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Any GOOD Spine Fusion Stories?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,625
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:21 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am bummed. Been dealing with a couple ruptured discs in my lower spine. My fault. Do not know what number they are, just in my very lower spine. After two years of pain meds (I am up to Oxycontin from my Pain Management Dr) and a failed epidural (4th one), I went to a Neurosurgeon. Did the rehab thing too.
He showed me my MRI film. Not good. Not only do I now have two ruptured discs, I have a third severely degenerated/-ing. He said I need a spine fusion. He also said before he does surgery, I must get a second opinion. I thought that was kinda cool? He said if he does the surgery, I would be in the hospital a couple days and up to six weeks in a back brace? I wear one now half the time! He comes very highly reccomended.
The more I think and read about it, the more paranoid I am getting. My mind is already trying to talk my body outta doing this!! I am only 39!!! Why ME?!?!
I can manage the pain 85% of the time with the meds. 15% of the time if I sneeze or breathe wrong, I am in miserable pain for up to six weeks.
I am not reading about too much success here? I am scared I may be worse off after the surgery. I guess I am just scared...
Anyone had a good fusion with a great recovery and no regrets??????
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1

Comments

  • You will see a lot of people talking about their problems following surgery because people without problems don't have anything to talk about. :) Don't let that scare you. Most back surgeries are successful, and really, that doesn't mean the people posting here have had UNSUCCESSFUL surgeries, just that they're experiencing something uncomfortable and wish to get other people's views or support.

    Yes, you're only 39, but you will see 20-something's in here that have had multiple surgeries. Why you? Why NOT you is also a fair question.

    All my best to you. Continue reading and you'll see many success stories that should encourage you.
  • Saw your pic with your dog! I had to take mine to the E.R. Vet a couple months ago. He was diagnosed with lower back pain and inflamation!! We were both laid up at the same time on pain meds and such. They say it is a common problem with his breed cuzz they have such a long back. Plus I am sure yours likes to sit upright all the time?
    What a pair we are (Scooter and I)...
  • Hi, I'm only 39 and I had a lumbar fusion on June 24th.
    Tess is right, you are only reading the stories with problems because the ppl without problems usually dont bother writing anymore.
    My fusion went along perfectly. I'm not gonna lie, theres a couple weeks where you are in alot and I mean ALOT of pain to the point where you wish you never had the surgery. After that though, I could feel myself getting better and stornger each week. It's been 5 weeks now and I have virtually no pain and can walk a mile a day. The only pain I have is after I walk the mile my hips get a little sore.
    My incision healed perfectly with no infection or irritation.
    Not everyones surgery is bad, trust me.


    Best Wishes,

    Christina :)
  • but they were expected, after all this is my 13th orthopedic surgery (wrist, elbows, shoulder (twice), knee (3 counting replacement) and this is the second one on the back. So yeah, it hurts and you tell yourself "Why did I do this?" and then you have those moments (sometimes only a few of them) that you don't hurt and you know why you did it.
    I am down to pain pills only at bedtime - to make up for all the sitting, walking and mess I have done during the day.

    Don't give up it does get better and then we all know why we did it.
  • I had lumbar L5-S1 fusion in mid may. Friday I go for my 3 month check up. After that, P.T. because I have been under a no lift, bend or twist order (BLT).
    My sciatia before the surgery was severe that at times I could not stand or walk for longer than 2 minutes. Now, I can stand and walk with 98% of the pain gone.
    The problem of the surgical pain is still with me and I am told that it is 6-12 months before complete recovery.
    It is true, the pain immediately post-op
    is Horror movie quality. I am not going to lie. Now, I still have major issue with lying down and getting up in the morning. Extreme, stiffness but the recovery time is improving.
    I would say, get the surgery, your young and should have your life back. A year of recover is long worth the years of continued pain IMHO
  • Well, I thought since I am doing so well that I would tell you about my recovery. I had a 1 lvl. L5-S1 360 fusion on June 19th. I was in the hospital for 2 days. I spent the next week in bed and slowly started getting up and walking around. I can walk about 1/2 mile now. I might be able to walk more, but I really do not want to jeopardize my recovery. I am doing very very well. I am doing much better then I ever antisipated. My back doesn't hurt. Thats the first time in 15 years! 15 long years!!! I am only a month out so I hope everything stays the way it is, but if I keep doing as the NS said I believe I will do very well. I have to stop myself from doing too much because I feel so good. I did have an internal stitch that sneeked out and almost gave me an infection, but I caught it in time and it is about 80% healed. Not to jinx myself, but I'd say that I am a success story. I know that it may not be a complete fix in the long run because of my age. I am only 31yrs. old and my NS predicts that I will have problems with my other levels above and below the fusion, but for now I am going to live my life to it's fullest. I haven't been able to do that in a very long time and I will appreciate every pain-free moment that I have. If I have one or two years of quality life before the other levels start to bother me it will still be the best decision that I made and it is worth every penny.

