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Hello, 31yr old Male. Fusion scheduled for Jan. 13th....Help!!!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in New Member Introductions

Hello Everyone,

I'm a 31 yr. old male from South Csrolina. My Pain started about 3 months ago and has progressively gotten worse. Sharp pain, dull pain and every other pain on the books. I first saw a neurologist and had the MRI which revealed two degenerated discs,L4-L5. One of the disc, not sure which one, is severely herniated. I stayed with the neurologist through one epidural injection and then went to an ortho. surgeon for a second opinion. Since I know the surgeon personally I decided to switch to him. I had three more injections and the end result was absolutely no relief. His suggestion at that point was to get surgery. After reading some of the posts on the forums here I'm now confused, a little nervous, and still in pain, of course. I've tried some PT but it just hurts too bad to do too much and nothing has relieved the pain what-so-ever. After speaking with the doc about my options, he said I have 3 options, 1)the removal of just the herniated part of the disc. 2) the fusion. 3) Live with it. Obviously, option 3 is off the table. He then told me that he suggested the fusion because in the cases he's dealt with (and it's alot)that are young and active he's seen that by just removing the herniated part leaves the chance of it herniating again and then being back at square one.
My concerns are mainly with the recovery time that goes along with the more invasive surgery (the fusion). My job as a marketer for a hospice does not include any lifing or physical labor at all. I do, however, have to drive from account to account all day, and getting in and out of the car is when my pain is at it's worse until I can walk it off for about 30min. I told the surgeon that my main objectives are to be able to hold my son,play ball with him and walk my dogs. He said that should not be a problem at all once I'm recovered. I know I'm rambling but there's just soooo many thoughts and nerves running wild in my head that I don't know what to do. Any and all suggestions/advice will be greatly appreciated. Looking mainly for actual recovery time and when I can start to drive and get back to work post-surgery. Doc says to expect to be out of work for at least a month until I can effectively drive. Anyone been able to start working sooner?? All advice welcome. Thanks if you read this long blabbering post. Looking forward o some replies.

I should probaly specify that this in my lumbar spine...L4-L5. Pain down my entire left leg, more intense in left thigh thru my shin and foot. Also intense pain in groin area at times.


  • Sorry to hear about your herniated, aching discs. Disc/nerve pain can be unbearable, and the fear of possible loss can be overwhelming. I was reading yesterday about the statistics of which is better: fusion or no fusion over time. The verdict, according to my research, was that there was a slight, though not great advantage of doing the surgery. Some of the people I know: went on to play professional football, returned to being a surgeon after double level fusion, and some felt great and went back to a fairly regular life. Some, on the other hand have regretted the day they walked in the surgeon's door because their fusions failed. So, that being said, make sure you have done your research about fusions as there could be positive or negative outcomes. Recovery times vary greatly depending on age, adjacent segment disease, genes, conditioning going into surgery, attitude, and so on. From the folks I have talked to, a couple of months to four months seems to be common for going back to work depending on what kind of work (but do your homework on that one as I am not a doc--I have only talked to a lot of people). Your youth is definitely on your side! Follow the doc's orders to a "T" after surgery, as people who do that tend to do better in the long run than those that don't. If you are doing well, it is tempting to go overboard and push yourself too soon. I hope and pray that you have one of those miraculously good and speedy recoveries. Let us know how surgery goes so we can cheer you on. In the meantime, merry Christmas.
  • Hi SeaHawk
    I just joined and was about to introduce myself when I saw your post. Viva South Carolina! I was just there for a week last month just before my spine surgery on Nov 26th. I had a bit more than a discectomy, and I am feeling pretty darn good for being 3 weeks and three days out. I am still taking oxycodone post operatively, every 6 hours and 600mg ibuprofen every 12 hours. All in all this was a MUCH easier recovery than when I had surgery on my broken ankle. Everyone is different though, and not all surgeries are a great success.

    My Doc said it would take a full 4-5 months for the fusion to complete, but the back pain would take less time. Everyone is different. I can't imagine you going to work or driving around on oxycodone, but I know some friends who were able to manage their pain with ibuprofen alone, and if you are one of them, you may be able to go to work sooner. I am guessing three weeks may be ok, but you are the judge and you have to trust how you feel and what your body tells you.

