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Spinal Fusion Questions and Concerns

Just a quick reason why I decided to post on this forum is after my third back surgery I'm having issues. In the past I've had three lumbar diskectomies.Every time after the surgery I tried to get back to an active lifestyle but due to a compressed S1 nerve root I have radiating nerve shocks in my foot and sciatic pain STILL.Now my nuerosurgeon is reccommending a spinal fusion called lumbar interbody spinal fusion.As obvious as this this news is to anyone in my position.Simply put, I'm freaking out.So many questions are stirring in my mind: when can I go back to work, will the fusion even help me, how long is recovery and on and on. I' m only 38 year old male that considers myself healthy because I eat healthy, workout, and don't smoke or drink.Hopefully I'm not disabled for the rest of my life from this disk problem.I pray that God gives me guidance and wisdom to make an educated choice to move forward with the fusion.

chris Brosowske


  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 724
    edited 01/16/2016 - 3:24 PM
    Spinal fusion surgery can be a tough road... but in many cases it's the only way to get your life back. I've had 2 lumbar fusion surgeries in the past 3 years and it's no walk in the park. Both of my surgeries have been PLIF but if I had to do it again I would ask for a TLIF procedure... it just seems like from what I read the back muscle trauma is much less with a TLIF. Ask your surgeon about the different options... there are at least 4-5 different surgical procedures for fusion surgery. In both cases it took me about 12 months to get fully back to normal... but you are much younger than me so your recovery will likely take much less time. However having said that even at your age it could take some months to recover... be prepared for the worst so you won't feel frustrated or disappointed with the slow recovery process. It's a bone FUSION process... and bones grow VERY slowly even at a young age. Be prepared for the possibility that ALL of your current pre-op nerve pain will still be there after surgery... it's very unpredictable. This doesn't mean the surgeon did anything wrong... it just means your nerves are still inflamed/irritated and sometimes it take a longgggg time for them to calm down. On my first surgery I woke up with ZERO nerve pain and on my second surgery it took 4 long months before the nerve pain went away. The physical recovery can be tough... but the mental part of the recovery can be even tougher for some... with frustration... despair... disappointment... depression. Keep a positive attitude and use this site to help share your ups and downs… your doubts and concerns… everyone here is in your same boat and can relate... one of my friends equates it to kinda like AA therapy for busted backs. Good luck...
    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
  • Hi, I just recently joined less than a week ago. I've had back issues since 1999. I had a procedure (non invasive IDET) in 2002. Held me off for several years throwing my back out on occasion but would recover in about 2 weeks. After my 2nd pregnancy and delivery, and horrific back pain during, I ended up with no choice but to see a surgeon. Started with what I thought were heart attacks. Pain in chest arms numb and tingling etc and severe low back pain. I ended up in surgery very quickly due to the severity of pain and spinal fluid bring blocked from herniations in my neck. A week after C5-C7 fusion I was back under the knife for L5 S1 fusion. Came out about 6 hours later with almost my entire lumbar stabilized and fused. A week after, the wound continued to ooze aND back under the knife for exploration and flush to prevent infection. What I thought was one of the most brutal things ice ever dealt with. Horrific recovery. Sad to say I've had that plus discographies and injections and both SI joints fused and rhizotomy and on and on. Over a year in non progressing physical therapy, bone stimulator, tens unit and aquatic therapy. After a year and a half of pain management and all listed above plus much more, I now have a spinal cord stimulator. Although my previous surgeries left me in the most horrific pain, the thoracic laminectomy to place the paddles for the spinal cord stimulator was just as horrific if not worse. I am still struggling with severe pain and being disabled from the pain, can't sleep, eat, and struggle to be a stay at home mom and wife. My life I feel has been robbed from me. My joy is hard to find most days but thankfully I find it in my children and my supporting family abd God. Medication is just as big of a battle as the surgery as just like surgery, there is no "one size fits all" not even one size fits most. In my opinion back surgery is a life changer. I thank God for those who have received relief. I've not yet been fortunate to get there as of yet aND face amother surgery for ALIF. Remove the non fusion at L5 S1 (plate and screws)and put in a cage fusion system. The risks have me terrified. I've been through what I feel is hell and back and then hell and back and still fighting. I don't know if I can continue ti live in my current pain however I'm not sure I'm prepared for the risks. 1 to 10 or 1 in 100. Still a chance. A chance I'm trying to become as educated as I possibly can on. Sorry so long..... Bottom line is I would say to seek out your options with several opinions and do your homework. I would be 99.9% confident that you know where or what the source of pain is begore doing anything. Many things mimic each other and you need to prevent unnecessary surgery at all cost. Sorry for being long winded. I signed up to vent while researching but it's not working out to well. Thought it would make me feel better but I truly get frustrated at all of the lives deeply affected by back pain abd or surgery and failed surgeries. Ugh. Prayers for all. Hope my story has helped a bit. I've had a lot of stuff done and with great failure. I've conquered weaning off of serious meds several times and fight through the pain. I wish you all comfort abd successful treatment. Do you homework for your own sake! It truly helps when you are educated and can ask the right questions. Pen and paper have been my best friends since September 2014.
    Just As I Am
  • I had lumbar fusion of L5-S1 PLIF almost 11 weeks ago. My dr said I could go back to work at 2 weeks and would feel great - but recovery for me has been a slower road. I went back on a reduced schedule about 4 weeks post surgery. Even now, I work some from home, and as I can depending on pain level. Sitting at my desk is painful, and my energy level is down. Some people bounce back much quicker. For me, it has been a tough recovery so far. I am 34 and healthy except back issues. I had spondylosethesis at L5-S1. I have other issues in various discs, but my surgeon recommended only fusing one right now because I am so young. My experience probably isn't very helpful as it is still relatively early, and I have yet to see if it will help me get my life back! I am still in a lot of pain right now. Good luck - whatever you decide!
  • I have had degenerative disc disease since my early 20's and am now 55 ...I had a PLIF l5-s1 fusion in 2007 when I was 37. At the time it Was the best thing I did....now here is what happened...over the course of the years that followed my upper discs became worse as did the stenosis, not as a result of the fusion though. in sept. of 2015 my back pain had become very bad again from the upper levels l2 thru l5. mri reavealed stenosis and 2 herniated discs. any way just 10 days ago I had a 4 level laminectomy along with 2 fusions and hardware replacement of the original l5-s1 fusion because the hardware had become loose..!!! what I can say is take time to write down as many questions and concerns you have and go over them with your doctor....I can tell you that I was reluctant to have back surgery again, but could not stand the pain and limitations I had from it and it wouldn't get better....also I changed the way I did a lot of things after the first surgery and will again after this one I ad 10 days ago....for me I was not willing to suffer from the pain I had and was unwilling to live on pain meds..so I decided to go ahead and do it again
    Good luck with your decision and the surgery if you decide to go that way,,
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Welcome to Spine-Health
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    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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