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Lumbar Decompression Surgery in a couple days

krausterkkrauster Posts: 4
In a couple days I will be getting a Lumbar Decompression of L4-L5 and L5-S1 to try to fix the sciatica that I have had for the last 8 months.

I am 65 and never had any problems with sciatica until 8 months ago when i started noticing that my left leg was getting a gnawing pain when standing on it for 10 minutes. After reading that the pain, and numbness, were described as sciatica and often goes away on its own I waited for about 6 weeks to see a doctor. He had me get an MRI. No disc problems were seen. The MRI showed stenosis in different places. The doctor then prescribed prednisone. I have psoriasis and was concerned about a rebound effect that makes psoriasis worse when people stop prednisone, so I asked for a steroid injection. I received that and it didn't work very well.

Then on to physical therapy which was simply exercises to strengthen the core. Two months of that didn't really help. The PT said that he could see that the exercises helped me strengthen the muscles he thought needed strengthening but that didn't change the symptoms. Which were getting worse.

Then I tried another steroid injection and that didn't work at all.

I've gone from someone that liked to take hour walks to being someone who needs to sit at every opportunity. When I am seated the pain is gone. My left foot tingles but no pain. As soon as I get up I am aware that if I stand for a few minutes I will start to feel a pain. Even though I have a few minutes before the pain will start I have gotten into a mind-set where my first priority is to know where and when I can sit. Makes it hard to do work. I am still working at an engineering job that requires walking short distances to accomplish physical tasks, thankfully with a lot of seated time on the computer.

It has become much harder to do work since I started getting sciatica. And standing in line at a grocery store is a problem. And the idea of traveling for a vacation is not inviting. So I am getting surgery on Tuesday.

Four years ago I had a hip replacement - my doctors think this is not related. They see the stenosis in my spine and think it is a completely separate issue than the hip arthritis.

I am a little worried about surgery. The surgeon says I will be in the hospital overnight and maybe two. But I figure if I went through the larger hip surgery okay I can make it through this spine surgery. I intend to report back in as things proceed.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Doug Hell

    Also working with us very closely is Allison Walsh from the Spine-Health company


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I went in yesterday at 2:30pm. My wife told me that the surgeon told her it took 45 minutes. I woke up at of surgery feeling nice and blessed to be alive. I was not immediately able to access whether it worked or not. I was moved to hospital bed sometime around 4-4:30. Instructed about the pain killer drugs in the IV. A push of the button delivers morphine lasts about 15 minutes according to the nurse. Plus I had the anesthesia in me, plus maybe I took Norco, a codeine and tylenol mix in those first hours. Seems by sometime in the early evening the nurses had me walking to the bathroom. In the evening they wanted me to pee and couldn't. That was frustrating and as the evening and today proceeded it became a problem. I did not have a catheter in me and they thought I might need a catheter and might have to go home with a catheter. I was in no hurry to do this. I was not in pain.

    My hospital roomate had had the surgery in a slot preceeding me and he had the same problem peeing except that his was very painful because his blatter was filling up and the staff was concerned about a stretched bladder so they put in a catheter for him. He immediately pee'd out 1.2 liters. I didn't have a catheter and when I finally started peeing I had tiny 100ml pees. They brought in an ultrasonic scanner and determined that I had too much urine in the bladder. My buddy was peeing freely with the catheter and then he was the guy with no worry of bladder stretch. The medical staff really scared us about this saying you can end up with permanent damage and needing a catheter if this is not dealt with. So I was trying to pee. The staff came a half dozen times during this first day to scan the bladder. My first numbers were too high. They considered 300-400 were they considered putting in the catheter. My first measurement was 320. Over the first day I saw them dropping slowly and I started peeing more. Maybe only a 150mL at a time but multiple times in 10 minutes so I was clearing my bladder.
    At 7pm this evening, about 29 hours from the surgery my bladder was measuring 57mL and they said that was fine and I was okay to go home without a catheter.
    I've described this aspect here because it is not something I read about regarding this surgery. I think it is not related specificallly to the lumbar decompressiona and is more about general surgery. It's very strange that it happened to two people in a row. One doctor off the top of his head estimated that bladder problems related to this surgery happen about 10% of the time. Anyway that's over. Back to the recovery.
    During the hospital stay the morphine machine recorded that I took it 8 times. I took the Norco every four hours, not sure of the pill size. It was enough to keep me out of pain and I never reported a pain level higher than 3 (out of 10).

