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Lots of questions from newbie, please help!!!!

LumbarLynneLLumbarLynne Posts: 67
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in New Member Introductions
After a fracture in L1 and more trauma to L5/S1 that had already been bothering me for years, I am looking forward to finally doing something for the pain. Everyone said - don't do back surgery! But, it is time to take that step so I can live my life again! I have a few questions that I can't seem to find good answers to:

First: I have severe DDD in L5/S1 (healing fracture in L1), severe facet disease, osteoarthritis, bone spurs on facets, severe end-plate degeneration of L5. Severe pain but no numbing or leg pain except for many many muscle spasms due to guarding. I have been in a TSO for 5 weeks from my fracture of L1.

So... my questions - please answer!

1. Anyone get a minimally invasive procedure that addresses all my issues?

2. Those who got a fusion - how much pain? how long in hosptial?

3. How much can I expect a single level fusion to cost?

4. How much of that cost does insurance usually say they are going to cover? (I find most of my costs have been reduced by about 50% by using in network doctors).

5. I have an OS who wants to do my fusion from the front with an 8 inch cut in belly and I am going to see an NS next week to try and find a better option - would love something that will cut less but still work - any thoughts on using a OS vs. NS?

6. How long after surgery can I really start to exercise, I am putting on a lot of weight due to my 5 weeks of healing to date for this fracture and I want to be exercising again!

7. Anyone get the nerves lasered to help reduce pain? Would you recommend it?

8. Anyone have a blog about their whole experience that I can read?



  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i cannot help you with your questions but i do want to say hello! :H look around the forum for some answers to your questions. :? good luck and i look forward to reading your posts! :D Jenny :)
  • i am from the UK so carnt help regarding the cost of things .but i can advise on pain control.have you tried a TENS {i use acticare } and i have found that oxycodone help with the pain a..as does gentle swimming .back surgery is the last resort but you may require it ..just be aware that once you start with back surgery there is a strong possibility that you will require more surgery as the years roll on .once you have undergone surgery you leg pain may go but your back will always be weak and never as good as it was before you had the back problem...a good bed and a recliner helps too .i hope that you can get some answers to your questions .but one final word of caution ..beware of surgeons wanting to try an experimental procedure on you ..if it goes wrong it your back not there's! stick with conventional surgical procedures remember there's no quick fix regarding bad backs !
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  • I can't answer all of your questions but can address those about my fusion (anterior/posterior L4/5) recovery and my experience with insurance.

    I will start with the latter as it is a shorter answer. Basically, my insurance paid for everything so I don't really know what it cost. Check with your insurance company or ask the staff in your surgeon's office - they will have a good idea about the benefits of most companies for the type of insurance you have.

    I had the anterior part of my surgery on a Monday, the posterior on Wednesday and went home Friday morning. They had me up and walking on Wednesday afternoon. The pain I had in the hospital - and in the first few weeks at home - was not bad. My incisions hurt and I had some muscle spasms which were pretty well controlled with Valium the first couple of weeks. After the first 2.5 weeks I quit taking the pain meds because they made me nauseated and SO tired. I managed with ice (and then heat after my surgeon approved it.)

    The recovery is long and slow and boring. But as for exercise, most surgeons want you walking as much as you can every day. Besides, the walking really does help with any pain and stiffness. And you will have restrictions against bending, lifting and twisting for weeks or months post-surgery. Beyond that, it really depends on your surgeon. I was able to start PT in a warm water therapy pool at about 4 weeks post-surgery. It was wonderful. As for weight, I have lost 30 pounds in the 9 months since my surgery.

    Because of the no bending, lifting or twisting restrictions it is really important to prepare for this prior to surgery. If you have not read the list of Post-surgery Must-Haves it is very, very helpful! I did not really expect to need most of the things suggested but am so glad I got them!

    Get two or three opinions about what type of surgery will work best for your situation. Also, I think it is important to find out how many of the surgeries the doctor has done and ask around about his reputation for success. Whether or not the doctor is a NS or OS may not be as important as knowing that the person you choose specializes in spines and has a great deal of experience with your condition.

    Keep us posted on what you find out!

  • (By the way--they are really good questions!)

    I had a laminectomy and fusion (TLIF) of L4-L5 about 15 months ago, and am fully recovered, fused, and happy. Still some pain and stiffness, but I can do anything I want to do and take no meds for pain at all.

    1. I don't think there is a minimally invasive procedure that will meet all of your needs. But that's an excellent question for your NS or OS. Mine, an OS, said he really didn't do them because he wasn't sure he'd get the same good results as he did with his standard procedures.

    2. Pain? Substantial, for several weeks post-surgery. The pain meds controlled it pretty well, but I was sure ready for the next dose when the time came. But the pain I went into surgery for, bilateral leg and buttock pain from lumbar stenosis, was left in the OR. I was in the hospital for 3 days.

    3. Mine was billed by the hosp and surgeon at upwards of $70,000. I don't know how much the insurance actually paid. My out-of-pocket was a bit over $3500.

    4. See above.

    5. Both specialties do fine, but make sure that the doc you select has done a spinal fellowship and does a lot of spine work. My surgeon does only spines, and does over 300 a year. That's why I was willing to travel for 3 hours, in winter, over three mountain passes, to have him operate on me.

    As I said, I had a TLIF, not the ALIF your OS is recommending. I would have had to be really talked into having an ALIF...but maybe that's the appropriate procedure for you, given the locations of your two lumbar issues.

    6. My OS has all of his patients walk 1 mile a day, starting the first day post-op. It sounds awful, but he has found that his patients do better when they walk. I have a treadmill, which made it easier. Didn't do any other exercise until starting physical therapy at the 8-week mark. PT 3 times a week, plus exercises, lifting, and stretching at home. And the walking was increased to 2 miles a day at 4 weeks postop.

    7. No experience with that.

    8. Sorry, no blog, but will be happy to answer any more questions.



    Married to a Lynne...and woe indeed to those who leave off the "e."

  • I have found one of the few n-surg's trained in minimally invasive spinal surgeries including fusions. I am schedule for June 22! I am sure from all my research that my only option at this point is surgery (and because I tried most of the other options). I appreciate all the responses and will post an update after my surgery.

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