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PLIF Surgery gone wrong turns into a blessing

I was at the top of my game as far as my career was concerned in 2010 but I lived with that God awful pain shooting down my left leg. The same pain that many of you know to well. I was limited on the number of surgeons I could see due to the type insurance we had at work and I was getting desperate. I ran into a friend and he told me about having back surgery, how this was the best thing he has ever done and recommended his surgeon. I checked with my insurance carrier and this particular surgeon was in network. Like a dummy in desperation, rather than doing my research on back surgery, alternative treatments, etc I just looked at my friend who is no longer in any pain and living a "normal" life, I jumped in head first with this Dr. and had surgery in August 2010. Long story short my friend had a microdiscetomy and I had a TLIF fusion with an aspen clamp and he used synthetic graphing material which my body rejected.

This surgery did stop the shooting pain down my left leg but I developed a lot of pain in my lower back and hips that would not go away and now my right leg and foot were numb and cold. I had never had any problems with the right leg before and all the Dr (orthopedic surgeon) would say is it could take up to a year for the nerves to grow back. After 8 months of me complaining about my numb right leg and cold foot, the Dr sends me for an EMG, the results show a problem and the Dr. looks at my medical records and tells me I had a cynovial cyst on the nerve that goes down the back of the right leg and into the foot and he had to remove the cyst. This was the first time I had ever heard of this cyst. It almost sounded to me as if he were saying, oops I slipped and I need to cover it up. May 2011 he orders an MRI and tells me the reason for the local pain is the fusion did not take and he needs to revisit and add more fusion material. Skeptical but still caught in the insurance trap and in pain I let him.

Now all we need to do is wait and give it time. Thank goodness my employer was supportive and they didn't terminate me. At this point it was not a workmans comp claim. On January 1 we switched to a lot better insurance company and I went to see the Dr. of my choice. The new Dr pointed out where the aspen clamp had came loose and twisted in my back. He would need to go in, remove the clamp, put in traditional rods and screws and I would be a new man. So Jan 2012 I had this done and came out feeling great with the exception of my numb leg and cold foot. I had accepted the fact that if I could just get rid of the pain, I would be able to live with the leg and foot. It didn't bother me to walk, it was mostly aggravating.

After 8 weeks I went back to work on light duty and 12 weeks I could return to full duty. This meant a lot to me because I am a police officer who is used to being on the street and working a desk is not in my blood. Until December 3, 2012 I had a car stopped on the interstate, I was sitting in my patrol vehicle in the front passengers seat checking a drivers license and I was struck from behind by a vehicle traveling 70 mph. It crushed my wrist and gave me bad whip lash in my neck. At the time I didn't notice much pain to my back but as a precaution I had an MRI done anyway. After the wrist surgery and PT for the neck I start feeling the local pain in my back, not shooting down the legs, and I tell the WC adjuster about it and he sends my MRI off to the surgeon who did my last surgery and the surgeon tells WC that my fusion held just fine. WC tells me the back was pre existing so they will not cover that. What WC doesn't realize is I have something that most car crash victims do not have, yes ammunition for court. Most police cars are equipped with a video camera, and mine was running when I got hit. It really scared them that a jury might see this video so guess what they do? They offer me a severance package. What scumbags! It wouldn't even cover 2 years of my salary. They even did this behind my employers back. I declined and am letting lawyers handle all of that. WC did agree to cover all my pain management which has lead me to the point I am today. I really feel like it has been a blessing in disguise because after about a year my wonderful PM dr set me up with a consultation with a neurosurgeon to discuss a spinal cord stimulator. This NS did an updated MRI, many test and said I can fix you. I was onboard after understanding everything he was talking about. He explained that when I got hit by the car, the fusion held at L/4 L/5 and it herniated L/3 L/4 and the EMG test along with other test showed decompression could possibly fix my numb foot and leg. I was more positive now than I had been in years about my back.

That brings me to June 11 the day of the surgery. It is supposed to be a PLIF at L/3 L/4, removing some of the hardware and replacing it with new. When I come out of the recovery room I look at my girlfriend who has been by my side for the last few years like a champ and she says "you're not going to believe this" I said what? She said you're gonna need a drink!