    I am home now, after a one hour freeway trip. I am tired, going to brush my teeth and get in bed using the log roll move taught to me today.
  • I am amazed with myself that I wrote the last post about 32 hours after surgery. Well I should really say that I am amazed with the skill of the surgeon and the surgical team and the quality of care and the regimen of drugs, that I was able to write that previous post so quickly after surgery. I ain't that tough of a guy. If it is hurts bad I feel lousy. A tiny kidney stone had me contemplating the horror of existence. This lumbar surgery is a walk in the park, never stating my pain level to be over 3. So people, if you think you really need this surgery and have insurance to make it affordable don't be afraid to do it. Especially if your surgeon thinks it can be effective. My surgeon thought so and I trusted him ,and it appears to be successful. I no longer have the sciatic pain in the rear of my thigh, calve and foot. I still have a little numbness in my foot but I hear that will probably go away. The numbness is very minor. Of course I want to believe that this pain is permanently gone but there are no guarantees. I'm 65 and want to keep working in engineering for a few more years. And then enjoy regular life on my feet for another 10 at least before I need another (hoping the medical system is still intact then). Who knows, maybe the surgical cleanup will last that long.

    It is seven days since the surgery. I've been walking un-assisted since day one. I've been told to walk inside for the first week and then start walking outside the next. I jumped the gun this morning and went for a walk about five blocks, stopped at coffee house, walked home. My home is a three story townhouse. No problems.

    Well not exactly no problems. It's been hard to have a bowel movement. I am drinking prune juice and taking stool softener and things are finally starting to move a little but it would be better if they moved more. I feel bloated. I have backed off the Norco 5/325 from about 8 per day for the first four days down to 5 and then 3 yesterday and today I've taken one in the morning and will take another this evening. Getting in and out of bed using the log roll is painful but not bad pain. It just reminds me that I've had surgery. No bending down to pick things up.

    I am trying to not sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time. - gotta get up for a bit.

    The incision looks clean. I have showered a couple times and my wife has applied fresh gauze over the stitches that are most importantly protected by a real strong tape over the incision. I think in another week the tape and stitches will be removed at my followup visit. The wound is 2 inches long as the surgeon decompressed in the L4-L5 and L5-S1 area.

    Things that you want to have: prune juice, a kitchen/bar stool for sitting, a grabber for picking things off the floor. It would probably be better to have a toilet where you don't squat much. One of the toilets in the townhouse is a little higher than the other and it is more comfortable these days. (but less otherwise). I think I could make a homemade solution to raise the toilet seat with some styrofoam and double sided tape.

    I guess that's it for now.

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    It is very good that you are doing so well in your recovery!
    You must feel much relief, having surgery over with and feeling so well.

    Re your toilet seat, there are elevated toilet seats that you can get.
    I'm not sure on this, but maybe if your doctor writes a script that you need it, insurance may help you with the cost.
    Again, I'm not sure if insurance can help you out, but worth a phone call to double check with insurance.

    It's always good to hear when someone has such positive experience to lessened their pain!
    Best of luck as you continue in your recovery!

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

  • krausterkkrauster Posts: 4
    edited 07/30/2015 - 6:34 PM
    Walking a mile a couple times a day for the last three days. I forgot that this sciatica has really made my legs generally weaker because I have not been walking very much over the last 8 months. So the walks are also about getting the legs a little stronger, a long with the cardio vascular, and whatever is going on in the vertebra. I was going to go for a third walk today and then finally had the sense to say maybe I should take this build up a little slower and stay at two miles a day for a while in these first weeks. I do notice that I am feeling lower back pain while seated and I think that will go away as the stuff going on inside heals and as the back gets used to the walks.

    Taking less Norco 5/325. One a day either in the evening or in the middle of the night. Prune juice is good. Fresh papaya is really good.
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