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Spinal Fusion: end results?

pathppath Posts: 6
edited 11/15/2015 - 2:42 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,
I would like to hear from spinal fusion patients about what their experience has been post op: at 3 months through two years. 64 yo active female, after being in constant pain, done a very complete doctor chase, I have been advised to have an anterior and posterior fusion from T10-S1. Trust the surgeon and no one can say whether pain will improve or not. Unlike a knee replacement, results from this operation seem hard to predict. Wondering if it's worth it. Specifically I am interested in effect on likely ability to enjoy the following and how soon post op:
~ biking
~hiking esp more than 5 miles
~driving (how does one park or back out of a garage with a fused spine?--seems risky)
~putting on clothes/shoes without bending
--cooking without bending into lower cabinets
~sitting on an airplane

In a word, how does life change after fusion? Not looking for "blue sky": just want the real scoop.

Many thanks.

Welcome to Spine-Health

One of the most important things that members can do is to provide the rest of the community with as much information about themselves as possible. It is so very difficult for anyone to respond when we do not have enough information to go on. This is not meant to indicate that you are doing anything wrong or violated any rule, we are just trying to be pro-active and get the information upfront so that people can start responding and your thread is more effective.

So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong, The fact that your test results are negative does not mean that you are fine and without any concerns. Many times it takes several diagnostic tests and procedures to isolate a specific condition.

Here are some questions that you should answer:

  • - When did this first start?

    . Year, Your age, etc
- Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
- Are there others in your family with similar medication conditions?
- What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)

  • . Which doctor did you start with? Ie Primary Care Physician
    . Who are you currently seeing?
- What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?

  • . Physical Therapy
    . Ultrasound / Tens unit
    . Spinal Injections
    . Acupuncture
    . Massage Therapy
- What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)

  • . Summarize the results, please do not post all details, we cannot analyze them
    . How many different tests have you had over the years? Similar results?
- What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)

  • . Name of Medication
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- Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
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- What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
of your situation and make it easier to respond.

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I also strongly suggest that you take a look at our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which can be found at the top of the forum menu tab or by going to FAQ There you will find much information that will

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Please remember that no one at Spine-Health is a formally trained medical professional.
Everything that is posted here is based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research.
As such, no member is permitted to provide

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What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are

I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways it’s like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then it’s up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 11/15/15 20:42 est



  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 724
    I've had 2 lower lumbar fusion surgeries in the past 2 years. The first surgery... was a double level fusion that went great. Woke up with zero nerve pain and no complications... first few weeks were rough because your insides are all tore-up... but after that it's just a long slow road to full recovery... which in my case took 12 months. Unfortunately once I was 100%... I also did 100% just like before surgery... lifting heavy boxes, stressing my back, etc... and by month 18 I was back in pain with a badly herniated disc above the fusion and I had also broken one of the pedicle screws and the L5-S1 fusion. Recovery from the second surgery was horrible... I woke-up with ALL of the sciatic pain down my right side just as before the surgery and it took a full 4 months for it to go away. I'm now at 10 months post surgery and doing ok... but not yet 100%. The doctor says it will likely take a lot longer this time to get to 100% being the second time and my age. I guess the biggest thing I've gotten out of all of this thus far is that the surgery can definitely resolve the nerve pain... but I've had to reluctantly accept that my back will never be the same again... and lifestyle changes are a MUST if I want to stay away from the surgeons table. NO MORE... heavy lifting or any activities that aggressively stress or jar my back. It doesn't mean I can't be active... I walk and swim every day... I drive and dress myself... motor around the house doing simple light daily chores... no issue... but no more agressive bone jarring/heavy stressing stuff like I did in my earlier years. No sugar... just the real scoop from my experience.
    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
  • I'm just 12 days out from my one level fusion. I do feel much improved, but honestly my list prior to surgery would have included a wish list of being able to walk from my bed to the bathroom without falling down. At the time that I decided to have the fusion it had become fairly obvious that I had a choice of walking with a walker or having the surgery. So I may be delighted because I'm now able to walk my dog slowly, and take care of things...

    After fusion heals you will be able to bend a bit, and also you will learn ways to kneel to pick things up etc. I currently use one of those grabber tools and I kind of have decided that it's pretty handy for lots of stuff that I drop, so I will probably keep using it even after I'm able to bend more frequently. i can already drive, and do back out of my driveway daily. (I;m allowed to drive as I'm not using narcotics etc.

    A lot of the problem with hearing everyone else's stories is that people are not machines. the very same surgeon can do the exact procedure on two people the same age etc, and they can just simply have two widely different outcomes. it's very frustrating.

    So far I'm having a pretty good outcome, partly because I was in pretty good shape prior to surgery, but it's no guarantee that things won't head south tomorrow.
    Two things that helped me were asking my surgeon what would happen if I just didn't have a fusion. He explained that my low back would continue to destabilize and that I'd continue to get worse.
    The second thing that really helped me was when I saw my 4th surgeon and asked about running, my main concern then (before my walking deteriorated). He told me no guarantees, but then asked me how was my running currently.... I laughed because he was right... I couldn't do any running, I could barely walk... the fusion is a chance, maybe a slim one, but a chance to get back to the stuff I love. Since I'm only like 12 days or so out, the jury's out, but I know I'm making progress rather than just tolerating the misery I was dealing with before......

    It's very hard to make a choice, I even had a few days of waffling, but right now at least, I feel that I did make the right choice.
  • gfishggfish Pittsburgh PAPosts: 158
    For me, not so good. T4-T10 fusion. Mine was 2 crushed vertebra from a fall at work. But waited to get the surgery, Only because my PCP said I had broken ribs, As to why my back around to my chest hurt so bad. No, she did not take any xrays. Then as the pain never went away, I went to a orthopedic doctor. Then that's when he said it was bad. Had the fusion done by a very good neurosurgeon. Very hard first couple of months. So now, I see pain doctors still. It feels like the same pain as pre surgery. Did it work? To hear the doctor talk, that I am lucky to be walking, what he did is all good, And I will have to deal with some pain. Some PAIN?? My surgery was not the normal, I was stabilized, not fixed. I am 51, A carpenter. Was very active from biking, boating, jet skiing to paddle boarding. Now I have to a cane when its gets bad to get up and a grabber to pick stuff up off the floor. I have become used to the pain. Had that pain for 1-1/2 years. Driving can be tough. I cant twist. So looking over your shoulder can be really hard. Some roads I dont drive on for that reason. And as to the rest of your questions. Everyone is not the same with the same results. Take your time and let it heal. Like you said, its not a knee replacement. I might not be a good person to comment on your subject. I went into my operation thinking it would be 100% fine after I healed. Good luck to you. Hope everything goes according to plan.
    Greg fisher
  • Thank you all for sharing your stories. Sounds like what the surgeon says and what is real is not the same. Sounds like life changes pretty drastically and there's no prediction what one will experience. Life changing in a way I don't want. I don't hear any good stories. But I hear alot of courage and hope in the face of tremendous adversity.
    Thank you.
  • Is that people tend to come here because they are having problems. I had a diseconomy in February of 2015. I posted a lot ahead of time and for about 2 weeks after. I got a lot better, and had work, Swim training 4 hours a day and things to do and I really stopped posting. When I decided to have the fusion, I started to come back around to gather information, share experiences. I go back to work this Friday and I expect, frankly that my posting here will probably dwindle. SO you may not be getting a "full spectrum" picture.

    I honestly feel that my surgery was very successful.. I am miles from where I was 3 weeks ago... But... it's very early and I am kind of holding my breath for repeat X-rays in December!
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