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Fusion Surgery



  • Hi Helpless, I had PLIF L4-5 on August 5th. It was very painful, but manageable with pain meds. It is a very long haul slow recovery. My surgeon initially told me 6 to 12 weeks off work. Well, I think surgeons often underestimate recovery times. I went back to work as an RN at 15 weeks post-op. I have a very physical job, so maybe something less active would require less time off work. If you read through these posts, you will find many who were off work 6 months and longer. I think it is very individual, and the doctors expectations vary as well. I was in a clamshell brace for 10 weeks, and went to physical therapy for 6 weeks before returning to work. Good-luck to you. Keep a positive attitude and take a look at the surgery must-have list at the top of this forum, for a lot of good ideas for preparing. Take care, >:D< Cali-Sue
  • I want to tell you my story too, and I hope I don't scare you. Everybody is different and heal at their own rate.
    I had a 2 level TLIF/laminectomy with instrumentation on L4-5 about 7 months ago. This is after I had undergone a microdiscectomy on L4-5 last year that never improved the pain from L4-S1 herniations. I stayed 5 days in the hospital and I used a PCA. The pain was tremendous. Nothing prepares you for that and childbirth has nothing on it. The incision was very sore and I had a drainage tube coming out and the contents of the bag aren't pretty. Thank goodness I had my family there and good nurses that were very attentive. I guess they had to be because I was in ICU. Most of the time is sketchy for me, but I remember being discharged and the ride home was hard. I strongly recommend a large vehicle with good shocks. My immediate post op meds were Fentanyl patches ( I was already on it for months), Norco, Valium, and ambien.
    I kept having severe flares after the incision healed and I had a ct/myelogram. All I was told was that it would take more time. My Fentanyl was raised to help with pain. Around 12 weeks I started PT, but didn't do well and they let me go.
    Currently I'm still on Fentanyl, Norco, muscle relaxers, cymbalta and motrin for chronic pain. It's been a difficult and long journey. I hope that your surgery goes well and you have a successful outcome. Keep in mind that it may take up to 1-2 years to completely recover. This is major surgery and you have to fully commit yourself and be as proactive as possible. I know you can get through this. Take care
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  • Hi Sue, I saw your post in my returning to work thread, but since you elaborated a little more here, I thought I would ask here.

    Who decided when you were ready to return to work? Was it the surgeon, PT, you or your employer?
  • The doctor said due to my age after fusion I should be back in 4 weeks at work and fully back to my self in 6 months.
  • That hopefully being younger your risks of complications are less but be fully briefed on what may go wrong!

    I was and funny enough, got one added problem I hadn't covered. Just be clear in your own mind that this is not a quick fix, it can be 1-2 years recovery - that means bad days, worse days and better days.
    Patience and a good attitude.
    I wish you well. isten to your body and I really hope you bounce back as quick as they suggest!
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  • Hi Helpless

    I was told I probably needed lumbar spinal fusion at 29yrs old. But since I was young we decided the try everything first so after a year and half of shots, pt, epidurals etc.. I had a laminaectomy and 2 level fusion L4-S1 with rods and screws through my back. I was in the hospital 5 days (would have been 3 but I lost a lot of blood). I was prepared for awful pain afterwards but with all the hospitals meds it wasn't that bad. But I won't lie the next 2 weeks sucked. Some pain, mostly uncomfortable, very frustrating, etc.. make sure you have people around to help with everything. The one thing I was not prepared for was the time it would take to recover. The surgeon said, you're young it should be about 6-8weeks. I wanted to buy it, even after reading on here how long it really took some people and my own father(a doctor) who said a year to be normal, I thought I would be back to work in no time. Unforunately at three months I was just beginning PT and no way could work fulltime, I tried at 4 months and lasted about 4 painful weeks and then tried again at 6 months doing part time which has been fine so far. Of course everybody is different so I don't want to discourage you but I think surgeons often give unrealistic timelines. Also I have to say that I'm glad I did it and even though its taking awhile, I really can't complain. I haven't had much pain since the first month just general weakness and siatica flare ups. So even though I haven't gotten back to my regular life exactly, its not like I've been bed ridden or in pain. Let me know if you have any questions and good luck. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner :D
  • Hi, as for returning to work, my surgeon pretty much left it up to me. I saw him at 8 weeks post-op and he said to wean out of my brace over the next 2 weeks and call for a note when I wanted to return to work. I was aiming for 12 weeks since FMLA would run out, but after getting out of the brace and starting PT (which I requested, he wasn't going to order initially) I began to have more pain, especially in my upper back and SI joints. I was paying Cobra so I was kinda in a hurry to get back as it was $578 a month. I was not a workers comp case, so my employer just required that I return without any restrictions. My surgeon would have preferred I work reduced hours, but that was not an option. I think surgeons give these quick return to work estimates to try to keep their patients thinking positive. You know if they told you 4 months to start, no one would go back early. But if they tell you 6 weeks, they get you thinking on a faster time line and perhaps you'll go back sooner. My surgeon is pretty aggressive with getting people back to work. He says being off too long causes depression and other issues. One main milestone for me was getting off narcotics. As a nurse I cannot work on narcotics, so had to be able to go without while working. I am allowed an occassional motrin now as well if I need it. Good-luck, Sue
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