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successful 3 level spinal fusion?

mammajammammammajamma Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:54 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've seen quite a few stories on this forum about poor outcomes after 3 level spinal fusions. Aren't there any success stories out there?

I am 34 and I've had two prior surgeries (a laminectomy when I was 28 and a discectomy when I was 31), but the pain from Degenerative Disc Disease has never been alleviated for more than a short time after surgery. My orthopaedic surgeon had recommended a 3-level (L3-S1) fusion, but just a couple of weeks before the surgery he left to move to another country. The surgeon who took over his patients refused to operate as he thought the risks were too high. A second opinion resulted in the same refusal.

Researching it myself, it seems like all I've found are people who have become even more debilitated after a 3-level fusion. I'm really losing hope that I can do anything to be pain-free enough to do the basics of life (take care of my kids, be able to drive a car, not worry about falling over while walking due to pain). I feel like I've done everything that I can: I've lost significant amounts of weight, I stretch, I take pain medication... and the pain just keeps getting worse.

A happy story would really help me right now.



  • Chris,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find we have several multiple level lumbar fusion here. As to the success or failure of the fusions I think it depends on the level of pain they were in to begin with. There are some but once they have success they move on to live the normal busy life and no longer post on the forum.

    Do the doctors give you any reason why the three level fusion isn't warranted. I have a brother in law whom is fused through 4 levels, but then again he had absolutely no movement whatsoever before surgery, from scolo. So in his case the lose of range of motion was not a consideration, as he wasn't able to perform simple task like dressing or showering, he also had incontinence and severe foot drop.

    What have the surgeons suggest you do for the pain, if they are not willing to do the surgery? what kinds of treatments are you currently doing to help the pain? Sometimes you have to seek out more opinions to get some type of answer, so keep looking for a surgeon or doctor that can offer a treatment program up.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Look forward to reading more of your post. Take care and keep us posted.
  • I had my 3 level anterior cervical discectomy 6/14/11. I believe it was successful in that the pain that caused me incapacitation has been alleviated, the numbness down my arms and involuntary shaking of my hands has ceased, the the potential for losing use of my left arm has been dramatically reduced due to fixing the discs. I am new to this but I am hopeful.

    I wear the hard brace 24/7 and have not had my post-op drs appointment yet (7/7/11). Riding in a car is extremely abusive to my neck and exhausts me. I am not sure how I am expected to work any time soon with any level of concentration. I am a middle school administrator and wonder the impact this will have on my ability to work in my field.

    In spite of this concerns, I still believe it was a success. I will keep you updated and you may feel free to send a private message with more specific questions if you like.

    Be encouraged, pray much and do what you think is best for you.
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  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,732
    Hi and welcome to S.H. forums. I started out with a 3 level fusion same as yours. I Felt good for about 10 mos. And then the next disk up had DDD and was bulging. I'm prone to DDD and that disc just couldn't handle the extra load. And the same has been happening every scince. And admittedly, I didn't treat my back with the tender loving care it needed.
    But the good news was I didn't get to the point where I lost control of my legs!
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • What is DDD?
  • Hi and welcome. I am fused L1 to S1, done in 3 fusions. I also had a laminectomy before the first fusion. All have been successful. I too had heard once you start fusing the vertebrae around are more at risk. But I know of people who have had only one fusion and never had any further problems. My spine problems were caused by being knocked unconscious by a snowboarder. My spine started deteriorating after the accident. All my fusions were a result of that original injury. My 2nd fusion was from the spine starting to collapse in on itself. I feel like the doctor should have put zippers in my front and back as he has been in twice on both sides. But the fusions solved the problems i was having and altho the recovery is long and you are never truly pain free it was well worth it.

    I was very active before my surgeries and I am sure that helped in my recoveries. I have been able to return to swimming (I swim with a masters team), usually within 3-4 weeks post surgery. I was also able to get back on my bike after the first 2. I am still recovering from the last one and don't have permission yet to ride. I walk alot. Sure there are things I can't do easily but necessity is the mother of invention and you figure things out!!

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions. Feel free to send a private message if you wish.

    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
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  • Chris....I am a 51 year-old stay-at-home mom to four. I have degenerative disc disease. I had a successful 3-level fusion (L3-S1)in May 2008 and have been living pain free for a while now. It was not an easy surgery (probably no such thing anyway) and my total recovery time was almost a year. After researching and searching for over a year, I found the right doctor and the right procedure. I went into the surgery very knowledgeable about what might/might not happen and followed my doctor's recovery instructions to a tee.

    It was a slow, painful process, but I have no regrets and wouldn't change a thing. I have to do some things differently than before, but being pain-free is the best trade-off. I am very careful not to bend, lift or twist but am able to get on my horse and ride again. I still use a "grabber" to pick up laundry off the floor....this has become a new norm for me, but it's okay. I am even able to work-out at a local gym with a trainer who knows my "spine" history and helps me with proper exercises to strengthen my legs and core.

    I try not to "overdo", listen to my body and give in and rest when I need to....even if I don't want to. I hope this condensed version of my story has helped you. Good luck to you.

  • hi, i recently (12 weeks ago) had a 7 level spinal fusion op. I broke my t6-t12 in a motorbike accident (not my fault) 3 yrs ago and have been living in constant pain for that long until it started going down hill massively at the beginning of this year. The x-rays showed that the bones were still broken like the day it happened 3 years ago and ive been working and living like that for the 3 years. I was extremely worrieed about having the op done as its not very common to have a 7 level fusion and the severity of my breaks normally would put you in a wheel chair or worse. The surgeon Dr Ralph Mobbs here in sydney didnt leave me with much choice but to have the op done. im 34 and hopefully have alot of years left so my wife and i said yes. im here to say that 12 weeks later im already feeling the best ive felt pain wise since the accident happened 3 yrs ago. The first 10 weeks post op were hell pain wise but now the pain has subsided down to a 3/10 most days and i even jogged for 15 mins on the treadmill the other day and pulled up well the next day. I do have a 30cm scare down the centre of my back but its a small price to pay for what so far looks like a successful op. Find a good surgeon and if this type of op is needed then weigh up the pro's and con's and do it. I now have 14 screws and 2 metal rods in me but i might have only lost 5% more movement. Im starting to get back into weight training like the old days but light to begin with but in time ill get back to being strong and fit. good luck
  • are there any success stories of cervical spin fusion? I went to a neurologist that insist I need this done. I am very afraid. I have not heard anything good about this surgery. I have an appointment for a second opinion. Any suggestions or advice. help please. I am having an epidural done in a few days for pain
  • I have had a 3 level spinal fusion on my lumbar, back in 2000, I then had a 1 level fusion on my thoracic I 2007. As far as I am concerned they were a complete success, yes I am still in pain on a daily basis but I have a life now and work full time. There will always be good and bad days but you learn to live with it and do things differently, I never regret having my surgery, it was worth it all. I hope this helps -)
  • I had 2 levels done (L3-L-5) in 2007 through abdomen and just had another at L5-S1 through the back. So far so good! I have no pain. :)
    DDD 2 level ALIF L3-L5 in 2007. 4/11/13 posterior fusion w/decompression on L5-S1.
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