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L4-S1 Fusion, anterior and posterior, as a police officer

rechincarrechinca Posts: 10
edited 10/13/2015 - 9:00 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am starting this thread as I have found little in the way of info for my situation specifically. I am a 42 year old male and currently am a police officer of the last 17 years. No idea how I injured it, but after several months of pain that eventually became a steady pain down my right leg causing numbness and foot control issues in my right foot, I finally went to the doctor. Diagnosis was a Grade 2 Spondylolisthesis at L5-S1 with almost no disc left at the location. Yeah, definitely listen to your body sooner than I did. My PCP took one look at the x-rays and said there was nothing he could do for me and I needed a surgeon This coming from a doctor who was just back to work from a two level discectomy on his back I took as good advice!

I found a good surgeon through a colleague at work. She recently had a similar procedure done on her back. Excellent credentials and I had a good feeling right away with him so off I went. Here is what he wants to do:

L4-L5 and L5-S1 anterior discectomy and instrumental fusion, posterior decompression and instrumented arthrodesis L4-L5, with reduction of L5-S1 listless by anchoring the L4 and S1 levels. (Basically, my L5 has broken away from the pars and slid forward 17 mm. The surgeon is going to fuse my L4-S1 from the front and back as well as clean out the nerve channels in order to eliminate the problems.)

Sounds like fun, right? Nervous and scared, you bet! But my pain is always there in the both hips, if I sit too long my back side goes numb as well as my groin. If I stand too long (more than 5-10 minutes the pain radiates through my lower right leg and my foot will go numb. And so on and so forth, including all of the other great symptoms. Because of my being in initial stages of bladder control issues and foot drop issues, I am on an urgent list and have been approved for all of this by my work comp and employer.

I am waiting for the date for the surgery at this time, due to the need to go in through the front, they require a general surgeon as well as my orthopedic surgeon for that portion. Just need to have them coordinate a date right now and I am in. (Sidenote: Due to many people using my surgeon that are on a PPO medical plan, they met their deductibles and now at the end of the year they are flooding him with surgeries. I am on an urgent list so they are going to reschedule a couple of people to get me in sooner.)

Now my true question. As a police officer I have a great concern that I may never get back to my career. I only have 8 years left until I can qualify for my service retirement with 25 years credit so that is my goal vs a medical retirement. Are there any other LEO or police officers out there that have had this or a similar surgery? Anyone had similar and been able to return to a physically demanding job? I am not ready and willing to leave my chosen career, but the pain is unbearable and I can't "work through it" anymore. I want to get back to work, I want to enjoy my family and I want to get back to coaching football on the side at the local high school. None of which I can do now.

Anyone with similar surgeries or similar line of work with tips or just anecdotal advice let me know. Thanks for your time and I will update as this progresses.


  • Well I am about to have a similar surgery, and like you can barely deal with the constant pain and irritation of the nerves anymore. I have a primary desk type job these days (was an ER nurse) so I can't advise, but my surgeon has consistently said to me through the process that the whole point of him doing the surgery is so that I can live the life I want to live, so, I take it to heart and am hoping for the best.
  • Runner, that is what I have been told since day 1 also. I know it is based a lot on how my body reacts to the surgery as well as my willingness to work on the recovery physically and mentally. No problem, I will put in the work. Up until the point I could not take it anymore and finally went to the doctor I was running and lifting, something I can't wait to get back to!

    With a month to go until surgery, trying to get all of the work list done as I am sure there are lots of things I will not be able to do for some time to come. Lots of projects to finish, house to tidy up and some rearranging to take care of. Might even try and paint two bathrooms real quick to finish stuff off! I know it will be here before I am really ready, but so be it can't heal til the hurting begins.
  • I have been a police officer for a little less than a decade. Had an L5-S1 fusion 4 weeks ago after a bad work injury in February of 2015. Exhausted every possible option for relief since FEB but still bad nerve problems from pelvis to toes on left side, horrible pain for 10 months. Finally agreed to get the fusion. Seemed to help at first but several days later all the nerve pain came back. Still have it now but doc and surgeons said my nerves were so severely irritated when they opened me up, Luckily they only had to go through the back for the fusion. I am up and down with depression like symptoms because scared the pain i had since February will never go away. I am trying to stay positive and hopeful that it eventually end will but time will tell. I am told if I recover well I can go back to work after 6 moths, Its scary because you just don't know what is going to happen until time reveals itself. I use to run and work out and scared so much of my life might be over, but trying to stay strong. HANG IN THERE EVERYONE!
  • Ruthie1107RRuthie1107 Posts: 1
    edited 10/19/2015 - 8:00 PM
    Hello ! I'm new on this forum also. I know the feelings of the unknown you are going through. I am a self employed massage therapist for 18 years . My diagnosis was similar, congenital spondylolisthesis at L4 L5 with severe central stenosis, herniated disc L4 thru S1. My surgery was July 6th of this year. I am at 15 weeks post op and back to work 3 full days . A little swelling...but No pain at all and NO pain meds...happy,happy ! I listen to my body and follow what my Dr has told me to do and not do...no lifting over 20lbs,no twisting or severe bending. I'm sure this will be lifted when I go for my 6 month follow up. At that point both fusions should be solid and I'm on my way again. Biggest advice I have is stay as active as you can before surgery...I was biking 30 miles a week up to surgery,but couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes without pain. That's all changed now...I walk 3-4 miles at a time , and the stationary bike...for now, until I get my ok in Jan ! I wish you all the best,yes it's scary... but you got this ! It's a mental game too, go in positive ! Oh and ice is your new best friend,it's still mine. Take care !


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  • Any update for your situation?
    I came here over a year ago, maybe closer to two years, as I was/am in a VERY similar situation. I was a police officer of 18 1/2 years, and was told I had to go out on an early medical retirement. 'Medical Retirement' sounds better than 'Disability' retirement, which it is actually classified.
    That was October of 2011 that I was retired. On-the-job injuries led to spine damage; work-comp claim.
    I had to have my neck done Dec of 2012, the neurosurgeon removed the disc, put in cadaver bone and a titanium plate. That took care of those symptoms and problems 100%, pretty quick. My low back pain was always the worst, though. I went through every 'O-gram' there was, injections, radio frequency nerve ablation...you name it. FINALLY got work comp to agree to pay for surgery, and had an ALIF at l5-s1 in Sept. 2014, so I'm 15 months post-op. I still have a slight dull pain in the lumbar area, and some nerve pain in the right butt down to my leg. Neurontin controls the nerve pain fantastically, but for the low back pain, I am prescribed percocet and zanaflex.
    My experience with the narcotic pain meds are not very good- so I take them very sparingly...
    I am in the process now of getting my surgeon's opinion on whether or not I can return to policing, as I only need 20 months to reach my 'normal' retirement, and get out from under the stigma of the disability retirement. I am very fearful of any re-injury, though. You know what the job takes, and I'm not convinced myself that if I had to chase a suspect down and physically fight/wrestle that I could do it or do it without serious physical consequences to myself....
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