. I got one at walgreens for 30 bucks and it is great and I still use it.
    I used a garbage bag on my car seat for the way home. That way it makes it way easier getting into and out of vehicle on way home. I wish you all the best. The first day is bad, and the first time getting up is bad, and then it just gets better. Just be prepared for a long recovery. Be paitient and follow your Drs instructions. Good Luck!
  • Hello. i am new to the forum but was wondering if someone could help me with some questions.Im having alif surgery with posterior approach also on aug 31st.Im so scared,starting to have alot of anxiety over this.guess what im asking is what should i expect afterwards besides feeling like a truck ran over me.your input would really help me with my fears im having.thanks so much for your time
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