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My encouraging L3-5 fusion

LezzaLLezza Posts: 6
edited 12/28/2015 - 8:13 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi, I’m new to the forum. My name is Les, 55, from UK, and have used this site for many months for information prior to having my L3-5 fusion on 23 Dec 15.

This forum has been especially helpful in preparation and expectations; however I feel the need to tell my story as I think it is a very positive contrast to some of the experiences I have read.

Skip the history if you wish (next 7 paragraphs)
In my youth I was very fit, played and worked hard, I was in the RAF. I suffered a slipped disc at the age of 25 (1986) and recovered following bed rest. This left me with some lower back pain and then Left Sciatica for many years.

In Jan’92, the RAF did a C/T scan and 2 days after the results were known I had an L4-5 Discectomy. I was up and walking the next day, didn’t need any support or corset due to my core strength and was allowed to go home the next day.

For the next 18 months I had various reactions to the surgery, muscle spasms back pain but no sciatica. In Sep’99 whilst in a local swimming completion I twisted my back, which went in spasms, and sciatica to the left leg returned. This trigger 10 years of increasing left leg pains. I tried reflexology, acupuncture, physiotherapy, several Epidurals, Facet joint injections (very painful and no use at all) and when I retired from the military in 2004 my new civilian doctors tried various combinations of different drugs to reduce the pain.

In 2013 my standing time and walking distance was significantly reduced and was starting to disrupt my social and working life. I had an MRI but because I had move they would now release them for review so I had to have more done. After 4 attempts I managed to get on the bed long enough for the scan to be done.

2014 – Standing time 2 mins max, walking 200m max. I would have to sit down or crouch on the floor no matter where I was. I had an L4 nerve root blocker Steroid injection, but only lasted a couple of weeks.

My surgeon was in the process of admitting me for an L4/L5 decompression when I suffered a heart attack and was prescribed Clopidogrel. No surgical operations can be carried out whilst on these so the op was deferred for a year. No matter how strong the drugs were my pain increase to such a state I considered a wheel chair to get about, but I am too proud for that so suffered on.

May’15 following a review with my surgeon he offered me to option of a Multi-level fusion which I jumped at. My thought process here was to have it done once and for all instead of steps. I had an L5 nerve root blocker Steroid injection, and again it only lasted a couple of weeks.

At the moment I am not very fit and a bit overweight. I am however physically very strong and mentally determined. I have taken everyone views and comment, weighed up the pros and cons and have decided to go ahead with the operation. Here comes the encouraging bit I hope some of you might need:

I was admitted on Wed 23 Dec 15 with an expected discharge of 27 Dec 15 (usual 4 days)
07:30 – arrived at the hospital.
10:45 – walked to theatre (only just). Meet by the Anaesthetist who injected local anaesthetic in my back whilst sitting. He then got me to lay to have 2 intravenous drips inserted to which the knockout juice was administered, such a weird heavy legged feeling.
11:00 – Haha, asleep
17:15 – Woke up in post op recovery room. (6 hour operation)
18:00 – Transferred to the male Ward. 6 beds, just me there, wonderful.
18:30 – had dinner
19:00 – Wife arrives with a host of goodies, drinks, crisps, chocolate, sweets, you name it because of the length of stay.
23:00 – Asleep. Was woken for BP, Pulse, Temp, etc. every 2 hours. Had a great sleep.

Thurs 24 Dec
06:00 – Awake
07:30 – Breakfast
08:00 – Ward Doctor arrives and talks about my condition, and how little pain I was in.
08:30 – Surgeons assistance gets the nurse to take out the Epidural needle from my back, left there in case it was needed through the night. And told me how pleased they were with the operation.
11:00 – Physio nurse’s got me out of bed, but I got to light headed so had to get back on the bed but with my head raised.
12:30 – Lunch, 3 course. Hope Xmas dinner will be as nice
13:30 – Got out of bed again. No problem this time. Walked up and down the ward, taken to some stair and went up and down them gingerly but fine.
14:00 – Wheel chaired to X-Ray dept. All good here as well.
15:00 – “One last test Sir” nurse take some blood for analysis.
15:30 – “OK, Sir, everything seem fine, would you like to go home” . OMG what?? . “I’ll do your discharge paperwork, call your wife to come and collect you” Thats less than a day after the op.
18:30 – In her car and homeward bound.
We decided not to tell anyone because we didn’t want to upset their Christmas plans and to save face about how much of a big ordeal this major surgery operation is.

Xmas Day – Was quite sedentary. In and out of bed, computer chair is very comfortable and I even went downstairs to watch TV in a reclining chair. No appetite though

26 Dec – Only issue is the stomach ache, trapped wind. So much more comfortable moving around, just have to watch getting up, posture is everything. Still no appetite. We informed friends and family I was coming home, which was still before schedule.

27 Dec – Belly not as bad. Moving great. Had in-laws round.

28 Dec – Today, Day 5, I have tried to get back to my normal routine. I went shopping with the wife this afternoon, walked around town for an hour, couple of miles without any kind of rest, Wahey!
OK so I’m taking quite a lot of pain relief but to be honest I’m not sure I need them all, in fact I am going to start reducing them.

My wife has just reminded me that the whole family already think I’m a robot, this just confirms it.