    I wish you all the success that I have had and thank everyone for being there when I needed them.

    With Love,
    Jessica
  • My story is one of near 100% perfect recovery, and if you click on the link below you can read about lots of members good surgical outcomes :)

    http://www.spine-health.com/forum/good-news/many-successful-surgical-patient-outcomes

    Keep positive!

    Bruce

    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • Hi Aviator & my other Spiney Friends! We're home from Montana/Wyoming & I feel soooo much better now, at 24 weeks-so this whole ordeal seems to be more & more "worth it" as I heal...saw my NS this week for x-rays & there's more new bone, so that's good...pain still daily, but mostly weak muscles now & "shifting loads" as the fusion area "sets-up" and the other levels are called into action...all normal, all OK (accord to NS) Leg/foot nubmness is less, surgery sit pain is almost gone & hip marrow punch misery is GONE, thank the Lord! :) That was a buster!! So was the 1st month..& of course it was Misery City right after surgery..but that's all expected & they give you great meds...

    So Aviator, re your query: I have no regrets. I may have "traded" some types of pain for others & my back will never be perfect again (of course) but looking back to January & assessing myself NOW, I am soooo much better AND better-off (spine is now straight, bad disc is gone & new bone is filling in, etc) than b4. So take stock, do your research, talk to people & your docs & then LISTEN TO YOUR BODY...As Cosmic says, "live life to the fullest" & if your back pain is preventing you from doing that, go for the fusion---it has allowed me to return 80% to my former life (and @ only 6 months out, I am expecting greater progress as time goes by) and I feel better each week! :)

    Caution: It's a VERY SLOW recovery, tho--& you must give it TIME...but you are young & strong, you should do just great!

    All the best--keep us posted~

    ~~ Lakeside
  • Welcome back Lakeside. I hope your hubby let you ride up front for some of your trip.

    Aviator,

    I am the prime example of a slow recovery, but I have recovered. After being fused throughout my lumbar region, I went a whole year without any real, significant recovery. I'd push myself until I felt discomfort and then stop. I never seemed to be able to go beyond a certain point. However, in the last 3 months I pushed and pushed the discomfort and found that it went away soon after I exercised and walked. From walking only a few tenths of a mile in April, I regularly walk 3 miles non stop at least 5 days a week. I can now lift or bend with no pain, and I can even stand for some time without discomfort. Will I ever be like I was before the fusion? I doubt it but thats because I now have 10 screws, plates and rods in me that weren't there before.

    Dick
    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • I don't at all agree with those who assert without any evidence whatsoever that:

    1) Most spinal surgeries are successful.

    2) Most people with successful outcomes don't bother to post.

    Don't be mistaken. Do your own research and you will find that the medical community does a negligent job of correlating statistically across time surgeries to outcomes. In fact, nominal evidence is at best mixed when it comes to correlating major spinal surgeries to improved pain management.

    In my case, I was an avid athlete and strong going into surgery. I was sold the most optimistic outcome for a spinal fusion at C5-C6 2.5 years ago when I had experienced a elevated cycle of pain. At UCSF, a top spinal institute with tremendous experience, the head of neurosurgery essentially guaranteed exponential relief in pain. For one of the few times in my life, I did not do detailed due diligence and trusted these "experts".