When the NS went in to my back, the screws were only hand tight, there was corrosion around the screws and on my bones. The NS came in and explained that all he did was remove the old hardware and he would have to go back in two weeks and do an ALIF procedure. He said when I had been hit by the car two years ago, it caused the screws to come loose and the fusion did not hold properly or grow anymore after I got it. He could now clearly see why I was in such pain for so long and it made perfect sense to him. My question to him was, why didn't you fix me when I was under? He explained he needed a vascular surgeon on hand to assist to do the ALIF. Which I completely understand. He said he could have done a patch job and made me feel better for a while but it wouldn't hold from the back for long the way there was corrosion on my bones and since I have already had multiple surgeries. He did say he would not have to cut my back again since he removed all the hardware. He can do the rest when he does the ALIF.
I'm laying here after my 4th back surgery in a lot of pain, I'm having my 5th back surgery in 9 days. Since all of my back problems started I have had all these surgeries, lost both my parents, been through a divorce and bankruptcy and I am more positive today about my back than I have ever been because I finally found a Dr that can tell me the truth, has a plan for my care and most importantly that I have confidence in.
Sorry this was so long, I know everyone hurts. Stay Positive. I will keep you all posted.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    ..quite a story!
    All you have been through to get to this point, and now for you to be so positive....priceless!
    It is so good to have it work out as it did!

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Inside every dark cloud is a ray of sunshine ...........except of course the bolt of lightning and subsequent floods before the sun dries out the survivors and casualties :(( !
    You have a positive perspective and that is a giant part of success. I would caution, without popping a bubble, that they still say 50% improvement in spines like ours is considered a successful outcome. Keep your feet grounded and stay positive and realistic.
    Oh, and keep us posted!

    PS, my next lumbar surgery is 7/14/15 for four hours.
  • I certainly will. The countdown is on for me. 6 more days. But who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? My DirectTV went out yesterday and they say it will be Sunday Fathers Day before they can send someone out to fix it.
  • I go in Thursday for the second part of my surgery. Since they have already removed all the hardware there is no need for the surgeon to go into my back again. Recovery from the hardware removal has been tough but I am able to care for my self, walk and best of all I slept through the night last night and only woke up one time. I looked at the clock and saw it was 130 and went right back to sleep.

    Fingers crossed, with this part behind me, maybe the ALIF portion will be a little easier. Thoughts?
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 06/22/2015 - 10:13 AM
    Got a call from the Dr office and the Vascular surgeon that is going to assist with my surgery has to do an emergency open heart on Thursday so they moved mine to July 9th. What a let down but I will survive.
  • PooterosaPPooterosa Posts: 98
    edited 06/23/2015 - 10:24 AM
    That really sucks that the surgeon had to reschedule but I know it happens. I'm glad to see that you've been able to get enough relief and get some sleep for once. I hope that is still the case. Best wishes to you and I hope all goes well.
    Sept 11, 2009 L4/L5 Microdiscectomy
    April 12, 2013 C6/C7 ACDF
    May 27, 2015 L4/L5 ALIF with PLIF
    Too many cervical and lumbar injections to list, including RF Ablation C3-C6 on the right and left.
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 06/23/2015 - 2:20 PM
    I guess the upside is my incision is healing and since he removed the loose and corroded hardware the pain in my hips and lower back is gone. I'm not jumping for joy just yet because I haven't been doing a whole lot of anything. It sure does feel good to be able to sit in my chair, drink coffee and not have any pain.

    At least he doesn't have to cut my back open again when he does the ALIF. That part is behind me.
  • I am going Monday for my next surgery. It will be an ALIF and I did find out from the surgeon that he will have to go into my back again. I was really hoping since he just removed all the hardware he wouldn't have to go back in my back. He said it would not be as intrusive so that is a little good news. I am trying to stay positive.
  • My day comes on Tuesday and the pain and burning has become unbearable, even with the increase of the Percocet to 10/4/day. They put me on Gralise 1800mg too. It's a XR neurontin and once I eased up to the final dose amounts it seems tolerable (the mess, not the pain :( )
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 07/10/2015 - 9:48 AM
    I'm not gonna tell you guys a lie, it was tough but we expect it to be when the go in to your stomach to attach a two level fusion to your spine. I will say this, I was able to get up and walk 1000 feet in the hospital and I had no pain in my back. The pain was surgical pain in my stomach. I am very pleased with the outcome and will post more details shortly.
  • I have a little more time today so I will give some more specific's. I'm glad your day is almost here for you 64p, I know you're ready for some relief.

    I arrived at the hospital 5:45 Monday morning on the 6th and was the first case of the day so I was happy about that. They called me back and started all the prep work at 6 am. when they rolled me into the surgery room I saw a clock on the wall and it was 710am, only a few minutes later a nice lady says I'm going to give you some oxygen so take deep breaths. Then she said, ok your fixing to go to sleep and when you wake up you will be all finished.

    I woke up at 7:30pm. 12 hours total and the actual surgery took 9.5 hours. I had an ALIF L3/4, L4/5 fusion PLIF. My wife told me the surgeon said everything went great and he would see me in the morning. I had a PCA pump with dilauldid and I could push it every 10 minutes. That kept me comfortable most of the night and I slept pretty good.

