Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Questions on L4-L5 fusion

OK, so I'm new to the site and have some questions. I did search for some of these questions but, I didn't see anything recent. I've spoken to some physicians and lets just say - they share a common trait of being straightforward, not being very descriptive and pretty much like this is what you need to do and why. Im in good health, 46, male, hit the gym, lead an active lifestyle, played hockey for years and still get on the.

Everyone that I have spoken to that had a fusion are like - well the pain is gone, subsided but, the xyz drawbacks, limitations, etc so I thought I would get some input. I dread the thought of this fusion deal more than you can imagine and cannot stand the thought of hospitals.

I have had some major back pain since 8/2015, started Chiro in late August, MRI in September, Mobic (anti inflammatory) in Sept with very little help. I have spoken to an orthopedic spine surgeon (very well known) that said I have issues at L4/L5 and the only thing to quit the flaring pain is to do a fusion of 4/5 but, suggested I get a spinal injection to see if that helped.

I have the injection scheduled 10/13. Some of my friends (Ortho surgery reps) said I can expect to get 4-6 weeks of benefit from the injection and to quit wasting time and get the fusion done.

So with all that said I have some general questions:

* How long are you typically in the hospital?
* How long immobile? I go to the gym now 3-4 times a week (cardio each time and weights probably a couple times a week). The treadmill/elliptical is what uncovered the "shooting pain down my glutes/hamstrings".
* How long will I be off work (I work in an office so - no manual labor, etc)? I have flew 70 flights this year and 120 nights in a hotel. Thoughts on downtime for travel?
* How long does the surgery last (he's talking posterior).
* Any thoughts on anterior or posterior? I'm getting 2 more opinions to review the MRI this week (one does anterior).
* Is the pain really as bad as what I have read? I know there's pain meds but, I have heard some horror stories that sounds like it's the worst pain ever. I have had my share of surgeries but, many haven't kept me down too long.
* Is it better to go til you can't go any longer or take action quicker? The pain is shooting, and really getting to the point that it could cause you to fall.

What am I missing and what are the blind spots?

I know there are a lot of contributors here and I appreciate your feedback. I value input that is not the Dr who will be doing the surgery. I want a diverse response.

I know this is a lot but, appreciate your feedback as I go through this "decision" process.

46, Good health, active.


  • Sheri76Sheri76 Michigan Posts: 483
    Hi Mark.......I know it's all quite overwhelming to think about...and sadly there is no guarantee either way, you have to go with what you think is best for you during the time you deal with it.....if only we had the hindsight for all of it.

    It never hurts to get other medical opinions. and to do research on your options, but it sounds like your MRI is showing the need for a fusion surgery. I would want an opinion from neurosurgeon.

    I had spondylolisthesis, herniated disc at L4-5, removing disc, and putting in cage spacer; had posterior fusion done last March. The surgery was successful, I don't have the sciatic pain anymore, but I'm still not able to do a lot of what I used to do.

    If I had it to do over, I would have done it sooner if I could have. There was no amount of exercise, PT, or injections that would ever have corrected the problem.... fusion was my only option. You didn't say your exact issues at L4-5, so I'm not sure what they plan on doing with your disc.

    I don't regret having the surgery, but having a fusion is a bit of a game changer. Surgeons downplay recovery time. They said I could probably go back to work on light duty after three months....it's been 7 months, and my work doesn't allow light duty, but I'm still struggling with sitting, standing, and walking for lengths of time. I see myself at 1.5 years for recovery.

    The thing is, everyone's surgery and healing is different. And not everyone follows their post op orders in restrictions, I have, but I know I don't want to go through this again.