    Well, the surgery caused massive pain that continued unabated for up to a year, nearly destroying my career and ability to support a family. The surgery was a "success". Why? Because I had a successful "union" and was physiologically "perfect", with an ordinary post-operative spine. My doctors ostracized me when I didn't get the desired outcome. Other UCSF doctors expressed amazement that I was counseled into a fusion so quickly...and advised pain medications to deal with a life of pain.

    Well, on my own, not taking any pain medications, I did heal, in defiance of what the medical geniuses predicted. I am now running and playing soccer. I keep in touch with professional athletes who had fusions and get issues from time to time. It never is the same once you have something as dramatic as a fusion.

    No doctor can explain why I was in pain in the first place. So many have theories that absolutely contradict one another. None can cite me statistically decisive studies that with mathematical conviction portray fusions as a good means of pain management. Suffice to say, from everything I have read and studied, fusions are an unquantifiable gamble that can make you better, do nothing, or really make the pain a lot worse. Fusions really are proven in order to prevent paralysis or prevent further skeletal deterioration...which warrants their use...but are unproven for pain management.

    Sorry, but my anecdotal experience is that most people do not get the pain results they need with fusions. Most wind up getting more surgeries and are on increasing dosages of pain medicine, falling into a slippery slope of increasing medical care.

    I also hate to say this, but most positive outcomes I know involved people who were very healthy and strong to begin with. It's one thing for an athlete who suffered a trauma blow to get this versus a person who has developed pain over many years and is not physically active.

    To summarize, my fusion did nothing to change my condition. Thank God I am now back to pre-surgical levels and cycles of pain, where I can live a high quality of life. But, I went through sheer hell just to struggle to get back to where I once was.

    Do your homework. I really mean it that you should study this and ask hard questions. Above all, you have to find a skilled and honest doctor, as a good number simply are not proficient in fusions and dispense them as if they were routine surgeries. Suffice to say, new doctors I am meeting who operate on athletes almost to a man tell me that this is one field of medicine that is plagued by bad doctors. It is absolutely an carpentry endeavor where slight mistakes can cause painful consequences in an area of the body filled with nerves.

    This area of medicine is not deterministic in terms of pain management, particularly when it comes to soft tissue issues and fusions. It is a gamble.

    I got lucky. Nobody still can tell me what happened. Time, God, and luck were on my side.

    Best of luck to you as well. Do what you have to do, but be informed.

    Cheers, Mate
  • Hey Dick--great to hear you're "straining thru" (remember that thread from last winter?) and coming out ahead! Yea!
    Yup, WALKING is key---my NS said that over & over--you can't do enough of it (keep your pain levels in mind, tho) & it is the very best thing for strengthening those bummed muscles & just keeping things loose...

    And yes, I managed to sit up-front the whole 4,759 miles (round-trip) thanks to my understanding honey, lots of ice packs (from the cooler in the backseat) & my TempurPedic seat pad...had a couple of rough spots, but I switched my attention to the gorgeous scenery & soon was distracted...funny what you can ignore after awhile...:)

    Aviator, a successful fusion may give you the wings you need to "fly"--altho you'll be "soar" (haha) for awhile, seems like it DOES work, after all, for many of us.

    Take care!

    ~Lakeside

  • I would suggest you read this article for a primer on how fusions are being discussed in the medical community. I especially honed in on this line:

    http://www.neurosurgery-online.com/pt/pt-core/template-journal/neurosurg/media/ST_0504.pdf

    First, the data indicating a tight correlation between achieving a solid fusion and achieving pain relief and functional improvement are scant.

    Again, I stand by the fact that the medical community cannot agree on this because no statistically significant studies are done to know one way or the other. I applied what I know as a computer scientist and fair mathematician and see nothing convincing. I challenge ANYBODY to prove otherwise.

    Don't get me wrong: there are good outcomes when it comes to pain management and fusions. But there are enough bad stories as well. I simply know too many people who need heavy dosages of morphine, oxycontin, and things like pain pumps because of the surgery.

    It is a mixed bag. But I will tell you this, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have. My surgery in my mind was superfluous. In fact, I have symptoms now that I never have had before...EVER.