    Tuesday morning the Dr came in and said everything went very well other than some issues with some nerves that he had to work around and that is what made the surgery take so much longer than normal. He said based on the way my back was and what he did that I should get 90% improvement. I hope he is right!!!!! He said he wanted to remove the PCA and get me started on oral medication. He said he wanted to get me started on PT today and no BLT. I asked him if he was going to give me a brace and much to my surprise he said "no". He said, I fixed your back good, we used your bone material and bone material from some of the troops that were killed fighting for this country. That made me feel good. He said, just be careful with the BLT and with incisions on your stomach and back, it's July in Georgia and I want you to be comfortable.

    The PT lady came in and she said, I only want you to walk 1000 feet today. After a few steps I knew right away, there was no pain in my back other than surgery pain and I could probably walk a lot further. We got back to my room and the nurse removed the PCA with the good stuff. I began taking pain meds by mouth and that's when the problems began. My pain level was out the roof and didn't get it straight until my Dr's PA came by and she got the meds and dosages fixed.

    Wednesday morning my dr came back in and told me he wanted to keep me here until my bowels moved. He said they did a lot of work in my stomach and I am not going to like him for a couple of weeks.

    Thursday morning he came in and said if I had the bowel movement today then I could go home. I worked on that with stool softener's and laxatives most of the day. I did my walk with PT and that broke things loose so I got to come home Thursday afternoon.

    I will say what hurts the worst is the stomach. The hardest thing to get under control was the oral pain meds. I think the reason for that is communication from a nurse to the dr office.

    I am so optimistic and have such a positive attitude right now! I even quit smoking. The day I went in I placed my clothes in a bag, I opened the bag Thursday and smoke smell that was on my clothes stinks! I will never smoke again.
  • Today is 6 days post op and my stomach incision hurts worse today for some reason than it has. I slept pretty much all night, I think I woke up twice and went right back to sleep. I got up at 6am, drank me two cups of coffee and still no cigarettes. I remember enjoying drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in the morning.

    I went for my walk which was about 1/4 mile and took it easy for most of the day. The pain in my stomach is a lot more than my back and it is all very manageable. Check back in tomorrow.
  • Today is one week and I didn't sleep too good last night. The incision on my stomach is still very tender and I have 25 staples in there. The swelling on my stomach is starting to go down and so is the swelling on my "boys". For some reason the left one was swollen more than the right. I also have 30 staples in my back so it's just hard to get comfortable. I woke up 4-5 times and at 5am I just got up and fixed my coffee. I'm still doing excellent with the cigarettes and I honestly thought it would be harder. Don't get me wrong, after I eat I sit there and it seems like I'm supposed to be doing something. That's just what I have done for the last 25 years after I ate and I have to reprogram my mind. I WILL do it.

    Just like when I mentioned coffee, I automatically thought about cigarettes. Then I got myself ready, by this time it's daylight enough to see good and it's only about 70 degrees outside. My wife joined me and we walked for about 20 minutes, this is just long enough for me to start working up a sweat. My Dr gave me specific instructions not to get sweat in my incisions and I sure ain't gonna argue with him. I get all the staples out on July 22.

    Time for a nap and I will check back in later.
  • I'm 9 days post op and probably woke up 5 times last night. When I wake up, I just roll over, change positions or if it's time to take my meds I will do that and just fall right back to sleep. I think the reason I am waking up so much is the pain in my stomach hurts so bad. If I turn the wrong way or breath too deep it hurts. It even hurts to pass gas. My Dr said it would take a couple of weeks for the stomach pain to go away. Did anyone else deal with this much stomach pain after an ALIF?

    Anyway, I had my morning coffee with the wifey and she and I took off on our morning walk. I downloaded an app for my iPhone called "Stepz". It's a free app and it measures the number of steps you take, how far you walk and the distance you travel. I've always wondered how accurate these "apps" are and how smart a "smart phone" really is. Well, when we left out on the walk I checked the time and it was 730 and when we got back it was 757. My subdivision is one long cul de sac road, my house is the 4th on the left and if you leave my driveway and go all the way to the end of the cul de sac and back to my house that it's one mile. And if you walk past my house to the subdivision entrance and back to my house it's 1.3 miles.

    We decided to turn left, go to the end and then come all the way back to the entrance and then back to the house. When we got done I checked my Stepz app and it showed I had walked for 27 minutes, I had walked 1.3 miles and took 2,932 steps. It also has history of the last weeks activity. If you have an iPhone and are in recovery I would recommend this app.

