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I'm new here and looking at a possible fusion L3-5

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I posted this under the DDD section and am thinking I put it in the wrong place or just used the wrong header...

I have been reading these posts for a little while (and it has helped quite a bit to realize I am not alone) and have decided to stop reading and start posting to try and get some more info from you all.
I have struggled with back issues since I was 18, I am now 39. For the first 16 years I was misdiagnosed by one doctor after another, they would take an x-ray and tell me it was just a muscle, I continued to tell them all that it was NOT a muscle and something felt like it was out of place ( I would literally be crooked during an episode), I changed doctors in 2004 and he was shocked that no one had ever ordered an MRI, that led to the discovery that both the L3/4 and 4/5 discs were herniated and on top of that I also have DDD, spinal stenosis, and arthritis at both levels (and now with the latest MRI it appears that the arthritis is moving into S1 also).
I had a laminectomy 12/2004 on L3-4 (NS pulled a disc fragment out) then I had another laminectomy 11/2005 on L4-5 (NS pulled another fragment and said it was the biggest one he had ever seen) since then it has been one episode after another. This is now my 4th week off of work (I have a desk job) due to some newer symptoms that I really had not experienced before, both of my feet being tingly and numby feeling (it feels like someone set a phone on vibrate on the soles of both of my feet) I am not driving for fear that my feet will not respond and I will cause an accident. Another symptom that seems to be getting worse is the god awful ache I get in my legs, it starts at my low back and just travels down to my toes. I cannot sit or stand for any period of time without it getting very painful. I saw my NS two weeks ago and he said that we could try ESIs and PT and if that did not work he recommended a fusion, he said it would make more sense to do both levels since if he did the one at the 4/5 level it would only be a matter of time before the 3/4 had to be done. Not being a doctor even I could see on the MRI that the 4/5 disc is black and about ¼ of the size of the other “normal” discs and the 3/4 disc is about ½ the size and black also.
I underwent my first ESI on May 1st and am not noticing any difference at all (it hurt like heck and I was not offered mild sedation). I have another one scheduled for the 15th. PT right now is mostly just deep tissue massage, ultrasound heat and the PT stretching my legs, I also using a TENS unit.
Right now the only meds that I am taking is Gabapentin and Percocet 10/325 (which do not help nearly long enough), sometimes I feel like my family doctor thinks I am going to turn into a pill popping maniac (he is handling my meds unless I decide to have surgery and then NS would then take those over) if he gives me anything else.
Sorry for the long windedness of my post but wanted to give the background, I am wondering if any of you have had similar symptoms to mine and what did you do? I will greatly appreciate any responses that I get.


  • Tgert, ask you doc about Ultram ER for pain. It is an extended release mild narcotic with lower addiction/dependency potential. Being an extended release med, you only take it once a day. It is the only med that has been able to take the edge off of my pain. I am trying to avoid a three level fusion (L3-S1) and I have tried numerous pain meds. I am very concerned about dependency and was assured by my Pain Management doc that there was a lower risk of dependence with this drug. All is not roses though, it is also known as Tramadol, and some people have had trouble with the side effects. What ever you choose to do, consider consulting with a pain management doc. The can give you other options besides drugs for your pain. Good luck.
  • A lot of ppl on this site are concerned about dependency, but as long as you use the drugs for pain that otherwise get to be intolerable, that is not dependency.
    As far as the leg symptoms Tgert, the tingling, numbing sensation and the radiating pain, that is what I had before my L3-S1 fusion surgery. For me surgery was the answer, as I no longer suffer from these symptoms. But docotrs usually try everything else first, surgery is the last resort. However, if you will need it eventually, I can tell you that most people are glad afterwards that they had it. Of course, not everybody has a good outcome, it depends for each individual, but most surgeons can tell you in advance what your chances are. My surgeon does not even perform surgery on people he feels he will not be able to help.