    Yes, I am aware that I should be happy and grateful that I can do what some people only dream of doing because I have recovered. I am. But, I will always tell people that there is no "silver bullet". I will also make it clear that it was the surgery that mandated a "recovery", not the original condition.

    That's my stone cold experience on the matter.

    Cheers, Mate
  • Hello all. I'm new here, but have been checking out the site for some time now. It has been almost 8 weeks since my 2-level fusion (L4-S1) on June 9th, and I do not regret undergoing the surgery whatsoever. A little background: I am 28 yrs old, a non-smoker, in good physical shape (former college athlete) and am dedicated to my recovery. My diagnosis prior to surgery was grade 2-3 spondy with DDD at L4-L5 and L5-S1, severe foraminal stenosis and slight disc herniation at L5-S1. I currently walk 3-5 miles each day (I checked with my doc on the distance--it's ok) and have almost NO pain save for a few sore muscles here and there. Before the surgery, I could stand and/or walk for only 5-10 minutes before pain set in and didn't leave, which seemed obsurd to me, being young and in otherwise great shape. I had been in pain for about 3 years, but it had worsed in the past 8 mo. or so.

    I still have a lot of recovering to do, but I would consider my surgery a success at this point. I am so excited to be able to go for walks again and look forward to returning to rollerblading and frisbee golf.

    I disagree with Mate's comment that spinal fusions are unsuccessful the majority of the time. Fusions can be successful in relieving pain when the treatment fits the diagnosis and the patient's symptoms. I read an article (it might be on this site) that said that surgery should not be done if a doctor cannot pin-point the source of an individual's pain, be it a disc, painful motion segment or the like. If the doctors did not know what was causing your pain to begin with, they should not have operated. The first spine specialist I saw recommended surgery right away, but I did not have a good feeling about him. I did PT instead and sought a second opinion. In the end, I did decide to do the surgery, but it was with a more conservative surgeon that I trusted.

    Sorry for the long post. Aviator, I hope you make the decision that is best for you and your situation!

    ~Elle
  • I disagree with Mate's comment that spinal fusions are unsuccessful the majority of the time. Fusions can be successful in relieving pain when the treatment fits the diagnosis and the patient's symptoms.
    One: I did not categorically state that fusions are unsuccessful the majority of the time. I said that there is no definitive conclusion on the correlation between fusions and pain outcomes. I challenge anybody to state that there is.

    Two: Since you make a positive assertion that pain relief success can happen when the diagnosis is correct, please elaborate what these diagnoses are and cite some statistics mapping them to outcome over time.

    Unfortunately, I keep reading even on this site many instances where the surgery is chosen for a specific set of phenomena, only for doctors to later come back with other supplementary issues that hadn't or now need to be dealt with. Again, there is no determinism in this. This is not as deterministic as breaking a leg, resetting it, allowing it to heal, and experiencing no more pain.

    Fusions are not even remotely characterized as such, given the complexity of nerve networks and what possibly could be wrong when it comes to their impingement and irritation. There are legions of patients who have all visible signs of impingement removed and experience escalated pain. Why? Doctor removes source of impingement, stabilizes the area to reduce painful joint movement, so what's the story?

    The only way to really answer these things is for medicine to study and publish these things. I again cite something from the article I just referenced:

    Faith in the power of randomized trials to determine the appropriateness of surgical intervention is touching, but the results of applying the conclusions of such trials has not been encouraging. Surgeon-specific, meticulous, prospective registries with clinically relevant outcomes documented by unbiased adjudicators are far more likely to give us the data we need to determine what combination of factors predict a favorable result in from spinal fusion surgery.

    Finally Elle, you are just 8 weeks out. That is hardly enough time to know your outcome. Again, you have every reason to believe you will maintain progress, given your strength and health before surgery...and the fact that you are doing well to begin with.

    People do turn around with fusions. I know that. I ultimately did. But, a lot of people do not. I'm not going to mislead anybody into a picture that this is easy, routine, and mostly about success. It is a clouded and controversial picture.

