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recovery difference between discectomy/laminotomy and fusion?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,550
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had a L4-5 and L5-S1 discectomy and laminotomy almost 7 years ago, and I may be now headed for a fusion on the same levels.
I had a rough recovery and am so scared about going through this all over again. However, my neurosurgeon has told me that my recovery with the fusion will actually be easier and shorter than my previous surgery was, because I wont have the rule about not being able to sit up, and the fusion will actually make my back stronger, where-as the discectomy without stabilization made my back weaker. He also said I will most likely be back at work in about 3-4 weeks. After my previous surgery I wasnt back at work until almost 3 months, and I really thought a fusion was a more serious surgery than my previous surgery, so I am curious to hear opinions about this.
Has anyone had a discectomy and laminotomy, and then later had a fusion, and if so can you compare the recovery?
Thank you.


  • on the same path. Had a laminectomy in Aug 06. I had a very rough recovery due to infection. It took me about 3 months before I was back to work, etc. I am scheduled for an L4/L5 fusion on Monday Nov 16th. I will be happy to post updates on my recovery. The laptop will definitely be my friend.
  • I would agree with what your surgeon said about your back ultimately being strong after fusion, assuming everything goes well and there are not further complications. And I suppose it depends on the extent of the fusion. There have been some people on the board that did very well and recovered very quickly...but I think they are in the minority of patients who have lumbar fusion.

    I was barely leaving the house at the end of 4 weeks. I was on painkillers for the first eight weeks, and did not start driving until that week. I started feeling better at 3 months and felt like I was feeling stronger a couple months later. It took quite awhile to get my strength back, but I'm sure part of that is based on how long the patient has been dealing with the spine issues prior to surgery.

    You will be able to sit up right away, but for limited times -- like 15 minutes at a time. You will still have the rules regarding bending, twisting, lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk. You would also be wise to avoid pushing, pulling, reaching overhead or to the side.

    Maybe you had the hard work done first and now it will be easier. Mine was the other way around--had the fusion first, and then a lami/foraminotomy a year later. The second surgery was a breeze. I was in overnight and had one pain pill the entire time. I felt great and went home and baked brownies. I am still dismayed at how easy it was, and my incision was as big as that for my fusion...which I never understood.

    If you look at a variety of doctors' and spine clinics' websites, they almost all say to count on three months off for an open surgery. Perhaps he is doing yours minimally invasivally??

    Hopefully others who had it the other way around will chime in with their experiences.

    In any case, try not to worry. Surgical experiences are very rarely the same.

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  • Thank you. I am going for a second opinion. I trust my first surgeon immensely, but I still figure a second opinion can't hurt... I am so confused on what to do right now.
  • On the paperwork my surgeon gave me, I had a TLIF fusion / laminectomy. So I guess I had both? I'm pretty confused as to what a laminectomy is.
  • I've never had a laminectomy. I did have a microdiscectomy and foraminotomy in December 2007. My recovery from that was a piece of cake, but your surgeon is right -- it did make my back weaker. Within six months, I was in a whole new world of hurt. It sounds as though you are headed for a two-level fusion? It is some serious surgery and yes, it will make your back stronger. I don't know how the two-level compares to the three-level I had, but I know that no one in town here would do a three-level fusion. I had to travel two hours to the north of me to get my fusion done. My recovery was not a breeze. I still have issues but for the most part I am so much better than I was before surgery, so I consider the procedure a success. You are wise to get a second opinion. I hope all goes well for you.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • Sounds like you had both. The laminectomy is a procedure that involves removing the lamina, the back part of the vertebral components. It has the "spiney" part that you can feel along your back. (Not anymore at that point since you had it removed:) It is removed to relieve pressure/more room for disk swelling and also to allow access to the disk space. I had laminectomies at L3, L4, and L5 and the TLIF just at L4/5 and all the nuts and bolts to hold it all together.

    jmoed - what kind of work do you do? That most likely will make a difference as well as the type (MI vs open as Gwennie stated) of surgery you have about how long you will need to recup. Good luck.
  • But I am just under 6 weeks post-op after an open TLIF L4-S1 with 6 screws and 2 rods and cages. I technically had a laminotomy as well as they removed part of the lamina to get to the herniations, etc. I'm guessing I'm pretty lucky as I seem to have had one of the best recoveries of anyone. I was basically without pain after a little over a week, and the only pain I did have was at the incision site. By my 3rd night in the hospital I was able to go almost 10 hrs without any pain meds, and only needed them afterwards to counteract the withdrawals from the dang morphine pump.

    I was up and walking the day after surgery with no pain (except discomfort from the catheter ouch!) And by about day 10 I was walking close to 2 miles a day. I was able to drive short distances, to the grocery store and back for instance, after 3 weeks with no pain. And I was back at work, a desk job, after week 4.

    Now I am walking between 18-20 miles a week, have been doing light hamstring, quad and core stretches for a few weeks, feel really good, and can do almost anything I want.

    Good luck and I hope your recovery goes even better than my own!
  • WOw, I think 3 months recovery on a fusion is MINIMAL - or in other words, a pipe dream. I know of VERY few people who were recovered in that amount of time.

    I agree with Gwennie - so I'll not repeat what she has said :)

    p.s. I did very well in my recovery and I was still not allowed to work for over 5 months. I have an EASY job - just a little lifting requirement that held me up. Still, those first few months back were not easy.

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