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Alternative Procedures to Spinal Fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello Everyone,

I have been reading many of your posts regarding your experiences with spinal fusion. Many unfortunately have been less than successful.

At this time ESIs keep me functioning fairly well. However, I do know that in the future I may face the last option - surgery.

I have been reading about some of the clinical studies now underway or about to begin on alternative procedures and devices to spinal fusion. I would much appreciate your thoughts about these procedures/devices, and especially for those of you who are participating in the studies, your experiences.

I look forward to all your responses.




  • Hello Rich,

    I don't know much about alternatives to fusion surgery, because by the time I was diagnosed that was my only option. That being said, for me it was a good option, even if you get the idea otherwise from some of the postings. I know that some people have bad experiences with this kind of surgery, but many of us are very satisfied with our outcome. So why I don't discourage your from trying to explore all alternatives, don't reject completely the idea of fusion either. But should you discover that this is what you need, it is very important to do your homework. Do research on the various surgeries, and most importantly, try to select the best surgeon you can with a lot of experience doing the same surgery and a good reputation.

    Good luck!


  • Hello Kin,

    I much appreciate your thoughts, advice and wisdom.

    Fantastic that your spinal fusion has worked for you, and I'm sure it has helped many.

    My greatest concern about spinal fusion is that it will limit my ability to be a very active gardener. One doc said I will need two fusions, and another said 3 or 4. I do a lot of twisting, turning, bending and lifting (at the age of 72 only 70 lb now rather than a 100 lb of years gone by lol). Two of the new alternative devices (and there may be more) are designed to enable one to retain most of the spines natural motions. For this ole gardener that is most encouraging.

    YES, I will do a lot of research and I'm at No. 8 in looking for the best spinal surgeon I can find. There is always the possibility of an "emergency" spinal situation and I have to be ready with that "best" surgeon.

    Thanks again Kin.

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  • Well, what do you know, I am the same age as you are. And I also like gardening. Now it is true that I have to watch my moves (I had three-level fusion in May '08) but in PT I learned how I can substitute good moves for bad ones. So with gardening, as with all bending it is important not to bend from the waist but rather with legs wide apart bend the knees and the a bit of bending from the hips is allowed. When lifting (and my limit is way below 70 lbs) I have to make sure that I keep the weight close to my body and keep my back straight.

    Take care and have a great Christmas!

  • Hello Kin,

    GREAT to know that you too are a gardener. It is amazing how many of us Spineys are gardeners.

    YES, it is MOST important to know how to bend and lift things so that pressure on own's back is minimized. AHHHhhh and so important to keep those rocks and things close to ones body.

    Kin, your post validates my concerns about spinal fusion. I can't imagine how one can tie shoes without bending from the waist and a whole lot of other things. You certainly have convinced me NOT to go with spinal surgeon No. 8 who wants to do 3/4 fusions on me.

    You have given me all the more reason to hope and pray my ESIs keep working for several years yet. Your sharing about the limitations of spinal movement after fusion is precisely the reason I am most interested in the devices such as the TOPS system and the TFAS system, which enable one to retain most of the natural spinal movements. I will be following the respective clinical studies of these two devices as well as other new procedures/devices.

    One of the principal investigators for the TOPS system practices about 1.5 hrs away from where I live. I will be contacting him to see if he has had patients who are in the TOPS clinical study, and try to learn as much as I can from him about the device and his thoughts on it (if he is free to comment).

    May you have a most WONDERFUL Christmas.


    P.S. - Okay you "viewers", it would be GREAT to have you provide your thoughts on this topic. The more discussion, the more we learn.
  • Rich,

    I don't see how I convinced you not to have the surgery, when I am the poster child of successful fusion. As far as how to tie my shoes, no sweat, I just sit down keeping my back straight and bend my knees enough so I can reach my shoes. I can do everything else more or less, including picking up things from the floor. And best of all, all my previous pain and numbness are gone, even the morning stiffness which I thought was from getting old is gone. So as I told my surgeon, he made me 10 years younger. I can tell you, I am really very glad I had my surgery and did not wait until some of the changes were irreversible.