    Cheers, Mate
  • Ah yes, I must say you're right about the first point; I didn't pay enough attention to your comment about having specific evidence of spinal fusions being successful in relieving patients' pain, etc. I don't have statistics to back up my statements; I mostly wanted to share my opinion and my experiences thus far. The topic is good fusion stories after all. However, there was the one part of your original post that floored me, so I felt compelled to comment on it. The fact that no doctor could explain to you the source of your pain sent up a red flag in my head (again, only my opinion). The article to which I was referring has a link on the home page of this site. I believe it's called Spinal Fusion: A brief history, but I might not have the exact name. I do know that the article discusses the indications for fusions (lumbar, not cervical, however), which I found to be helpful, general information. I am not a medical authority, so I certainly do not have expert advice on the matter.

    As for my own experiences, I consider my surgery to be a success thus far because it has significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated the pain in my lower back, glutes, and legs. Each person might define success with his/her surgery and recovery differently, of course. I can't tell for certain what pain I might have in the future, but in the meantime I will continue to follow my doctor's recommendations and I choose to be optimistic about my recovery.

    ~Elle
  • Elle

    Good points and, believe me, they are well received.

    ;)

    As is obvious, I have checkered feelings on the medical profession because of what I went through. I don't want anybody else to repeat my mistakes, so I am vocal about fusions being pushed as reasonable pain solutions.

    Again, you and I are "success stories", so I am not trying to dissuade people on emotionalism. But, as a rational man, I really am baffled that the medical profession cannot back up their claims with regards to fusions and pain management.

    Actually, what am I saying. The medical profession has a lot of dissent when it comes to fusions. I simply urge everybody who is considering a fusion to get the whole story...and to demand from their doctors how they track successes or failures...in terms of pain, and not in terms of physiological phenomena like a "successful union".

    I will always offer support and encouragement to people once they have had these surgeries. But I would be remiss not to warn them in advance to do their due diligence.

    Cheers, Mate
  • Thats your story. We all have our own stories. Yes it's true that some ppl dnt have a happy ending but its also true that some do.
    Noone can forsee how this surgery will effect different ppl. It's a game of russian roulette that's why a fusion is a last resort.
    You say the NS pushed you into the fusion but it was up to you to get second and even third opinions.
    For myself as I'm sure for lots of other ppl on this forum the fusion was and maybe still is the last resort.
    Taking a chance on this looks pretty good when you're living in immense pain to the point where it effects the quality of life. So no Aviator, this surgery isnt a guarantee but it looks alot better than being in a wheelchair when your 40.

    Best Wishes,
    Christina :)
  • Noone can forsee how this surgery will effect different ppl. It's a game of russian roulette that's why a fusion is a last resort.

    This was exactly my point.

    ;)
    You say the NS pushed you into the fusion but it was up to you to get second and even third opinions.

    I did not say I was pushed. I said I was misled misinformed. I put my trust in several doctors and nurses who sang songs of sixpence and pockets full of rye! Yes, I should have gotten many more opinions, but I would have discovered exactly what you just stated, which is what I know now: this is Russian roulette when it comes to pain management.

    Cheers, Mate
  • interesting thread,

    mate, i totally appreciate your point of view as you have some excellent points. Quite clearly the need for any surgery if not black and white and there are alot of areas of gray, no more than in the surgical treatment of lower back pain.

    with fusion surgery unfortunatley one of the best studies would be completely unethical as it would be randomised double blind placebo controlled study with patients blinded and randomised into fusion surgery and or surgery but not with removal of disc / fusion (e.g. incision is made, hospital stay,,,blah blah but no actually surgery is performed on the spine itself). this im sure would be an eye opening experience as i bet that there would be a good chance of no significiant difference between the outcomes in the two groups??? one would hope that the fusion group would have better outcomes but as fusion does not fair better than conservative therapies over medium and long term studies one could be sceptical???

