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AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
hate to get graphic, will try alternate terms. having L5/S1 surgery on friday (two days from now). should i expect having a catheter because i'm doubting i'll be able to move right away? if so, when do they put it in? when i'm still "asleep"? and when will it probably be taken out? never had surgery before--freaked by thought of "bag" attached to me. what about the other kind of bathroom habit--if i can't get out of bed, what is to be done about that? special diet? just "hold it?" what? i know i probably seem odd, but some of biggest concerns over major back surgery are what to expect when it comes to "evacuation." anybody else ever fear this? can anybody who's had the surgery relate experiences or offer advice?

also, in general, what can i expect about the hospital period of recovery for this fusion surgery (and i mean aside from bathroom matters). how long is the average hospital stay? how long flat on my back with no movement? what does it feel like to come out of anesthesia--note my statement above--I have never had ANY surgery, let alone back surgery. what kind of pain should i expect? etc. please help! i'm so scared!

i know there are multiple posts on this type of surgery and the recovery, but most seem to be once at home. i would like to know what to expect during my time in the hospital, from hour one to discharge. please, please, i'm begging for advice and personal stories!


  • i forgot to mention, if it makes a difference in the recovery process, that my surgery is being done from the front (anterior?). thanks again for advice and guidance.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I can't help you with your questions because I'm a neckie, but you sounded so desperate that I just had to post to let you know we're here for ya.

    There will be someone who will post their experiences soon, so don't think nobody cares if you don't get answers right away.

    I'm thinking of you and sending you big cyberhugs.

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  • I had a L4-5 posterior fusion and yes, I had a catheter. It was done while I was "under" since the surgery is typically at least 4 hours and mine was longer. From what I've read, it is typical. I was soooooo dreading it, not from what I heard but just my mental image. When I realized that I was "hooked up" to it I was amazed because I couldn't feel it at all! Funniest thing is that I LOVED it. By that I mean as long as I had it, I didn't have to make myself get up to use the potty. It is a little, bitty tube that flows to a bag that is attached to the side of the bed, as I recall.

    When they came to remove it the next day (my surgery took all one day) I literally BEGGED them not to remove it because I was in enough pain, even with the "pump" that I didn't want to have to get up and go to the bathroom. When they removed it I felt no discomfort although I have heard of a few people who have had some mild discomfort.

    Cheer up, the catheter will absolutely be the least of your problems (or at least I hope so.) As far as your other questions are concerned, I spent 3 nights in the hospital and I believe that is pretty average. Don't think many of us spent fewer than 2 or 3 and many stayed for 4 or 5 - just depends on how your surgery goes. I had a morphine pump that I could push every so many minutes and the hospital worked very hard to make sure, throughout my stay, that my pain was managed. They did make me get up and move around pretty quickly but much of that is directed towards making sure you don't get any blood pooling in your legs and forming clots. They may make you wear some surgical stockings to that end.

    Best of luck and many good wishes coming your way. For me, the recovery has been more difficult than the surgery but then again, I'm 57 years old. Let me know if I can answer any other questions. I will tell you that my experiences are based on a POSTERIOR fusion, not anterior, so there are others here more qualified to give you the "scoop" but I think that in general they are similar.
  • thanks all. you've really helped with many of my worries.

    to anyone else reading after this "thanks" post--the thread isn't closed or anything, feel free to still post personal stories and advice--i appreciate as many words of wisdom as i can get!
  • Literally and figuratively. They do it while you're under, and when you wake up it's really nice not to have the urge to get up and pee. I don't remember as it being terribly uncomfortable when it was removed either. You'll be on so many drugs you really won't care.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • When I was under yes and by the time I woke up it was gone, however; I had urinary retention as a side effect of the anesthisia so I had to be "straight cath'd" a few times and eventually they left one in. Not pleasant in any way but you gotta do whatya gotta do.

    They first time they straight cath'd me they got out over 2,500mL of urine. I didn't even feel any pressure but the morphine caused that.
  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835

    I have had quite a few catheters, some pre surgery, some when I was under anaethetic. You shouldn't feel much discomfort if any. it may cause a slight problem with retention for just a short while when the catheter is removed. The removal is no problem, hardly feel anything.

    Good luck for your surgery and wish you a speedy recovery


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Sorry for the length but contains all the information you requested.

    This post sounds like mine 6 weeks ago. I too had never had surgery and was so scared. I had disc replacement L4-L5 and disc fusion at L5-S1 on May 11th. Happy Mothers Day to me!!! I can answer all your questions.

