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L5 S1 Fusion Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello to all I am fairly new to this blog thing, Ive read alot of the comments on this blog, and to say that it is not nerve recking would be an understatement. Anywho I am curious as to what to expect after having a L5/S1 level one fusion surgery. Alot of the post I have been reading mainly talks about multi-level fusions. Just a little bit about myself, I am a single mother 29yrs of age with a 9yr old son. I am a States Correction OFficer for one of the toughest jails in New Jersey. Before the pain I was able to work out on the regular without experiencing pain, I was able to walk long walks without excruitiating pain in my legs and ankles. It is even hard for me to take a drive longer than 20 to 30 minutes without cramping up. I love to dress up with stilettos and all that other girly stuff. I am unable to wear any type of shoes due to the pain. If there is anyone out there that has had ONE LEVEL FUSION that can shed some light on what to expect it would be greatly appreciated. I am looking for information on how long for recovery, how long before I can drive, how long before I can be normal again. I know things take time so I am just looking for an estimate. Thanks and Praise and Blessings


  • I had surgery over a week ago now. I will say the first week will be the hardest, at least it was for Me. Now I can feel My strength getting better and better as each day goes by. The key is going to be finding out what meds are going to work for You. It took them awhile fro me the first 4 days to get the right stuff in Me, so hopefully You wont have that problem.

    Dont expect to be driving for awhile either or wearing stilettos for at least a month or so.
  • Have you checked out the recovery posts? You will see a wide variety of experiences.

    Here is just a very quick overview of how things went for me. One level PLIF fusion 8/21/08 L5-S1, hospital stay for 5 days, TSLO brace, laying flat, walking as much as I could tolorate and occasionally sitting up for the next month, constant pain meds for the first 3 weeks, as needed after that. Pre surgery pain was initially gone right away, but nerve pain and other pain came back at about 4 weeks. Oh, yeah how could I forget, I have been bored out of my mind for the last 6 weeks, the first 4 weeks I was so tired from the meds, now I am going nuts,lol.

    Doctor gave me permission to drive up to 20 minutes after I stopped pain meds. But remember you cant twist to look behind you while parking, this makes it tricky, unless you are really good using your mirrors,lol. I still have my restrictions and TSLO brace at 10 weeks, although others have had them lifted sooner. My kids (11 and 13) and hubby were a great help too, which is definetely a plus.

    I work in acute rehab and with autistic kids, I havent even considered going back to work yet, especially due to the possibility of restraining kids.

    It is a very long recovery road for most. You ask about getting back to normal. HHMMNNN, I dont remember what normal is. Some people say 6 months, some 2 years. There are times I walk down the block or lay there and have no pain, Yippy. Other times I feel just like before surgery. Just need to be patient and take every day as it comes. Its not a quick fix!!

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  • Hi Single Mom, I had a one level fusion at L4-5 on August 5.
    I was in the hospital for 5 nights, had a catheter for 1 day, pain pump for 3 days, walked on day of surgery. I came home with a walker, elevated toilet seat, grabber, TLSO brace. I was only to sit for 10 minutes per hour, increased to 15 min after 2 weeks. I had help at home for about 10 days after discharge. I started driving at 3 weeks timed when I hadn't taken meds and only for short trips as my sitting restriction was 15 minutes. I walked and rested in bed with small amount of sitting for the first 6 weeks. At 8 weeks I weaned out of the TLSO over 2 weeks. I am now 13 weeks post-op. I have been going to PT for 5 weeks. I can do most things now, just need to be cautious with bending, lifting, twisting. I have some old pains and some new ones, but I can walk without limping and my back doesn't crunch anymore(it used to with any slight movement). I am probably progressing faster than some as my doctor is pretty proactive, he likes to get his patients moving and back to work. He lifted all my restrictions at 8 weeks out. I am going back to work in 2 weeks. It will be 3 1/2 months since surgery. I am a RN in post-partum. Hopefully I will do okay. I am worried about the 12 hour shifts and plan on being extra careful with my back.

    This is definitely a long haul recovery. My NS says it is the most painful op he does except more levels are more painful. He said you will regret it for 2 weeks, then you will start to feel better. I have read that it is harder than open heart surgery and knee replacements. Not trying to scare you, but just know it takes time to get through it. You really have to be dedicated to getting better, to following all your instructions, and trying to do everything you can to make your recovery successful.

    Have you tried any conservative treatment, like injections, or PT. Surgery is a major decision. I believe if you have exhausted all other options and your pain is affecting your ability to function and have quality of life, then surgery is the next step. It is a very individual decision. I recommend you keep a notebook and write down all of your questions for your surgeon. I keep an ongoing one between appts even now, and when I think of something, if it can wait, I write it down so I will remember to ask at my next appointment.

    Good-luck to you with your surgery. Keep us posted on how you are doing. When is surgery by the way? Take care,
    >:D< Cali-Sue
  • I had my L5/S1 single-level fusion with facet bolts on Monday, August 18. I came home Wednesday afternoon with a hard TLO brace, walker and raised toilet seat. I already had a cane and grabber waiting for me at home.