    I hope everyone is doing well and I will check back in tomorrow.
  • Had a pretty rough night last night, along with all of my ailments, my 3 year old son crawled into the bed and he was burning up with fever. This has been going on with him for the last three weeks. No other signs of sickness anywhere. No runny nose, not pulling at his ears and when he doesn't have the fever you would never think anything was wrong. So we were dealing with that until we got his fever broke. We live in the country in Georgia and we have dogs and a cat like most families and I remember about three weeks ago he had a tick in his arm pit. I hope that's not what's causing the fever. My wife took him to the Dr today and they drew blood and are going to check everything and let us know something tomorrow.

    I had my coffee this morning and then went on my cul de sac walk. I went by myself so the wife could stay at home with the little one. I walked for 38 minutes and made it 1.6 miles. I got back home and layed down for about 30 minutes.

    Still having a lot of pain in my stomach. I have asked several questions in my prior post and have gotten no response. This causes me to wonder if anyone is even reading my post.

    I will check back tomorrow. I hope everyone has a wonderful, pain free day.

  • PooterosaPPooterosa Posts: 98
    edited 07/17/2015 - 3:44 AM
    Looks like you are coming along very well in your recovery for the most part. Glad that you have finally gotten relief from the way you were prior. If you remember in my recovery posts, I had mentioned the stomach pain along with the pain at, and around, the abdominal incision. Apparently it must be pretty normal because what you are explaining seems very similar to what I experienced. I occasionally still get pains at the bottom of the incision but it's usually late in the afternoon after I have maybe been a little to active during the day. I know internally it is not healed all the way so I do expect those pains to pop up from time to time.

    Prior to my surgery when I met with the vascular surgeon, he specifically told me that his incision and abdominal work will hurt me worse than the back surgery itself. At the time, I took it as though he was just trying to take my mind off of the back surgery itself. Little did I know, what he told me was going to be true. During the first few weeks of recovery, it was my abdomen and that incision that hurt the most. It caused the most discomfort whether I was standing, walking, sitting, or laying down. This is also when I dealt with not having bowel movements and having a ton of gas. All I can say is that it is a lot better now and it does take time for things to start getting back to normal. Even at 7 weeks post-op, I am not back to normal.
    Sept 11, 2009 L4/L5 Microdiscectomy
    April 12, 2013 C6/C7 ACDF
    May 27, 2015 L4/L5 ALIF with PLIF
    Too many cervical and lumbar injections to list, including RF Ablation C3-C6 on the right and left.
  • Thanks Pooterosa, I'm glad you posted that because it is exactly the same. I thought it would be a little easier than this on the stomach too but it's not.

    I slept good last night, I woke up one time to use the bathroom and went right back to sleep until 530. I got up and drank my coffee and read the news. I sure do miss having a cigarette with my coffee but I am so glad I could quit. Pooterosa gave the final inspiration I needed for that. He told me about coughing from smokers hack and having that big incision on my stomach. It's no fun. Anyway, I went for my walk and made 1.3 miles.

    The rest of my day was spent around the house just taking it easy and trying to make my bowels move. I will check back in tomorrow.

  • I haven't been on lately, but the stomach you describe is the same as my experience Ice Man. Having this back entry to compare to my prior ALIF tells me the two are worlds apart. Given a choice, I would never go for Anterior or suggest it if there was a Posterior option.
    Hang in there. It will take much longer to heal I'm afraid.
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 07/18/2015 - 3:35 PM
    I actually had a really good night last night. I slept until about 405am and got up to use the bathroom. Got back in the bed and went right back to sleep until 715. That's the latest I have slept in since I got home from the hospital. I got ready for the day and had my morning coffee. I went for my cul de sac walk and did a mile and a half. I looked at the app and it said I completed it 18 minutes so I guess I'm getting faster. I was able to take a couple of naps today and my stomach seemed like it is getting a little better. This evening after supper the wife and took the dog for a walk and I got another mile in so I had a total of 2.5 miles for today. Now if I could get my bowels back to normal things would be a lot better.

    I will check back later and I hope everyone has a wonderful evening.
  • 64pvolvo1800664pvolvo1800 Posts: 250
    edited 07/19/2015 - 12:10 AM
    I wish you luck on this, as I needed every bit of luck available. Getting things moving, pun intended, was a constant challenge. The core is so very central to our bodily functions it should be called......hey, let's call it the Core!
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 07/19/2015 - 1:39 PM
    When I got up I decided I was going to eat bran cereal with fruit along with my daily stool softners. I had my coffee and went for my walk, I got in 2 miles early this morning and when I was done I actually felt pretty good. I took it easy for most of the day until my wife pissed me off and I took off on another two mile walk. Well I got over being pissed and ended up with four miles today and tomorrow will be two weeks since my surgery.