    Hospital Stay- Went in Monday morning 6:00 am, surgery 7:30-12:30, recovery 2:00, Home Thursday morning 10:30.

    Catheter-Yes, put in after surgery while you’re still out, removed the day after surgery as long as your output of urine is good. Removal is no big deal.

    Pain- I had more gas pains in my stomach than back pain. Their in there moving your intestines around to get to the back so it tends to upset them a little. Everyone’s pain is different, so I am giving you what I experienced.

    Meds- Morphine injections and Vicadin. I didn’t have a drip but the nurses came in and gave me the injections every 4 hours. Wednesday, I switched to vicadin because it made me less loopy.

    Diet- They wouldn’t let me eat until Wednesday, like I said above, they moved things around and it takes a while to get things running smoothly again. They even gave me a pill to help kick start my digestion. They will also probably give you senicot and milk of meg to help you have a bowel movement because they won’t discharge you until you do.

    Incision- About 5 inches from just under my belly button to a ½ inch from my pelvic bone with 10 staples. Don’t be surprised if you have numbness in the belly area, pelvic area and down one leg. I couldn’t feel the crease in my left leg and had numbness down the outside of my left leg from my hip to the knee. Most numbness went away but still have some in the leg. Doctor says it will go away in time.

    Movement- on the first day I was out of it. Tuesday, I went for x-rays and was turning over in bed, got up and walked around with the therapist, and was sitting in a beside chair every so often. Wednesday, walking to the bathroom, down the hallway, and walking up and down stairs (bedroom is upstairs). I didn’t have to wear surgical stockings because my hospital had the things that wrapped around each leg and gently inflated every couple of seconds to help the blood flow in my legs. Felt great, like a mini massage but wear removed when they came to walk me.

    I too was scared out of my mind after reading others posts on this site. I knew that this was my last chance to have a somewhat normal life. This was not a cure, but an attempt to make my quality of life better. I am doing great, better than the surgeon expected. I still have pain but it is different from what I experienced before the surgery, Thank God!!
    I am walking over a mile a day and venture out to church and an occasional trip to the store. My restrictions are no driving, pushing, pulling, or lifting; I cannot do any type of housework, no cooking or even do dishes. Doctor says that he doesn’t want me to lift anything heavier that the TV remote for two months. July 10th I go back for my 2 month appointment to get x-rays and see how the bone in fusing. I will also be able to drive again. My current meds are vicadin three times a day, daily aspirin to prevent a blood clot, and daily calcium. You will want to eat a high fiber diet because the pain meds have a tendency to constipate. I eat raisin bran and a fiber one bar everyday to keep me regular.

    Well, I hope I helped ease your mind about surgery. Keep you head up and try to stay positive. You will have good days and bad days, but do what I do, plow through them with a smile on your face and tell yourself you will get better with each passing day. Good Luck and keep us posted!!!

    Favorite Quote:

    "You can visit pity city but you are not allowed to live there.”
  • Surgery can be a scary thing, but I think you'll find the experience easier than you expect.

    I woke up from my fusion with the catheter in and it was removed two days later.

    Regarding the other bathroom need, it may take several days before you need to do anything so it may not be much of a problem. For me, it took 5 days to produce anything (yes, it did start to get uncomfortable).

    My surgery was first thing Monday morning and I was home Wednesday afternoon.

    The worst pain was on Tuesday morning when the morphine stopped working. They switched me to oral Percocet and all was tolerable within an hour. Make sure you take your pain medication at the proper times, even if you are not in pain. The worst thing you can do is get behind on that schedule.

    Movement – nurses had me stand up, walk a few steps and sit in a chair Monday night. Tuesday afternoon I walked (with a walker) up and down the hallway outside my room. I also sat in the chair again for around an hour (with an ice pack). Wednesday morning I walked around the entire hospital floor.

    At home, I walked twice a day, and slowly increased the distance each day. By the end of the second week, I was adding 1/4 mile per day.

    Keep in mind that initially you will be walking extremely slowly. I think it took me 6-8 weeks to get up to a reasonable pace, and at least 3 months to get close to my previously normal pace.

    Good luck!
  • thanks everyone soooooooo much! to newhouse17--don't apologize for length--you answered every possible question!

    surgery today, i leave in 90 minutes to get to hospital for prep, surgery scheduled of 1pm pacific time. wish me luck! keep me in prayers! (please and thank you! :) )
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