I'm excited to report that I had ALIF at L5 S1 on 6/27/08 and my recovery has been terrific. The only post-operative surprise has been nerve pain in new locations, where there was no previous pain.
I woke up after surgery in extreme pain in my hips; at first I thought it was the hard hospital bed. By mid-afternoon I insisted that the pain pump wasn't doing enough and after consulting with my surgeon they switched me from morphine to dilaudid. I was surprised to learn that I'd been on morphine and that it was doing nothing for the pain. Within a few hours of being on the dilaudid my hips began to feel normal again.
My surgeon said that I may have new pain in my back and legs for up to 6 months because so much disc space had been restored and my hips realigned. I've had no pain in my back since surgery, nor any real discomfort at the incision site (it was sensitive to touch at first). I was up and walking the day after surgery. I've been fitted with a lumbar support corset to wear for a month. After 4 days in the hospital I came home with prescriptions for percoset and valium (to minimize muscle spasms).
I am already walking about a mile a day with the use of a cane. I did go to the emergency room on 7/11/08 because discomfort in my calves was intensifying tremendously, but a ct scan and x-ray showed that medtronic cage was in place and no bone fragments against nerves. A prescription of prednisone resulted in immediate leg relief!
I'm 36, slim, and previously quite athletic. My mother's been with me since surgery to help with things like putting on socks and shoes, but I can use the squatting techniques shown by my surgeon to start water for showers, and I've been able to shower by myself since the 2nd day following surgery. I could not have survived the hospital without a family member with me round-the-clock! Nurses only checked in every 1-2 hours, and when I called for nurses, it sometimes took 30-40 minutes for anyone to arrive.
My family's been amazed at how well I'm recovering. I honestly had much more pain in the weeks following my discogram than I have since the actual surgery!
I was in daily pain for almost 6 years. After being diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and facet joint disease, I had numerous facet and nerve root blocks, as well as three times undergoing a painful procedure called rhizotomy to severe the nerves going to that area of my spine- not to mention physical therapy. Nothing helped.
After surgery we asked what could have caused this (heredity, a minor accident I'd been in years before), and my surgeon said that only heredity or a major injury could have caused the degeneration in my spine- he expressed amazement after surgery that I'd not been in extreme pain in both legs (I'd only ever had pain on my right side). My surgeon did use the BMP for the fusion process, and his nurse said they've seen completed fusions in as little as 6 weeks, though they've cautioned me to expect 3-6 months.
I'm thankful to be able to be part of this online community now and sharing and learning with everyone.