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ALIF Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Lower Back Pain
I'm having ALIF surgery on Nov 5th and am pretty nervous. I have been dealing with this spine injury since 1985 and in the last 5 years have been alternating between epidurals and neural block treatments. It's finally reached the point of no return so I agreed to the surgery with a neurosurgeon. Just deciding between and orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon was tough. Has anyone had this and how is the recovery? I have silly questions - like can you wear your own pajamas? How uncomfortable is the brace you have to wear afterwards? Can you drive after two weeks or do you still feeling like dying? I've heard horror stories about constipation and stomach pain. Interested in hearing it all!


  • Hi and Welcome to spine health.
    We are here to offer you support through and after your surgery process.
    We can only give you your own personal experiences and are not qualified to give medical advice.

    Please visit our Back surgery/Neck surgery fourm. It will give you a idea of what people are going through before and after surgery with their recovery.

    Not one single patient is the same. We all heal different.
    I had a PLIF , 1st time I was in the hospital 3 nights and 4 days.
    I was not able to drive, bend, lift, tilt nothing but to walk as much as I could.
    The stomach issues you are hearing about is consitpation from the pain medication. That is where stool softners etc come in. I use duclolax and have no issues.

    Some people have to wear a brace, some not. As for me I do not have one. Not all drs believe in them.

    Recovery is a long one for some. Also depends on whether your going to have stiches, stapels/glue. I had glue with steri strips made it much more comfortable.

    Your most likely going to be able to do things at waist level. Physical therapy will discuss this all with you at the hospital.

    Its normal to be nervous. The toughest part is the sleeping issues afterwards. Getting out of the hospital bed for the first time.
    You will get bored. As you pretty much lay flat or on your side which ever will be more comfortable for you.
    There is a great list of post op must haves at the top of the page of the back/neck surgery fourm.
    We all do not need this stuff at home. I'v only needed the commode and grabber.
    Everything is kept at waist level in the house for me.
    I take care of myself. I have hubby here on the weekends and at night.

    We are here for anything you need. Please contact one of us if you need anyhelp in getting around the boards.
    Here is a link to post op must haves:


    Here is the link to August/Septemer recoveries:


    Hope these links help you out.

    p.s Im in jammies all day. I think I have dressed once since I came home on Sept 19th. But for me this is a tuffer recovery because I had a revision surgery as I did not fuse.
    As for your 2 week question yeah alot of us feel crappy for the first few weeks, some not. Im at the 23 day mark and starting to feel better. But keep in mind I have had alot done to me :)
  • Hello JoAnne, welcome to SH! You have found a great site for information and support. This is a terrific group of people who have been where you are, and have a lot experiences to share. I myself had PLIF last Aug 5. I was in the hospital for 5 nights. I did where my own gown on the third day (waited to be rid of the tubes first, as hosp. gown was easier with IV, etc.) Even at home I found gowns more comfy as no waist band to irritate incision. Oh and just go commando cause undies are just a pain to go up and down at least for a week or two (if they slip down around your ankles while on the toidy you can't bend to retrieve them :))( ).

    As far as braces some docs use them others don't. I had a hard TLSO, at first it seemed uncomfy but you get used to it, and then when it is time to wean from it you miss it cause it gives you support. Other people have soft braces, ask your surgeon what you will have if any.

    Driving, my surgeon said I could drive at 2 weeks with brace on if I felt safe. I did not, and first drove at 3 weeks making sure to time it around meds so not DUI. It was uncomfortable but got better over time. Some surgeons prohibit driving for months even, so it all varies.

    Constipation is an issue even for us posterior fusion patients. Be prepared, have some products on hand at home such as colace, dulcolax supp, MOM, Miralax, prunes, dried apricots, or whatever works for you. Anterior fusion pts tend to have more problems do to going through the front. Walking is the best thing for gas and good for your spine too.

