I recently had a L5/S1 anterior and posterior fusion and wanted to share my experience up till now.
This web site was a great source of information to me before I made my decision to go ahead with surgery. Having said that I was also spooked and worried by some of what I read here and on the wider web in some postings of things that had or could go wrong. Whilst I in no way want to minimise what others have experienced I also wanted to give some positive messages if you are contemplating having a fusion.
Briefly, my back pain started around 20 years ago (I’m 54). For the first few years I had low-level pain but it didn’t impact my life too much. Around 12 years ago I started to experience severe pain that would come and go but got worse each time it came. I chose to ignore it and struggle on even as I knew it was impacting on my life. 6 years ago I went through a period of paralysing pain so ‘gave in’ and consulted a surgeon. He diagnosed a herniated disk at L5/S1 and recommended a micro discectomy.
I went ahead with this and it didn’t go well. The surgeon punctured the dural sac and I had one of the worst pain experiences of my life. After recovering from that within weeks I realised the back pain was no better; the microsurgery hadn’t worked.
A few months later, the paralysing pains being no better I had a full discectomy. The same surgeon told me that on opening me up he found the disc was pretty much degenerated and that most likely I would need a fusion at some point but that I would have some relief as the hernia was removed.
Indeed I got some relief although still had pain and stiffness which basically got worse as time progressed. Fast-forward to last year when the stiffness was replaced again by paralysing pain, spasms, leg pains and everything else that I guess most of you are familiar with. I was miserable, constant pain, exhaustion through not sleeping, not able to do anything involving any physical activity and worried about how I could cope with the back issues and my quite stressful job. I knew I was no fun to be around, either grumpy with pain or just flat tired and listless. Simply, my quality of life that was in obvious decline. I should mention that during this time had scan after scan, 2 lumbar epidurals, which helped, at least for a bit and physiotherapy. Whilst all of these helped to an extent, the underlying issue of disc degeneration was not going away.
I knew a fusion could potentially help but I was also wracked by worry that it may not work or that something worse could happen. Eventually though I decided that the life I was leading was not the real me and I had to do something. For me if there was a chance to make me feel better I had to try.
7 weeks ago I had the fusion. After 1 day I was up walking around the ward, home after 4 days and taking short walks outside, after 2 weeks I was able to walk for a few hundred yards and by the 4th week I was up to a mile or so. The back pain was gone from the moment I woke up after the surgery. Sure I have pain from the surgery itself and sure I am still stiff and still fragile and some days are better than others. Although I only started my physiotherapy a couple of weeks ago I am stating to feel stronger. I
As at now I am feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in years and I will soon be ready to re-engage with life after hiding from it. I think one of the worst things about chronic back pain is that it gets inside your head and eventually depression sets in. This was certainly the case for me. I only realised this in hindsight as now I feel like a cloud has lifted.
My point to posting on here was to thank this site for providing the information it does – it helped me a lot understand the ‘mechanics’ of what was going on and happening to my body. However you can find a lot of stuff on the web that can make you very concerned. Whilst I would never recommend anyone to rush into surgery I also wanted to cite my experience to say it can be positive.
My advice would be do your research, it took me over one year to find the right surgeon, understand the proposed surgery well (I had 3 different doctors propose three different fusion procedures) and be proactive is deciding what’s right for you in your circumstances.
Obviously its still early days, my surgeon reckons 6 months to fully heal but I can tell you that already I feel like a new person.
Good luck to everyone.Please click on link for helpful information Welcome to Spine-Health
Liz -Spine-health Moderator