    I am an innkeeper and so far I have resumed very few of my duties, which are mostly household chores. I can cook a little and do dishes. I obviously have no trouble using the computer, but must get up and walk OFTEN. I was told not to drive for two to four weeks, but I have made a few short trips after two weeks. No more than 10 miles though. God help me if I get in an accident. I'll post back next week with an update on my recovery. Don't be afraid. Listen to your body.

    Edit - Noticing now that your ailments are all cervical, I think your doctor is wise to tell you 4 weeks until you drive. Driving is harder on the neck than the lumbar, with all that turning to see what's going on. Be careful. Be safe.
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  • Welcome to the forum. I agree with the two post before mine. Every one recovers differently even with the same type of surgery or pain. I think you know if you made the right choice. I don't know if you have the kind of time it takes to read most of the post in this forum but it sure helped me before and after my surgeries. I was so afraid it kept me awake nights and i made sure i had all my affairs in order before surgery just in case. I prayed alot and so did many other people for my surgery and recovery. I am the type of person who refuses to be kept down or out and i pushed myself thru the pain and made myself get well as quickly as i could because i hate being handicapted. I wish you well in your surgery and recovery.
    God bless.

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • Welcome to Spine Health and we're glad to share experiences with you. As you know, herniated discs don't feel good :''(
    I had a 2 level fusion with hardware about 7 months ago. The post op pain was out of this world, and thankfully I had a PCA machine. I was in ICU and spent 5 days in the hospital. It is a big incision and you'll have a drainage tube coming out of your back, and of course you won't be able to lay on it. Don't expect a good night's sleep either. Later on I was allowed to drive in 3 weeks after my first post op visit. I continued to have a lot of pain and had a ct myelogram done. All i was told was that I was fusing well At 12 weeks i started PT but was let go due to no improvement. At this point, I am aware that surgery hasn't worked out and was told there was nothing more surgically that can be done at this time. So now I live chronic intractable pain and take several medications to help me function.
    There are no guarantees when it comes to back surgery. It's a 50/50 educated gamble. Educate yourself fully before venturing into this. Like I was told, some people do well, some stay the same, and some get worse.
    I really hope your upcoming surgery is a success and that you have an uneventful and speedy recovery. Take care

  • Sorry to hear it didnt work for ya. I'm reaaly glad that you posted though. If I get the fusion, will I be looking at the same kind of pain and is 5 days in the hospital normal or were there complications? Man, I really feel for ya, having to live with the pain. Is that your absolute only option or is there hope for future procedures?
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  • I am also in SC. I had an endoscopic microdiscectomy and also laser surgery last year. The reason that I had the laser surgery was to firm and tighten the disc so that it would lessen the likelihood for reherniation. So far, so good. Remember that none of us here on the forum are qualified to give medical advice but you asked for opinions so here is mine. Why not do the microdiscectomy first since it is the least invasive? That may be all that you need. If it does not work than you can always go back and have the fusion. On the other hand if you jump straight into the fusion and it fails, it can never be undone. So, if like some your pain is worsened by the fusion, you are pretty much stuck with it. My motto is to always try the least invasive option first. Good luck to you and please keep us posted.
    BTW- Are you aware that once one level is fused it puts more pressure on the levels above and could lead to more fusions? Lots to think about.
  • I had my L4/L5 fusion almost 6 weeks ago. I also had an ADR from the front as well, same day/time. Surgery was just over 2 hours and I went home the next day. Walked down the hospital halls several hours after surgery and had NO PAIN from my back, just incisional pain. I drove 10 days later(about 30 Miles) to pick up my husband from the airport. I did fine but realized I should have waited another week to drive. I am lucky, Had a great surgical team. I stayed as active as possible before surgery and I believe it helped the recovery process. I feel so good I cannot believe I suffered so long with shots and pain and to wake up from surgery to have the pain GONE! I wish you the best, are you getting a disc replacement?? Good Luck!
  • Thank you for your concern and I truly hope this turns out favorable for you. I guess the more levels they fuse, the more complicated the operation is. The average stay is 3-5 days. I have read some were able to walk by the same night or the second day. I wasn't made to walk at all. I may wind up looking to have an SCS or morphine pump put in later on. For now I am fortunate to have good doctors handling my case.

  • Not getting disc replacement. I actually am looking over my pre-op paperwork and it says the surgery type is L4-5, PLIF, pedicle screws. I have no idea what it all means, i just know it's fusion. Do you have any idea and can you explain it to me? thanks.
  • the procedure tab at the top of this page. It will explain it very clearly to you.
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