    Everything was difficult for the first week. However, by the end of the second week, I was walking close to 1 mile per day, though very slowly. By the time I had my 5 1/2 week follow up appointment, I was walking 4-6 miles per day. At the appointment, they switched me to a lighter, soft corset brace, said I could start swimming and gave me permission to drive when not on my pain meds.

    For me, the swelling really went down around week 7 or 8. That, combined with the brace change triggered occasionally painful muscle spasms which are still with me. Muscle spasms are a normal part of the recovery process. I am now taking a muscle relaxant to help with this issue. Also, the muscle spasms have forced me to cut back on my walking and swimming.

    Sitting is still a big issue. I can sit comfortably for an hour at a time, maybe an hour and a half. I can sit longer if I use ice.

    As others have said, recovery is a long, gradual process. The best approach is NOT to wake up each day trying to determine if you feel better than the previous day. If you do this, you will drive yourself crazy. Instead, it is better to compare week-to-week and then month-to-month, when it is much easier to see progress.

    After going through this surgery, you have to focus on yourself. It may seem selfish, but you will only cause yourself problems if you try to go beyond the restrictions provided by your surgeon.

    When can you expect to be back to "normal"? I'm not trying to scare you, but you may not ever get back to the normal you remember before your back troubles. Chances are you will reach a new level of "normal" that allows you to do all your regular daily functions pain free. However, you may have to limit some activities to protect your back.

    When will this happen? Many people estimate full recovery takes a minimum of 6-8 months and could take up to 2 years. When can you return to work? It depends on each individual and the requirements of their job.

    Talk to your surgeon about all of this before the surgery. They can't guarantee anything, but will be able to give you a good idea of what to expect based on your particular situation.

    Good luck!
  • Hello All,

    I would like to thank all of you for the response back to my post. I am aware that it would be a long recovery, it just worries me that there is hardly ever any positive feedback on most Forums. I am trying to get my mind set so that I can be prepared. As for the disc replacement, Ive had two opinions and both doctors were highly recommended to me. One doctor did offer for me to have a disc replacement due to my age. After researching the disc replacement I found that it is not guaranteed and that it could last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. I dont know about anyone else but I just couldnt bare going through that again. Although I do know that the fusion may not work. I am more confident in the fusion than I am in a disc replacement which is fairly new in the US. Ive tried everything from Epidural Injections to Sacrial Injections (sorry if spelled wrong) to PT. I am just tired of living like this. And I am always tired for no reason at all. This is not like me. In my line of work I wear a very heavy duty vest for 8 hours a day or sometimes 16 hours depending. It is just painful and it feels like i am going to collapse sometimes. All of your responses has helped me so much and I wish all of you the best in your recoveries. Praise and Blessings and please keep me posted on your recoveries. As I will do the same. SingleMom19
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  • Just wanted to mention, that there are tons of people with good results! They go back to normal activties and back to work, etc.... Once someone moves on they may not stick around the message boards, so you dont get responses from them. They are out having a good time doing what they want to do!

  • I had a one-level fusion in June and I think I am doing great. I'm job hunting now, but I do administrative work only, so I don't have the physical requirements like you. I believe I am a success story--pain in legs and butt gone completely. It just takes a long time to recover completely, but I can do most things I want to do except things that require a lot of bending...I'm not ready to try that yet! I still get really tired quickly. I'm limited to lifting up to 20 lbs., but I really don't try to lift that much. Let me know if I can help!
  • I had my 360 fusion (anterior/posterior) on September 26, 6 hour surgery. Spent 4 days in the hospital, came home, and by the end of the first week home I was taking care of myself just fine. I am also a single mother, and my son is Autistic.... But I was fine. I'm 6 weeks post op right now and all my pre-op symptoms are gone, I feel great. I am a rare exception, I guess, though. I have never heard of anyone having a recovery like mine. But I kept a really, really positive attitude with high expectations the entire time. It helped a lot.
  • Thank you all so very much, is there anything that I should prepare or do before the surgery any suggestions. And what did your doctors tell you about Nerve Damage. Is it a definite or is it a 50/50 chance. THanks again. :)
  • I was told, by one of the top Neurosurgeons in the U.S. (he's got the plaques in his office proving it. LOL) that nerve damage depends mostly on how long the nerve is impinged and to what degree the pain/weakness/numbness is. When I reherniated my disc, I had near foot drop and my right foot was like, useless. Leg kept going numb, had no strength in my right foot, couldn't bend it up or back or even pick it up... Was tripping over it. So I saw my surgeon Thursday evening, and they moved my fusion up to Friday morning. They wouldn't leave it, because of the risk of permanent nerve damage. They say their cut off is 6 weeks when it is that severe, but they won't risk more than they need to... For them, it goes by days. They do the surgery ASAP if you have foot drop or severe weakness. Pain... I don't think they rush on that. I had Sciatica for over a year and a half before my fusion surgery. All my weakness and numbness was gone as soon as I woke up from surgery... But it was only impinged for a week... (I stupidly waited to call when I reherniated because I thought I was being paranoid). So who knows what would have happened if they'd left it longer... If they couldn't move the fusion up, they were going to do another MicroDiscectomy that morning instead, then the fusion later on. They just were NOT going to leave it, no matter how they had to go about getting the pressure off. So my doctors take nerve impingement with weakness very, very seriously. If that answers your question at all. Lol.
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