    Good luck,

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  • I am not too worried about dependency, I just really am tired of the pain (then again after all these years you would think I would be used to it) and now it is stopping me from normal life (job, 2 teenagers, etc...) I have an AWESOME NS who we trust completely so I know he is probably right that I just putting off the inevitable fusion. It is just that it really is a major surgery and he told my husband and I that I was probably looking at 4-6 mos recovery time. I did okay with the laminectomies but I was a nervous wreck for those and they seemed minor compared to this. Can anyone tell me how long this type of surgery lasts and about how long in the hospital? I am going to call the NS's office and have them send me the info on exactly which type of fusion he is looking at doing.
  • I had an L4/L5 fusion in December after 3 years of chronic pain and foot tingling. Also fearing addiction I refused Oxycontin and Codiene when I was discharged and I was given Tramadol for pain and Valium for muscle relaxation. I tolerated Tramadol very well. By January I was off Tramadol and only Valium only near bedtime. By April I was done with Valium too. My severe pain is gone, my tingling is gone, I can walk up to 8 miles in 2 hours, and I even played 2 sets of doubles tennis on Friday. I'm still in physical therapy and have some annoying hip muscle pain, but I continue to improve. There are a lot of horror stories described on this site and I feel for the people who are suffering through them. I'm not here to boast (well maybe I am), but only want to give hope to those in pain that there are success stories out there.
  • :) Hello,
    I have had 2 spinal fusions and 16 yrs. later need another one. I had 4-5 fused in 89 which fractured by 93 so the 2nd surg. wasen't a option. I now need 3-4 done along with T12 to S1. To make it easier to understand they want to fuse from the bottom of the spine to mid back. I'm scared to death. I have Spondylothesis.....hope I spelled that right! I was refused disability before this last diagnosis. I live with chronic pain everyday evenn after the first 2 surgerys. I don't know if this will help or what will happen if I do nothing. The surgeon said, "it's bad, you need surgery now". I didn't schedule it but I know I will have to soon. I know how long recovery is and don't want to be laid up for 6months or longer again.

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  • Not sure I can add much but I am having the surgery done Wednesday. L2-S1. Can let you know how it goes. I was in the same boat as you in terms of pain. Have struggled with Chronic pain for more than five years and intermitent pain before that. Had an ADCF done last year and my cervical spine is great! Now the lumbar gets its chance. I did the physical therapy, drugs and chiropractic. I am just tired of getting the pain back so I am trying this. My NS is surprised it wasn't done sooner but I wanted to try everything first. So here I am. I can only speak for myself when I say that I am scared as hell but also ready to move this forward. If I get half the relief I got from my ACDF it will be well worth it!
  • I can understand your fear because I had a fusion and a Lammie. I also have Spondy as well. Only a level one but thank goodness I had the surgery. I feel so much better now and I do not regret having it. I also understand that in the future I WILL have to have another fusion simply because I had the first one but I feel it was still worth it!! We all understand what you guys and gals are going thru and I for one will keep you all in my prayers!

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • abenaki I really hope your surgery went well and are home now...Please let me know how you are.

    Thanks to you all for your responses. I am glad I found this site because it helps to know that I am not alone. I am so tired of living with pain all of the time. I was able to "will" it away to go on with normal activity but it seems that it has become impossible to do that now. If I knew for sure that the fusion would end it I would do it in a minute. The uncertainty is what keeps me from agreeing to it at this point. It seems like a 50/50 chance that it will help based on the experiences that I have read about. I really miss going to work everyday and enjoying my kids activites. It is just so frustrating at this point :-)
  • Thanks for the thoughts, tgert. I am home. Could have come home on Friday but chose to wait to saturday for no real reason. Am actually feeling great. Am in less pain now than when I went in, am on 1 percocet every 4 hours and 1 robaxin every 6 hours. Today I took my dog for a walk and we went about a mile or so. It was wonderful. I have been up walking every day. First laps around the nurses station then around the floor and now I can walk that mile loop near my house and still feel ok. Getting up from a chair is no different today than it was before surgery but what is different is that I go right into an upright position which I couldn't before. My legs were stronger before I went in and thank God for that! You really need strong legs and arms to lift yourself up. I have a very tiny dog and have to bend down to pick him up. For me to do that I have to get down on my knees, pick him up and then get up with only leg strength. Needless to say he doesn't get picked up as much as he used to (which is probably ok with him). Rolling over in bed is still a bit painful but again nothing like it was presurgery. It just takes more effort right now because of the muscles they had to cut. So overall, I would do this again. Much like my ACDF surgery it has improved my life enough for me to say it was well worth the early pain. My wife sees progress every day as do I. No one can tell you what to do but for me as I said, it is a miracle cure. Will I ever be back to 100%? No way. But I don't think I will ever be back to where I have been in the past five or so years. I have limited mobility that I am sure will last forever but it is not as limited as it has been! I hope all goes well with your decision making. (For me I found the NS much more helpful than the Ortho I went to. They both agreed on the same course but the NS was more knowledgeable about what the future may be. the Ortho seemed more focused on fixing the structural problem. Take care
  • Sorry I haven't responded, things have been a bit crazy, with the kids (I have a 16 yr old and 13 yr old) getting ready for school to be out. I am so happy for you. I had the 2nd ESI and now 7 days later I don't really see a difference at all (other than the god-awful heartburn these things give me :-) ) I am realizing that I am probably not going to have any choice but to have the fusion, I am about 97% convinced at this point. I cannot beleive that you are able to walk that well and far already. That really gives me a lot of hope that even if I am not 100% it will still be better than where I am now.
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