Day 6 – Day out somewhere
Day 7 – My Xmas day. All the family round for dinner.

Best regards Les

L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
Slipped disc 1986


  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 732
    That's quite a story and it's absolutely AMAZING that you are up and about doing a normal routine at DAY 5... WOW!!! Going shopping with the wife no less!!!! I wish my recovery was so fast... What type of procedure did they use for your surgery PLIF, TLIF, ALIF, etc..??? You had a 2 level fusion L3-L4-L5???

    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
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Hi Harry

    I know, who would have though. This is why I want to let the community know. Bar from any future relapse I'm feeling pretty amazing.

    I wanted to state what method I had but none that I researched matched my procedure. However, having read more I think I had a TLIF.
    From my discharges papers to my doctor, I quote; "Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Interbody Fusion L3-L5" let me explain:

    I have 2 insertions about 3 inches apart astride the spinal center line (don't know how long yet)
    From the X-ray there is two vertical rods with 3 screws each going into each vertebrae L3 L4 L5 at a 40 deg angle from either side (80 degs)
    I did't see any metal cages but my surgeon said he was using some to hold the bone graft paste in position.

    He said this when I asked where the bone graft comes from. "Its the collection of your bone dust created whilst decompressing the nerve roots and drilling the screw holes and from the bone removed from the facet joint for space". I'm an engineer, I needed to know.

    Hope this helps

    Best regards Les

    L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
    L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
    Slipped disc 1986
  • I had a tlif l5s1, about 11 weeks ago. Still have some muscular back ache that increases with activities. You are amazing!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 732
    Yeah a TLIF fusion reduces a lot of the back muscle trauma that you get with a traditional PLIF... so recovery is faster/easier... but out casually walking the shopping mall with the wife on day 5 is like totally unheard of... we'll have to give you a new name 'Superman Les'. Like you I'm also an engineer so I always want to know all the details... except the blood parts which I can't stand the sight of... but all the rest is very interesting. I hope your recovery continues with the same postitive and amazing progress... it's good to hear a positive story.

    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
  • Yesterday – Day 6 – Out somewhere I said.

    Well, the wife and I, and 2 others got on train to London for the afternoon. 1 hours journey, lunch, a few pubs in Soho (non-alcoholic for me) and on to the underground to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland show, it’s one of the biggest remotely assemble and temporary Fair grounds in Europe.

    The sitting on the train was most problematic in the knowledge that it should be kept to a minimum, so every now and then I’d stand for a few minutes.
    Walking was not a problem, albeit quite slowly and with care and attention to what was underfoot, probably covered something like 4 miles with no pain at all. Standing was actually the preferred position, especially at the bar.
    8 hours on and we’re home, what a great day.

    This time last week I was waiting to go to theatre.
    Best regards Les

    L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
    L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
    Slipped disc 1986
  • LezzaLLezza Posts: 6
    edited 01/01/2016 - 9:10 PM
    Day 8 - New Years Day
    Developed a sharp stabbing pain in my left Hip/Groin area, this is the L1 receptor region.
    It is controllable with body position and movement. Obviously muscle related. Very intense and crippling.....relax.....relax......
    Pain killers only have a slight effect.

    I suspect it is L1 nerve settling down with the healing of the left incision from the surgery.
    Best regards Les

    L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
    L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
    Slipped disc 1986
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 732
    That's IMPOSSIBLE.... Superman never feels pain..!!! LOL... it's good to hear you are a little like us other mortals. Hang in there... I'm sure by tomorrow you will be leaping tall buildings.
    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
  • LezzaLLezza Posts: 6
    edited 01/11/2016 - 7:26 AM
    Day 18 post op.

    That hip stabbing pain was treated with Oral Morphine and Gabapentin (brain nerve blocker). It lasted 5 days and then as quick as it came, it had gone. So I decided to slowly wean myself off the medication over the next few days, all my medication, and sure enough no pain.

    My decision to come of the pain killers as well ( on Day 14 ) was because of my increased activity and I didn’t want to overdo it. My theory was that if I can feel the healing then I’d know when to stop if it got sore. So no meds for 5 days, pain free and walking roughly 4 miles a day now.

    I am so much happier, I feel 10 years younger. Apparently I am standing tall and straight, not crippled over like before. This is a life changer for more reasons than expected, for one; I don’t feel the need to hit the bottle to mask the pain anymore.
    My misses is a bit worried though, she could hardly keep up with me before the op, haha, jog on girl.

    I hope my recovery story will help those who are still contemplating lumber surgery.
    Cheers Les
    Best regards Les

    L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
    L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
    Slipped disc 1986
  • All looking good, no pain, aches or side effects.

    Could easily go back to work but I'm enjoying the freedom to get out and about, so I'm taking full opportunity.

    Walking 4 to 5 miles a day, legs and back muscles are getting stronger by the day. Going to start swimming soon.

    I wish everyone was a lucky as me.
    Best regards Les

    L3 - 5 Fusion 12/2015
    L4 - 5 Discectomy 01/1992
    Slipped disc 1986
  • JatcoJJatco CanadaPosts: 22
    Happy for you Les, that you're back in the swing of things in such a short period of time. Kudos to you..!
    For me, it's a bit of a 'slow go'..and trying to be patient as everyone keeps telling me...
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