    As you highlight, it is so important that people do due diligence before opting for surgical intervention. the only time lumbar surgery is NOT elective is when there are changes in bowel/bladder habits and /or progressive motor weakness, everything else is elective and due diligence must be done.

    these are some things i thought about:
    Firstly, does my clinical picture correlate to a particular anatomical source. Secondly, does medical imaging show pathology of that particular anatomical structure. Thirdly, lets double check that and see if we can either mimic the pain or take it away with less invasive options (i.e. discogram, nerve root block, facet blocks). Forthly, what conservative options are available to treat this problem (i.e. PT, osteo, exercise, time!). Fifthly, lets try some more conservative therapy as just because one doesnt work doesnt mean another wont. Sixthly, do i actually want to get better, this may seem harsh but so often people are attached to their pain/problem and superficially they may want to get better but deep down they are attached to it and dont want to - the power of psychology is amazing...

    what is als important to realise is that degeneration is a naturally occuring thing as we age so you can expect to see things on an MRI that may not be 'normal'. just because these show on MRI does not mean that they are causing your pain and/or need to be fixed surgically. And, when pain is being caused by a structure, there is no strong correlation between the damage to the structure and the amount of pain being caused so in cases where there may appear little damage, there could still be lots of pain...


    it is fantastic that people come on websites such as this to learn more about their condition and possible treatment options.

    good luck with your decision

  • Well said all around. But hell, I would be happy if basic statistics were kept on all fusions patients that tracked long term outcomes.

    This easily can be done given today's computing technologies in databases and storage. I would give anything to query such databases across a range of groupings by age, sex, gender, type of surgery and so for measures like pain levels, more surgeries, pain medication dosages, and so...all across time.

    Cheers, Mate
  • ps, i am 11 weeks post op and so far doing really well - no pain meds for last week, three weeks before that only paracetamol. I opted for a hybrid fusion (L4/5 maverick disc replacement and L5/S1 fusion) for predominant lower back pain and mild right sided S1 radiculopathy following a wakeboarding accident 18months prior to the surgery (flexion injury). through those 18months my lower back NEVER felt good, i ALWAYS had the same pain and limitation in movement despite trying to aggresively rehab. Conservatively i could manage the areas around (SIJ's; upper lumbars; muscles...) to try to minimise the pain from surrounding structures however THAT pain was always there, sometimes worse than others. Moreso though than the pain which most of the time i could tolerate was the functional limitations...life is there to be lived and i was just lying there watching mine go by...

    Anyway, i do not regret my decision and still appreciate i am VERY early in my recovery. I gave it six months before i truely started to see noticeable improvements.

    Rachel
  • I am 19 and I had a successful fusion when I was 17 For scoliosis to straighten out my spine =]
  • Aviator,
    You will read so much here, so many differning opinions, so many different stories and so many different treatments from different doctors and surgens.

    The biggest thing for you to look at is your quality of life and how it would change with a fusion.

    I am 48 and though I had back pain it wasn't a lot. My main problem was numb feet and legs from stenosis and DDD which meant that I could only stand or walk for 5 mins. This so greatly limited my life. I had to think before I went out anywhere, had to plan my journey as to where I could park? how far would I have to walk. Even going to the supermarket I could only grab a few items each visit.
    I needed a life back and I was willing to take the risk of the fusion (3 levels and scoliosis correction). Basically I was feeling trapped. :(
    Now 12 weeks on I am doing well. Sure I have hiccups now and then and yes I am still on pain killers but all in all I am so happy I had it done. I can walk long distances now and stand for an hour! :jawdrop:

    But for you, if you can manage pain with meds 85% of the time, then are you ready for a fusion? Also check out other options for surgery like an laminectony that isn't so drastic.

    Last bit of advice is to get as fit as possible, if you have surgery then this will benefit you and if you dont it will still benefit you :D

    Only you can make the choice and dont let anyone try to sway you.
    Blessings Sara
  • Mate,
    Thank You for your input. Your line "Other UCSF doctors expressed amazement that I was counseled into a fusion so quickly...and advised pain medications to deal with a life of pain" really struck home for me. This is my "Pain Dr's" advice. One I have been on for over two years.
    I am skeptical about surgery but I know for a fact a few things...
    1. I am tired of relying on pain pills. I am tired of waking up and grabbing for my Rx bottle as soon as I open my eyes. I am tired of making sure I have "enough" pain meds on me if I am going to be away from home.
    2. I saw my MRI films. There is only half a disc where I used to have a healthy one. Two others did not look anything like my healthy ones. I know these discs are NEVER going to get "better" without medical intervention. Period.