    Do check the post-op must-haves list that Terri mentioned. It is a comprehensive list, and you won't need it all, but it gives you a lot of ideas and gets you thinking ahead. As far as reachers and commodes, most hospitals will provide these during your stay, so you might check before making purchases. Hope to see you in the surgery forum as that is the best place to get some input and experiences about these types of surgery. Good-luck, >:D< Cali-Sue
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  • I totally understand your having lots of questions. I had a "kajillion" and even though I knew some sounded silly they were still important to me - like how and when I would be able to wash my hair and shave my legs.

    Keep in mind that the rate of recovery differs quite a bit from person to person. If you search and read the fusion recovery posts on this site you will see how different recoveries can be.

    I had surgery on July 21 (anterior) and 23 (posterior) and went home on July 25. Other than incision and nerve pain (left leg) the first couple of weeks, my pain has not been bad at all. Because I am extremely sensitive to medication I had to totally stop taking even minimal once a day pain meds and muscle relaxers (Hydrocodone and Valium) after the first couple of weeks because they were making me so sick. But walking and using ice/heat have helped the minor discomfort I have had. I can still feel the hardware and my back muscles certainly tighten up if I do too much or sit too long. A 3 day hospitalization for another issue 3 weeks ago - pelvic/abdominal pain - and the course of antibiotics that went along with that and made me very ill - set my back surgery recovery back over a month in terms of my walking and PT. Where I was walking over an hour a day and going to water PT for 1 hour sessions at 4 weeks, I am now only back up to walking about 45 minutes a day. Stamina/fatigue is an issue but getting better. But at my appt. 2 weeks ago the surgeon pointed out where bone is starting to grow - I was thrilled! I can sit for much longer without discomfort (easily over an hour if I have my pillow for my back) and sometimes don't have to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon to keep from being totally wiped out by 7:00 in the evening!

    I wear my brace - though not as much as I should. It a big clam-shell type and my surgeon is quite insistent that I use it - it is not really terribly uncomfortable but mostly just awkward to wear - and most unattractive! But I do wear it for walking, in the car, or doing stuff around the house that might lead to my bending or twisting by mistake (laundry, etc). My surgeon OK-ed driving at 8 weeks for short distances Also, my husband has been truly wonderful about doing whatever needs to be done and keeping me from reaching or lifting.

    The constipation issue was not terrible for me. I used stool softeners and really worked at drinking lots of water. The pain meds add to this problem so once I stopped taking them all was well in that area.

    You will need help the first couple of weeks. My husband (and also a good friend who was here for the first week after I came home) waited on me hand and foot. I have never really had any illnesses and only one other surgery - a total hysterectomy after which I returned to work in just over 2 weeks (however, that was 14 years ago so I was much younger) - so I was totally unprepared for the reality of this recovery. It is long and boring. Some of the lists on this site have great suggestions for diversions/things to do while you recover as well as suggestions for things you will need during recovery. For example, I never really thought I would use a grabber, but my husband picked up one for me at the hardware store before my surgery and I don't know what I would have done without it.

    Sorry this was so long - but just keep asking questions!

  • think about those grabbers that are advertised on TV? Have you seen the commercial where they are portable and go on and come off very easily? I've thought about buying a set for myself even though I'm not having surgery, that I know of at this time. I just need some! Any opinions? If they seem like they would work, this may be a good idea for Lengyel. They aren't permanent.
  • One thing I forgot to mention that I think made a difference for me immediately post-surgery: Several years ago when I had hysterectomy the pre-surgery instructions were to go on clear liquid diet 48 hours before surgery. Well, when I whined about that, the doc said I would thank him for it after surgery. He was so right! I woke up after the 6-hour surgery starving, asked for food right away and ate with no nausea, constipation, etc. So, for my fusion surgery I decided to do almost the same. The only modification I made was to do liquids for 24 hours and then clear liquids for 24. (The only reason I changed it was knowing I would only be allowed clear liquids for awhile after this surgery and did not want to go any longer than necessary on just clear liquids.) It may or may not have made a difference but after the fusion surgery I had almost no nausea after surgery and no problems at all with gas.

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