    I really shouldn't have gotten pissed but all the frustration of back surgery, depression and then being cooped up for so long will start to take a toll on you. Any thoughts?
  • I try to put myself in my loving wife's shoes and validate her frustrations too. She doesn't have my perspective of the pain and so as compassionate as she can be, the struggle just isn't the same for her. I give her a break and suggest she go get a massage and pedicure to pamper herself. She deserves a medal!
    Then I try to help others who may be much worse off than I. Visit a pet store during adoption events.
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 07/20/2015 - 12:28 PM
    All the ones that care for us and look after us deserve a medal. I know my wife tries to understand the pain and struggles I go through.

    Well when I woke up this morning I was sore from walking so much yesterday. The muscles in my legs, stomach and back were sore. I could tell they just needed to be stretched out so after I got done with my coffee my wife and I took off on our walk. Well today was a little different cuz she wanted to bring our dog Marley. Marley is a good little girl, she is almost 2 years old and a beautiful white Maltese. Not sure if I spelled that right.

    Marley does good when she goes for a walk. We have one of those leashes that extends out and retracts back when she walks. The only problem is when there are dogs that are not tied up they all want to come see Marley.

    We walked about 1.3 miles and when we got home all the prior efforts I have been putting into having a bowel movement decided it was time. It was like all the planets in the universe lined up correctly and unlocked the door of the bowels. It was such a painful pleasure feeling. After hitting the flush handle three times I got up and had a very good day. I have to say, my stomach feels so much better and I hope I'm on my way to being regular.
  • As you can see, I found your thread - you sure have been through a lot !

    Keep walking - I found it was the best exercise after my ALIF six years ago.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 08/15/2015 - 3:13 AM
    I still walk almost every day. I go back to the Dr next Tuesday for my six week post op follow up. Everything seems to be going ok so far. I feel like I am ready to start PT and I am so ready to go back to work.
  • Hi, thanks so much for sharing your story. I think many people are reading, they don't always post. Thank you, D
    8/31/15 microdiscetomy laminotomy
    8/15 reruptured l5
    12/24/13 laminotomy/discetomy of L5
    9/98 laminectomy l4/l5
  • trishdownunderttrishdownunder Posts: 971
    edited 08/16/2015 - 12:06 AM
    Will you be able to go back to work part-time? Having to rest and the lack of mental stimulation is hard to cope with, isn't it. Hope your 6 week check-up goes well. Your little Maltese Marley sounds so sweet.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • You sound a very positive person, well done with your recovery. Is your stomach still improving since the planets aligned?!
    Kirsti x
  • Ice manIIce man Posts: 123
    edited 08/18/2015 - 9:38 AM
    I just got home from my Dr's appointment and everything went pretty good. They took X-rays and I only had to wait about 15 minutes to see the doctor. When he walked in he said, "if you tell me you feel excellent I know you're lying". I told him I was still sore and I don't expect miracles. He said my X-rays were normal and it was going to take between six months and a year to completely fuse. He wants me to start PT and told me it would be a few more weeks before he would allow me to go back to work.

    I'm good with not rushing back to work. With my other back surgeries I think I pushed myself took hard and went back to work to soon. Don't get me wrong, I understand certain things play a part just like before, I had to go back to work cuz of financial reasons. That's not the case this time. I'm going to do it a little different and expect different results. I have totally quit smoking as well and I know that plays a big part in your healing and recovery.

    K, my stomach is doing a lot better. It's one of those things that just takes time. The incision is still giving me a fit. The nerves are very sensitive on the incision and when the smallest thing touches it causes aggravation.

    Trish, when is your big day?
  • WOW! What a story. I sure hope the end results were what you needed. It's nice when someone finds a surgeon, or any dr. for that matter that actually listens, and explains and put a plan in action to try and help. I understand they are not GOD, but I'm 5-weeks post of from a two-tier cervical ACDF and I really feel like I"m in the dark. My surgeon is always in a big fat hurry. I'm in the most pain I've ever been in and this is my 4th back surgery. I sure hope he has some answers for me when I go back to see it. As I plan to tell him at this point I'm 100% worse than I was before the surgery. I hope you're doing well.
    1992 L5/S1 Laminectomy
    2001 L5/S1 Second Laminectomy
    2008 L5/S1 Fusion.

    Current Condition:
    C5-C6 disc herniation
    C6-C7disc bulge
    C2-C6 Spinal Stenosis and Foramina Stenosis, facet joint degeneration and osteophyte
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