    I see no alternative to this surgery. I am tired of sitting on the sideline watching my life pass me by. I am picking up my 15yr old son for a week. He sees me as handicapped. I have to get past this.

    It is funny how my mind has been dealing with all this. As I sit here typing, I am in NO pain. I am thinking, "I am OK, I do not need to do this!" Then I get up for a cup of coffee, move wrong and am brought to my knees in a fraction of time. This condition has to change...
  • First of all, welcome to SH. You're going to love it, and find so much support through the whole "enchalada".

    I had a three level fusion 25 weeks ago. Like many have said, we're not going to lie to you, it's absolutely not a walk in the park. Set your mind to patience, patience, patience, and slow, slow, slow... Your age is definately going to be on your side. So healing may go quicker for you. I'm a 52 year old very active (use to be) female. And since my fusion, it's been all about having a few "come to Jesus" talks with myself, about "Life is just different now" and always will be. I think that was the hardest part of this, but I've finally accepted it. You just do things differently and you just adjust.

    I wasn't released to start PT until I was at 20 weeks post-op from my Neurosurgeon. (First, NS do things differently than Orthopedic surgeons). I've seen on this web-site some people that had their surgery performed by an Ortho, they put them into PT right away, and they end up back in the hospital having repeat surgery. So I think my NS was extremely conservative and smart. He didn't want me doing PT until he saw a lot of fusion taking place in my x-rays. Didn't want screws popping out of bones... :( But that waiting period was very hard, I was wanting to start PT so bad, but he made sense!

    The biggest thing is walk, walk, walk as soon as you're able. It is the quickest in noticing improvements, weekly (not dailey). Walking promotes bone and tissue growth. You can watch a video on spinal fusion on this web-site over on the left side of your screen, and you will see, they do a bunch of damage to tissues, and of course bone. My NS took the bone for my fusion not from my hip, but from the pointy parts above the fusion of my vertebrea (don't know what their called), so some of my pain was caused from taking those tips off, (kinda felt like a broken bone). I was left with a 22" incision, 38 staples, and a "patridge in a pear tree", lol:)

    I was in the hospital for 5 days. From there they moved me to a re-hab center via ambulance, for 7 days to learn how to walk and do stairs. I couldn't walk at the hospital without screaming loudly in pain, then fainting due to pain!! So it was a total of 12 days before I came home.

    They had me on liquid Delaudid at the hospitals, (morophine pump didn't touch the pain), sent me home with a perscription of the same amount but in pill form. Took only a matter of 3 weeks after surgery, and my body became addicted. It was a nightmare!! I went through horrible withdrawals, but with the help of my visiting nurse and PCP, they managed to un-do the situation. It was the worse thing I've ever had to endure in my life!!! SCAREY!!!

    Enough of that, I am now 25 weeks. I was allowed to ride my ATV at 23 weeks. I walk 1-1/2 miles a day EVERYDAY, and ride my stationary bike 15 minutes per day. I just for the first time without my husbands assistance and without CRYING, just last week shaved my legs, that was a huge milestone!!! My hubby was helping with that situation until then. I still can't vaccumme my home, nor lift anything over 8-lbs. We're not suppose to bend, but sometimes in unavoidable, when ya do, it hurts. Or you just do it differently, one leg straight out in back of you. I still do around 3 percocets per day, and take an ambien at night to help me sleep. (oh my god, I just thought, sleeping is a whole other issue, that's REALLY a tough one!!) But you'll find a lot of different tips here on SH. We'll all help you through it, just like they've all helped me!!

    I COULDN'T drive until I was about 8 weeks post-op. Turning to look behind you is murder!!! It still hurts to twist to look around behind me. Just not as bad.

    I could go on and on, but all in all, my original pain is gone!! No more sciatica shooting down my buttocks and legs!! Now it's just the "healing pain from surgery". But it did work, and I'm very optomistic that life will be pretty good about 1 year post-op. (it ain't no six weeks like the surgeon will tell you)

    Just prepare yourself for a long haul, it is extremely slow in healing. But it does heal!!! Good luck...