    Having a fusion is a major surgery, it takes time to heal from it, and no, you won't be good as new....you will have had a fusion to correct your spine....hopefully with no residual pain, and able to heal without too many restrictions, but you will have some restrictions, you just have to change with them.
  • Jill55JJill55 Posts: 101
    edited 10/11/2015 - 8:01 PM
    I agree with everything Sheri76 has said and it is so reassuring to me to hear you say it. The pain has gone but you are restricted in what you can do. It is very frustrating as my husband seems to be oblivious most of the time that I am finding keeping up with running the home hard. I am a carer for my daughter. I do what I can but not as much as I would like to do. I had my L5 S1 fusion at the end of April I too wish I had been able to have it sooner. I still have nerve damage in my legs and feet. Better to slow down now and have the fusion and rest. Than to be permanently left with nerve damage.
  • DCLife100DDCLife100 Posts: 17
    edited 10/12/2015 - 8:27 AM
    Hello all, I had an L5/S1 fusion exactly 3 weeks ago. I had the surgery due to horrible nerve pain in left leg and left foot for last 7-8 months. The pain an problem kept me from work and a happy life. Im only 35 and most people said, Wow you are young to have a fusion." I tried cortisone shots, therapy, back braces, acupuncture, medication and more, but nothing provided me with more than very short lived semi relief. I was terrified of getting a fusion because i read so many horrible results stories. Surgeon found the nerves in my spine to be bright red instead of yellow colored that they were suppose to be. The fusion has proved to be a success so far due to at least may 12 or so of the 17 symptoms i dealt with are gone. Unfortunately horrible nerve pain in the left foot is constantly with me and occasionally some left calf nerve pain daily. The hope is that the nerve that was clearly so extremely irritated in the L5/S1 area will eventually go away. Only you can decide if any surgery is right for you. Try to stay positive and not let others horror stories scare you away. Success is in part the result of a good doctor/surgeon and largely in part that of a positive minded patient who takes it all slow and careful for a successful recovery.
  • Mark,

    By no means am I a doctor or any kind of a medical professional, but I am 7 wks Post Op from my L5/S1 Fusion(1 level lower) and I couldn't be happier, I'm pissed at myself for waiting 3 years trying every conservative method out there twice over again before pulling the trigger.
    I'll try and give my you 2 cents on what you asked.

    -Inital hospital stay was 4 days, 10 days total (I went back for a second surgery, my bone graft site got infected and they had to clean it out)...it happens, I was the 3% lol
    - My doctor had me up walking around 2 days after with a giant back brace I still wear. He explained it to me like this because I'm young and extremely active for work and fun .....I'm paraphrasing but "after the surgery, think of those to vertabre as a single bone that is broken and we just put pins and screws in to immbolize it so it will grow back together, just like any other fracture don't plan doing anything high impact for 6 months, and don't plan on doing anything for 3 months minimum.
    -I will be allowed desk work with a light/modified day here in the next month, so 3 months Post Op. It will be tough, sitting down still takes a toll because of the back brace and how tight my posterior chain has become.
    -No comment. All my refferrals were posterior, I picked the Dr with the cleanest background and who gave me the best warm fuzzy while talking to him.
    -Everyone is different with pain. I was off my pain meds regularly 3 weeks Post Op, I keep them around for what I call breakthrough pain which in my case is just completely random. The boredom and inability to drive/do anything has been harder than dealing with the pain in my case.

    Hindsight 20/20 From my perspective
    - Buy one of those claw extender arm things, the first time I bent over with out my brace because of habbit I about passed out from pain.
    -Wear whatever brace you get and don't take it off, it will save you more pain and discomfort than it causes
    -Be prepared not drive for 2 to 6 weeks (each Dr is different) and have a plan to get to and from appointments
    -Have an idea of what pain medicine works/doesn't work....after surgery isn't the time to just take what they give you if you don't respond well.
    -Get in the habit of constantly changing the dressings on your wound AND KEEP it as sterile as possiable. My infection was the worse part of the entire process.
    -Get right mentally that you are going to be completely worthless mobility wise for the first 12 weeks, and be ready to move alot slower

    Again, this information is from my perspective as a patient from my L5/S1 surgery.
    Hope this perspective helps

    Skip Hamilton

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 722
    Dear Mark....

    Sheri has expressed a lot of the issues/concerns VERY NICELY... for sure fusion surgery is a BIG DEAL... young or old. Have you asked your doctor about a less invasive surgery option? There are other surgical alternatives beside fusion... read-up about "Discectomies" on this site or go to Wikipedia to help further educate yourself... read up on "Spinal Fusion" there are at least 4 or 5 ways fusion surgery is done and you should be aware and comfortable with the technique your doctor recommends. Read up on "Spinal Decompression" or "Laminectomy"... and other terms your doctor may or may have not thrown at you... it doesn't take that long and you don't have to be an expert but the knowledge will for sure help you in your discussions with your doctors and allow you to make together with your doctor well informed decisions that your are comfortable with.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
Sign In or Register to comment.