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feeling abandoned after surgery?

I had l5s1 fusion (plif with instrumentation) 3.5 weeks ago in uk. all went well and no severe pain so discharged on day 4 with advice not twist or lift anything too heavy. Really positive about outcome as, for example, severe pain when sneezing has gone. Don't see surgeon until 10.5 weeks surgery (was told it would be 6 week) and it feels like a long time without a chance to ask questions about recovery from major procedure. For example, should i return to teaching job at 5 weeks post op when sick note expires, when can i drive, are minor aches and pains on rhs due to bone graft site, should i pay for some physio to speed up recovery, can i go swimming etc ???? Don't feel very strong psychologically and don't know if this side effect of surgery too? Any thoughts anyone?


  • Hi, I am really surprised that you don't appear to have been given any support post leaving hospital and have 10 1/2 weeks to wait. That does seem a very long time, and without any support I can understand the concerns. Perhaps you were given a contact number on leaving the hospital in case of any questions? I too am in recovery from a plif with instrumentation, for L4 through S1, and was only in hospital for 2 days before discharge, but I have my post op meet with my surgeon this afternoon, so just under 2 weeks, where I have many questions to follow through with, and have also booked my PT for Monday on the assumption my surgeon will suggest this. I am very fortunate to have private healthcare covered, and perhaps this is the difference, however regardless I am certain you shouldn't be left without contact / support for so long. I am sure there are many on here who will be able to give excellent advice, and reflect on their own circumstances like I, but would think regardless you should follow up to get an earlier appointment as I just can't see how 10 + weeks is deemed acceptable. I am sure we all feel the effect of surgery on our physchological state, and forums such as this with such avid and well versed members is a real blessing.

    I wish you all the very best in your recovery and hope you find a way to gain access to the support services you quite rightly need, Nick
  • Hi northernsoul

    I'm in the UK too and was very much left to it after I was discharged. I had a fusion last July and my first contact again with the hospital was in October for my 3 month check-up. I'd asked my consultant some of the questions I had before I was discharged, but still would have liked to have seen someone again before the 3 month mark for new questions that came up as I went along.

    I was given very little information before I left the hospital, I just presumed that I'd be seeing a physio at 6 weeks for exercises (which seems to be the norm in the USA), and could ask questions then - how wrong was I! I did ring my consultant when I was concerned about some swelling so at least he was contactable. I felt abandoned in the sense that I hadn't been told any exercises to do that may help my recovery, or what would be 'normal' to expect in the way of aches and pains after weeks/months had gone by.

    I had swelling and soreness over my iliac crest where the bone was harvested from, although I hadn't been told to expect that. I was told I could try driving after 4 weeks but it took me until 5 weeks that I felt comfortable enough. I never asked about swimming (I hate it!) but just walked a lot - 2 x 1 mile every day. I like cycling but didn't get on the bike until the soreness had gone, as I could feel every little jolt and bump. After my 3 month check up I was given the ok to go to the gym and use the cross trainer, bike etc but not to use the rowing machine. Also to wait until 6 months to try running.

    I know what you mean about not feeling strong psychologically, I was impatient for the healing process to hurry up so I could see what I would be capable of physically, and not knowing how successful it was going to be left me feeling quite vulnerable.

    Anyway sorry about the essay (I always ramble on a bit this time of night!), hope you've got some answers or contacted the hospital by now. Best wishes for your recovery.
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  • Yes, I'd think that is a long time to wait. I'd say for sure make a detailed list of questions and call the surgical nurse (or consultant, not formilar with this term or who this is exactly) and ask the questions, even if you have to leave it on voice mail. I'd think that you are expected to return to work in 5 weeks, but I'd double check. You might find you are ready too. I returned (I taught) after 7 weeks, but that was with begging and pleading to be released to work.... so I'd want to double check on the 5 weeks. I'd also use lots of caution with your "swimming" idea. I was told I could get in the water as soon as my incission healed for walking etc, but swimming does involve twisting, so you might want to ask about that one for sure. You certainly need to get some advice for driving. I was allowed to start driving around week 6 or so I believe, but only short distances. And yes, if you can afford it I"d definately start physical therapy to build up core strength, learn safe stretches and even safe every day "movements" that won't twist your back etc. Good luck, hope you are able to talk to someone soon and get some answers.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Hi,
    I'm in the UK too and had my C5/6 ACDF on 22/2. I have had no follow up appointments arranged yet with either physio or the Consultant. Was told I had to wear a soft collar 24/7 and would be going for a FU appointment in about 8 weeks. Until then no physio on my neck, so am in a bit of a limbo situation at the moment. I think this must be normal for the UK. :(
  • I'm quite surprised that both yourself (countyfan) and northernsoul are being left unsupported by the medical profession for so long. I am also in th UK, however I've thus far already met with my surgeon 2 weeks post op, and have another meeting set for 5 weeks time (should have been 4 weeks but that's the Holiday) to verify that fusion has started. I also met with my Physio on Monday, and have sessions booked to start from next Monday, twice per week, initially Hydrotherapy.

    I'm fortunate to have private medical coverage with work, so perhaps that's the reason as its a way for the consultants to keep the coins flowing, but to be honest I am pleased to have the experts close to hand and not sure I could handle being in limbo.
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  • This sounds like a very common thing once the surgeon has done his bit your on your own. Im in the same boat northernsoul. Im 3 months post fusion op and my surgeon hasn't even checked me over or done x rays. In both my follow up appointments he just waved away all my questions and concerns with the comment " early days early days" and has discharged me. Im in the uk and had it done privately so expected better. How do I know if the fusion is successful? What can and cant I do and when? So much for private health care.
  • I really can't believe this difference, but guess I should be glad it's not an NHS vs Private divide. I cannot imagine having the lack of support you experience, I guess I must be very lucky to have a surgeon who appears to keep up to date with his patients progress and wants to see through the recovery. In fact we have already discussed the future, where possibly further fusion may be required to levels above.

    I would feel very aggrieved at being discharged, in fact I would suggest you get back in touch and demand a follow up appointment to discuss your concerns. I understand that it is difficult to see fusion results early on through x-rays, and that really a CT would be needed but that's a higher dose of radiation. I believe many surgeons rely on the patients own response to surgery to determine fusion success.
  • I think many orthopaedic surgeons must see spinal surgery as a technical exercise. If the surgery goes well then they cannot assess the success of a fusion for some time and therefore they see no need to see the patient. Where patient care is good presumably other support is put in place, but in many cases, including mine, there is no avaiable support. Obviously GPs and accident and emergency would act if there was a serious problem but as I said originally, an opportunity to ask perhaps a nurse who is familiar with recovery some simple questions would be comforting. On a positive note I am six weeks post op today, on no medication and have returned to work. Cautiously optimistic that success will continue. See surgeon at 10.5 weeks post op. Good luck with all your recoveries too.
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