    All the best,

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  • Hey you two,
    well I had artificial disc surgery in September and went back to work in five weeks;however, I will say a couple things about this situation. I did and do things fairly easily and have to avoid hyperextension of the neck (it has just been 3 months). I almost never take pain medications but I am in pain quite often...but not enough to keep me from sleeping or jogging or walking or anything. The pain is enough to keep me somewhat cranky at times but I have lots of tools in order to take care of myself. I did have big expectations about no pain after surgery but I will take great Range of Motion and somewhat tolerable pain with the artificial disc. We'll see and I will keep you informed. For me, I had discectomy and laminotomy in 2002 and it took 2 years for me to be without pain and back to normal; so I figure I have to give my neck that long to heal. Again, I want to emphasize that I have pain but I tolerate it and self-soothe with aromatherapy and exercise. Hope this helps a little for right now..just wanted to give you a little more input but still waiting for how I will judge my outcome.
  • Hello Kin,

    Me thinks perhaps we are on somewhat different wavelengths. That's okay, we will get things sorted out.

    Kin, I'm glad you are "the poster child of successful fusion." You are most fortunate. It is GREAT that the surgery eliminated all your previous pain and numbness, and that morning stiffness.

    Yes, I don't deny that waiting too long has its risks.

    Now to get us on the same wavelength (I hope) - You convinced me not to have the surgery because of the limitations you yourself mentioned. That would literally kill the gardening I love to do.

    Three things are at the top of my list for enjoying life - Good wine, good food, and gardening. The good wine and food are my "rewards" after hours in our gardens.

    Kin, ever work with a 12' pressure-treated 2X12 in your gardening? I'm sure not. Try that with 3 fusions in your back and you would most likely end up back in the hospital because of the damage to the vertebrae above and below the fusions. I'm not ready to give up my type of gardening.

    Each must make the decision that seems best to us as an individual. No one else can make that decision for us.

    You have provided me with thoughtful advice which I appreciate very much. Your thoughts and those of others all gets put into my "equation".

    And all the very best to you.

  • Hello Marram,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts regarding your artificial disc surgery. AWEWOME that you could go back to work five weeks after your surgery.

    "but I will take great Range of Motion and somewhat tolerable pain with the artificial disc." AHHHhh, Marram, you think as I do.

    May I ask which type/manufacturer of artifical disc your surgeon used? I would be most interested in learning more about it.

    YES, please do keep us informed. That is how we all learn from each other.

    Sorry to read about the rather long extended time it took for your '02 surgery to "heal". I greatly appreciate your sharing this with us.

    I wish you a WONDERFUL Christmas.

  • OK Rich,

    here is my final (well, maybe not) thought. I don't mean to minimalize surgery and what it involves. What it boils down to, are you better with it or without it? If you can continue on with your regular life by taking pain killers (I am not too much of a believer in that, unless absolutely necessary), getting injections, and whatever therapy, and there is no danger that your nerves will suffer permanent damage, then by all means avoid or postpone surgery. But if you have to give up things you love because of pain or inability to do so, and if your surgeon says that you have a good chance of recovery with surgery that is your only viable alternative, then it is time to consider it.

    Best for the new year,

  • Good Morning Kin,

    I'm totally with you regarding pain killers. My first spinal surgeon put my on Vicodin (sp?) and after 2 weeks I knew I had to slowly get myself off of the pain killer because I was literally sleeping the days away. That is NOT how I want to live the rest of my life. Took about 10 days to slowly get myself off of the medication and another 2 weeks for the withdrawal symptoms to go away. Was not pleasant. I like you will stay off of pain killers unless absolutely necessary.

    As long as the ESIs work I'll stay away from the knife unless advised differently.

    My objective is to have a spinal surgeon selected so that when the time arrives that I need surgery I can do so without delay. I'm already looking into seeing another spinal surgeon who is very highly regarded, and who is the primary investigator of the TOPS system clinical study.

    Have a GREAT New Year!!

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