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anyone had ALIF surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I wasn't sure where to post this because I have multiple issues, but this board seems to make the most sense and I hope I'm right about that.

This past week I went for my 6 month post op with the neurosurgeon -- I had ACDF with instrumentation for C4-6 in January. My fusion is "coming along as expected" but it will probably be another six months before it is complete. I still have some pain, very little side-to-side ROM and trouble swallowing.

At my 3 month post op the neurosurgeon mentioned taking a look at my lumbar spine because it has been giving me problems for nearly 2 years. He had looked at my MRI and then ordered a whole bunch of x-rays last week that showed the problems he was trying to see more clearly. The x-rays showed significant scoliosis (not fixable), bone spurs, disc bulges at L3-4 and L4-5 and a herniated and flattened L5/S1 (DDD) with some nerve involvement. All of this is causing a lot of radiating leg, foot and hip pain. The neurosurgeon recommended ALIF if the pain and lack of mobility get to a point that I no longer want to continue conservative treatment. I definitely don't want surgery again so soon and will probably have another epidural steroid injection, even though they have not worked for me in the past. I am wondering if anyone has had ALIF surgery and what you are willing to share with me about it. I've done some research and it doesn't sound like an easy surgery to recover from. Thanks for anything you are willing to share. :)



  • The ALIF can be pretty difficult in regards to recovery. However, it gives the surgeon the best access and room to work depending on what all needs to be done. It also cuts down on muscle in the back the surgeon would have to cut through making a PLIF.

    I had a 360 ALIF which means from the front and back. However, he used the Sextant System for placing my hardware. He only had to make 8 - 1 inch incisions instead of having to go hog wild with the knife on my back.

    The biggest drawback for me with the ALIF was my digestive system got all kinds of pissed off at me! Essentially, constipation along with aches and pains stuck around for several months. I do have some residual issues such as numbness around the incision, pain in my groin after standing a while and um, ED. That side effect isn't supposed to happen, but as fate has it, it did. Medication works very well for that issue.

    My back felt pretty good for quite a while, but in the past month or so, things have gone down hill in a big way. But that is another story for another post.

    If you need more info, feel free to e-mail me and I'll elaborate in more detail as to what to expect.

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • Any lumbar fusion, I think, is difficult to recover from because of the down time afterwards. I agree with Keith and had many of the same problems. My surgeon did the ALIF because of the scar tissue in my back from previous surgeries and to have the best access. They went in through my old c-section scar. All the hardware was put in through the stomach and like Keith, I suffered a lot from having all my internal organs moved out of the way, but it gave him the best view. I also have numbed areas across the bottom of my belly. Because of the old scar tissue I also had my back incision opened and things freed up.
    If I had to make the choice again though I would do exactly the same thing. I fused very quickly.
    Good luck with your decisions.
  • I didn't have to think about it very long to decide that it is too soon for another surgery. The ALIF sounds like a difficult surgery and the recovery time is long and uncomfortable, so surgery for me will be postponed as long as possible or at least until my mobility starts to suffer more than it is now. It's always possible that an epidural injection or two will give me some relatively comfortable time. Thanks a lot for your comments. ~kathleen
  • Your probally making the best choice for now I had a 360 fusion and it went very well and at 31/2 months I was fully released from all restrictions and I went golfing bowling and had minimal pain.
    but there may be a chance after you c spine surgery that your posture may change or now your upper spine can take some weight bearing off the lower spine.
    best of luck and keep us updated...
  • I was intrigued by your comment. My husband had multiple lumbar issues and as we were trying to figure out what to do with him after the first surgery failed, I fould that there were OSs that focused on his DDD and stenosis issues and OSs that focused on his scoliosis/structural issues, but few that focused on both. In the end, I beleive that is why it took us so long to find opinions that matched and to pick a course of action that seemed like it had a good chance of resolving his pain issues. If you have scoliosis as well as other issues make sure you find a OS that has expereince with both and focuses on complex cases. Good luck. If you're willing to travel for surgery (we would have gone anywhere), I'd be glad to send you contact info on the OS we ended up selecting for my husband's surgery, just PM me.

    Also, my hubby has had both an ACDF and lumbar fusion. IMO as an observer/care-giver, recovery from the lumbar fusion seems much more dfficult. It is a very difficult and long recovery that requires doing the right things every day, avoiding the wrong things, and staying patient and optomistic for a longer time than seems humanly possible.

    Best of luck, Terri

  • Hi Terri,

    Thank you so much for your message.Your husband is likely much younger than me, but whatever his situation, I am very glad that he found someone to treat his issues and that he is much better now. The recovery from lumbar fusion does not sound pleasant, but does sound like it was very worthwhile for him.

