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6 months post L5-S1 fusion problems

On Thursday I am going in to another follow-up appointment and I want to be informed about what to ask for, what to push for, and what to be sure to tell the doctor.

I am six months post L5-S1 decompression fusion, with no improvement in sensation or pain, and a great deal weaker than before.

In 2012 the disc was extremely herniated. I had a laminectomy on L5-S1, which was successful until April 2016, when the same disc herniated. The pain was unbearable. I felt like I had third degree burns all over my left foot and shin up to my knee. If even a breeze passed over my foot, I was in tears from the pain, for about the first three months. I had some numbness too, but my muscle control was better than the first herniation, so I went with conservative treatments for a year. PT improved strength and helped with pain (along with TENS unit), but numbness and some amount of pain persisted. A second MRI showed my disc had disintegrated and the vertebrae were sitting right on top of each other. So I got the spinal fusion.

Everything went smoothly with the surgery, but the numbness, desensitization and pain didn't go away.

I expected to be out for a while after surgery, so I made an important research trip to France for three weeks a few months before the surgery. It was painful, but using my back brace and ice on the plane, getting up regularly to walk around or stand in the bathroom (lol) just to avoid sitting, got me through. I was careful and it still sucked, but now a trip like that is not even imaginable and because of that I don't know what to do about my career.

Now I can barely make the hour trip across town on public transit, even if I am standing. My doctor says I should expect not to be able to travel more than maybe 3 hours away for the next year. The pain increases so sharply when I try to travel, it scares me, and it can take days to subside again to normal (for me) levels. I'm doing PT regularly and am gaining a little strength, but nothing else is changing and I am still very weak.

My X-rays showed the cage and screws were in place, but I wonder if I should push for additional imaging that would give more detail about what might be going on. I know nerves heal slowly, but even my doctor said zero improvement in any symptoms over six months does not bode well. Are there other tests or imaging I should ask about? Has anyone dealt with a similar situation of zero improvement after fusion that turned out to have other, treatable causes?

Today my entire left leg is burning, from the ball of my foot to my outer and top of my thigh up to my hip. I don't know why, because I did nothing strenuous over the past few days.

If anyone has advice for this next appointment, it is all very much appreciated.



  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 6,479

    You might need to push for a MRI. If you have nerves just waking up might be cause of the nerve pain you have now. If they are being pinched again, it needs to be looked at.
    Let us know what you find out, good luck

    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
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