  • search my name ...

    jtburf

    john
  • You have to do what you have to do. I just wanted to complement the range of excellent and well meaning advice you are getting here.

    We'll be rooting for you in whatever decisions you make. God bless.

    Cheers, Mate
  • I had a very sucessful fusion about 3 years ago. After years of pain I have L2-3, L3-4 & L 4-5 fused. The recovery wasn't easy but I did a lot of walking and did everything the phyical therapist recommended. I have always worked out regularly, even through the pain and that really paid off. 6 months after surgery I climbed a 9,000 foot mountain and hike 16 miles in one day!

    Exercise has paid off big in term of reducing pain and giving me a life back. I still have two more discs that are in bad shape but I'm buying a lot of years with good diet, plenty of exercise and reducing stress.
  • Just going to chime in on how I made my decision, and why I think I am a success story so far:

    For several years after my accident I fully believed that if I could just wait it out I would eventually heal. If I could just give it 2 to 10 years then pain relief rate seemed to be the same for both non-surgical and surgical patients. I read a ton of back surgery stories online and in articles and journals that I had access to.

    Unfortunately my symptoms progressed to the point that I was losing bladder control. It was not until that point that I started to realize that I might be looking at a surgical intervention.

    Then, only after a discogram exactly pinpointed the pain did I full believe that fixing those discs would help me. I tell you, I was worried that in the discogram they would recreate the bladder issue - thank heavens they did not go that far.

    Finally I had to consider what a worst case scenario would be. Was I willing to risk death? Was I willing to risk a life in a wheelchair? Or, in my opinion, the absolute worst case - a life of agonizing pain.

    I had to really think and weigh the possible outcomes. Was the life I was living intolerable enough? I finally decided that yes, life in a wheelchair would be preferrable (I recently spent 6 weeks in wheelchair for an ankle issue - so I knew some of what it would be like). I just really really hoped that a life of pain would not be asked of me - although, what was I living already if not exactly that?? I even prepared myself for death.

    When I woke up from the first surgery I was actually surprised to be still alive. Success, step one.

    When I had zero pain upon waking and then as the surgical numbness wore off to find that the pain down my left leg was gone. Success, step two.

    I had a setback, hemorhage or allergic reaction, whichever it was, my right leg was progressively getting more and more numb. One step back.

    Second surgery, I woke - again! The progression of numbness halted. Forward a step, a big step.

    Now it's just one day at a time. Even if I never get my right leg back, I am alive. I am not in a wheelchair. I have time and I am not in agonizing pain anymore. I'm still working on my success story.

    All I can suggest is that you never ever rush into back surgery. Weigh the risks, do the research and only then make a slow and considered decision for yourself.

  • This has been a good discussion but there are two significant points that have been overlooked in the discussion to date.

    'Fusion' surgery is often not performed in isolation of other surgeries as it not a surgical procedure necessarily designed to reduce pain in isolation - it's primary objective is to stabilise a vertebral joint from moving. Frequently a fusion will be performed in conjunction with another surgical procedure, e.g. a laminectomy, foraminotomy, laminotomy, removal of bone spurs, and it is these other surgeries that are treating the pain symptoms. People too often talk about their 'fusion surgery' without talking about what other procedures were performed at the same time. It can be these other procedures being poorly performed, or not being performed at all when they should have been, which are causing ongoing pain post surgery. Simply stating or implying that "I had a fusion and I have a lot of pain still after my fusion and therefore my fusion surgery was a failure" can be very misleading, if not quite wrong in some cases.

    My second point is that one of the key reasons for performing a fusion to stabilise a joint is to remove or reduce the risk of the underlying condition worsening over time. Whilst in some cases the fusion surgery may not have considerably reduced pain levels it may have stabilised the condition to the point whereby the condition and associated pain levels wont at least worsen.

    I do totally agree with mates comments about the lack of substantive statistics regarding spine surgery outcomes, and I restress a point that really frustrates me with the medical profession and that is their continual obsession with trying to correlate fusion surgery 'success' to how well the bone has fused rather than to how well the patient is feeling after recovering.
    Keep positive!

    Bruce

    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

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