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Anyone have a successful fusion story?


I introduced myself yesterday, and here is my history:

Pain in lumbar spine from 2009.

2010 L3/L4 Disc herniation with cauda equina compression, resulted in L3/L4 Discectomy/Laminectomy (left side)/Decompression.

2013/2014 L4/L5 Disc herniation, resulted in L4/L5 Discectomy/Laminectomy (right side)/Decompression.

Effective medications: Oramorph

Other treatments: Countless epidural steroid injections

Current MRI findings: Arthrosis, spondylolisthesis, and further L3/L4 disc herniation.

So, next up is a fusion. I cannot afford ADR, ,and insurance won't cover it. Fusion is frightening, but does anyone have a positive fusion story? I have been in pain for several years, and I would like to be opiate free. I keep seeing you tube videos (perhaps this is not a good idea) of people with depressing, hopeless, and agonizing post fusion stories. I am determined to have this surgery. If anyone has any tips to keeping your mind positive throughout the experience, please feel free to share.

Thanks for reading.



  • jodiechristjjodiechrist Posts: 2
    edited 01/07/2016 - 1:40 AM
    Hey there,

    Soooo long story short, I've had two lumbar spinal fusion surgeries - the first when I was 14, and the second mid last year, as a 33 year old.

    The first fusion was a success in that before I had it, I couldn't stand up straight and needed a walker with wheels to be able to get around. After this surgery I enjoyed 15ish years of high mobility and much lower pain.

    The second, most recent fusion surgery was warranted by a return to not being able to stand up, walk etc, getting gradually worse over a couple of years. This turned out to be caused by a bone spur, and in the end fusion surgery was performed to remove the spur and do whatever it is surgeons need to do.

    Recover from this second op has been a complete pain. The surgery is a success in terms of removal of the bone spur and alleviating of the original condition, but the spur was so big and in there so long that over six months on I have substantial right leg pain, which is likely to be long term nerve damage.

    My advise is to find medical treatment you can trust, and get onto it sooner rather than later. I wish I had pushed the doctors I saw harder, earlier, so that I wouldn't have this permanent pain now. Instead, I spent years being put off by docs, being told to do pilates and yoga, but no one even really looking at my back to see if anything was physically wrong, and now I'm paying the price and might have to for the rest of my life. In terms of whether I would have my fusions again - absolutely yes I would, but this second one, I would have started the process sooner. I consider my fusions a success, but the GP system surrounding it an absolute shambles.

    Hope that helps.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Welcome to Spine-Health
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    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • I have had lower back pain for over 20 years. I am 48. I was misdiagnosed in 2004 with Ankylosingspondilitis in which I took Methotrexate for 2 years. Supposedly it went into remission. June of 2013 I'd been doing alot of bending over rehabbing a new rental property, then went and worked very hard over a long weekend (Memorial Weekend of that year) I had so much lower back pain that I went to see my PCP and he said that my AS was coming out of remission. Before I could get back on the Methotrexate I was in a meeting at work and experienced a sharp pain, saw a flash of light and my right leg had waves of fiery pain. That was the beginning of 17 months of hell for me.

    By the time I was ready to pack it all in and get L5-S1 fused, I'd had 2 microdiscectomies, at least 7 spinal injections and one SI joint injection. I was on a very high dose of Gabapentin and low dose of Oxycodone(I have a very high pain tolerance). I worked from home part time for most of that.

    I was so ready for fusion that I was up before my alarm, which went off at 5:30. I scrubbed up using the special pre surgical soap. and off we went. I woke up from that surgery feeling very, very sore both back and front (I had a 360 ALIF) but... miracle of all miracles, the horrible sciatica was gone.

    I went home at 7pm that night. I am very hospital phobic and being the end of the year the hospital was packed. I somehow convinced the surgeon that I was right as rain and he let me go. I've never experienced so much pain in my life the first 3 days, but then slowly, slowly my recovery began. It was glorious and has now been over a year. I still have minor nerve pain and my right foot and outside calf are still numb (likely permanent). I am no longer able to bend over as far as I once could but oh to be rid of that horrible sciatic pain. It is so creepy and distracting and is the only type of pain that makes tears stream down my face against my will. Without the Gabapentin who knows what I would have done.

    It was well, well worth it to me and I wish I'd not delayed the surgery so long. I know I am likely going to wear out the level above at some point, but I hope that is many years away. My surgeon says no smoking, dont gain weight and stay active. I have no medical restrictions at all!

    Note: up until the day before surgery I went to PT twice a week and though in crippling pain, my PT Dr. who is a spine rehab specialist kept me in good enough shape that I could still do pushups.

    I wish you the best of luck. I was at my wit's end.
    Massive rupture at L5-S1 July 2013
    Emergency microdiscectomy L5-S1 July 2013
    Revision microdiscectomy L5-S1 Feb 2014
    ALIF 360 L5-S1 Dec 2014
  • 2006 I had emergency laminectomy of L4/5- by neurosurgeon. Not successful

    2008 with Orthopedic surgeon full fusion L1-S1 complete success. Residual nerve damage in right calf due to waiting too long to have surgery.

    Now I waited 18yrs to have the surgery because I was waiting for the technology to improve.

    I went from partial paralysis to back to work in 12wks. Use an orthopedic surgeon.
  • I also have spondy with a pars fracture, either the spondy or the fracture excluded me from the idea of an artificial disc, can't remember which. People constantly brag to me about their artificial disc, but I just shrug, because with my injury that wasn't even in the picture.

    Like the above poster, i waited a long time for everything to improve, tried just a discectomy...etc, and 13 months after the main injury when I could no longer walk well, I had the surgery. I am only 9 weeks out but I am much much happier. I still have some pain and some deficits, but they are steadily improving. The only things I'm limited right now are lifting and bending. I feel not very recovered because I can't yet train for long distance running or swimming, but in general most people don't want to tear it up on the track like I do. I am certainly able to go on long hikes, and this week spent the entire week inspecting a hospital- on my feet 8 hours a day walking...I was very tired, but my back held up fine. Because I had such an enormous amount of nerve entanglement, I did go with a Neurosurgeon, but honestly any surgeon who is qualified in spine the you like is the one to go to.

    The thing that really helped me was to focus on what I would be able to do immediately after the fusion. WALK. I cried when I was allowed up to walk that first time... I just focused on the outcome. I found the recovery from my fusion to be not that bad... I was back at my job (mostly a desk job) in 3 weeks. I know a lot of others who did not find the recovery to be all that easy, but I've had a bunch of hip surgery and running injuries, so it was just like one more recovery cycle. So I guess your results there may vary...
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