    When the NS looked at my films, he said that he would not recommend correcting my scoliosis because it was too big of a surgery and because my body has adjusted to the untreated lumbar scoliosis I've had all my life (50+ years). This NS has an excellent reputation, did an amazing job with my cervical spine and I do trust his opinion, but I may also get other opinions before making a final decision about what to do next. Like most everyone with lumbar issues, I have pain, but I cannot take pain meds or anti-inflammatories except at a very low level because the side effects are more debilitating than the pain/lack of mobility. It's sort of a Catch-22 situation, but I am not physically or mentally prepared to have more surgery at this time.

    Thanks again. :)


  • Hi,

    How long did it take you to recover from the ALIF? How much help did you need during that time? Thanks. ;)
  • The amount of time needed for recovery is subjective. In my case, I had a two level fusion. I was 40 yrs old when I had the procedure done. Because I'm a workers comp case, I went through a ton of rehab. Plus, I was pretty motivated to get through this process and move on.

    The first three months quite honestly sucked. It was a lot of hard work. But each day, I could tell things were getting a little better.

    By the six month point, I was back to doing most anything I wanted to do, within reason.

    I needed help for the first week post op, but after that, I made myself get up and get what I needed to speed up my recovery. You will need someone to drive you to DR's appointments for about the first month. Most MD's don't want you driving right at first.

    I did go back to work at about six weeks post op which was way too soon. I was incredibly stupid for doing that. I'm just the type that can't sit around. Knowing what I know now, I should have waited to at least 12 weeks if not a little longer before going back to work.

    The key to recovery is keeping a positive attitude, working within moderation physically, keeping a positive attitude, not doing anything the doctor advises against, keeping a positive attitude...oh, and keep a positive attitude. Seriously, it is very easy to get down in the dumps and most people do by week 3 or 4. There is light on the other side of the tunnel! Though things may stink at first, each little victory you score, whether it's showering without help, walking a mile for the first time post op to going to the toilet without a laxative :sick: , each little step will get you towards your goal.

    Not to mention I couldn't wait until I could get back onto a baseball field with my son. That was one of my primary goals.

    Hope that sheds some light!

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I sent you evite for buddy, ALIF in 2 weeks, sounds like w eneed to chat. I would love to know details about what to expect over the next couple of months. I too have a very similar goal as I coach my daughter softball team and would put that up there as thing that I'd like to do again.
  • It was not a picnic but I would do it again. I had the same problems that Keith and others mentioned and still do as far as the constipation and overall disruption to my digestive system. Still, it was the best way to fix the problem. My incision is still sore but I am able to do anything I want. I no longer have any restricitons and am in PT. My stamina is returning and I am starting to feel normal.

    It is a long road but worth it in the end. I spent so much time, money, and energy into avoiding what needed to be done. Glad it is over and I am moving on. Making the decision was the hardest part for me. Feel free to PM me if you need to talk. Good luck with your decision.
  • Thanks for all the information about ALIF surgery and recovery. I'm not physically or mentally prepared for such a major surgery at this time, so I plan to try some other options and stay off the operating table for as long as possible. ~kathleen
  • I too had an ALIF w/hardware at my L4-S1, 2 levels as well as a laminectomy of my L3-S1 and did this 360 style. MY surgery was just 10 weeks ago, May 8th, 08. So I am still in the recovery process. Oh by the way I am only 28 years old, female. The first 3 weeks after surgery was tough. The no BLT was very difficult especially when it came to getting dressed, going to the bathroom, or taking a shower. Having my husband and mom and dad by my side was very comforting because there was no way I could have done it by myself. Walking every day helped out a lot, especially since that is all you are allowed to do. No lifting over 10 lbs, or a gallon of milk as my doctor put it. Make sure you have flip flops or slip on shoes because putting on socks when you cant bend, ya very very hard to do. Well if you are a flexible person maybe it might be easier, I'm not so ya difficult. I basically wore flip flops ever since I got out of surgery. The incision in the front is still sore to this day and lots of numbness all around. My insides were a mess the first 3 weeks after surgery. Eating was difficult for me, just felt nautious, had to have medication to calm that feeling. Had to constantly take stool softners and laxitives the first 3 weeks, and I am still taking stool softners to this day because of the medication. Which I am proud to say I am almost off all meds, down to maybe taking them 2 times a week. Only because I go out walking every night and get very sore.
    Anyways if you need to know more let me know.
  • ..I have to have the ALif now after having had the Tlif 3 months ago. The little wedge or Cage has now moved, from initially 3mm to 7mm. I am very scared as I don't have any other opinions or options and no family/husband to help. I want to get to my son's graduation in 3 months. Surgery is in 12 days.
    Does anyone have an opinion? Should I wait? He says it will get worse, quickly.
    Open to all...good or bad!
    Have a good weekend.
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