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Spondylolisthesis Surgery

I am a newcomer to this forum and, as suggested, I will try to give you basic details of my situation. I am a 74 year old woman, retired. First problems began in 1990 with sciatica and since then have had a very gradual deterioration with pain moving into the lower back, and less seriously, the neck. I have had MRIs every year for the past 6 or more years, all of which indicated increasing lumbar stenosis and some cervical stenosis.

In 2008, I had a laminectomy for the sciatica and that particular problem has never recurred; however, the procedure apparently destabilized other portions of my lower back and the most recent MRI also indicated a double listhesis (L3/4 and L4/5).

Over the past 2 years, the pain has accelerated to the point where I can now remain on my feet for no more than about 10 minutes. In an effort to avoid surgery, I have had physical therapy many times over the years and attempted to stay active by walking , water exercise and stationary cycling. I think all of these have helped to delay surgery, but that now appears to be inevitable, as the pain is really quite overwhelming at times, especially at the end of the day. Everyday tasks (cooking, cleaning, even driving, etc.) have become difficult which limits me even more. Additionally, I often experience numbness in my feet, which although not painful, is disconcerting.

I react badly to all strong pain medication (paracetamol with codeine, paracetamol with opium, lamina, Celebrex, etc.) and can only tolerate 1000 mg of regular paracetamol every 4-6 hours and even that seems to now becoming less and less effective. I watch the clock!
I stopped smoking 11 years ago when I underwent a double knee replacement (in San Francisco). I stopped drinking all alcoholic beverages last May in response to a pancreas problem (I hope not related to the back issues and in any case, not serious).

All of this is very much complicated by the fact that I have been living in France most of the time for the past 17 years. My French is adequate for daily life, but fails me frequently when dealing with medical vocabulary, etc. I had a complete electromyogram exam to rule out radiculopathy (still not clear), in December, which led to carpal tunnel surgery, which was reasonably successful. We live on the island of Corsica and any serious surgery must be undertaken on the Continent due to the dearth of specialists here.

In March, I consulted with a recommended neurosurgeon in Marseille. We had a difficult time understanding each other; however, he suggested the usual protocol of conservative treatment, i.e, cortisone injection, 20 sessions of physiotherapy including pool treatment, and as much normal activity as possible. He concluded his analysis and recommendations with the statement that when and if the pain became too much, I could request surgical intervention. I did so, last week, but when I requested details from his assistant, I was told that I would be in the hospital for 2 days after the surgery and then fly back to Corsica for 2 weeks at a rehabilitation center here. Having read a great deal about surgery and post surgery on this and other sites, I was under the impression that travel by plane was not allowed for the first 6 weeks after fusion surgery (some say 6 months), so I am naturally very concerned about this doctor's plan for me.

I was unhappy with the poor communications and rapport and have just initiated efforts to find English-speaking neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons (being unsure which is preferable) elsewhere in the south of France. I only have national health coverage in France so must restrict my search to this country.

I come to the forum in hopes that some of you can give me information about spinal fusion surgery for spondylolisthesis, according to your experience, and the advisability of travel soon thereafter. If, in addition, any of you by chance have had occasion to deal with surgical interventions in France, that would be a huge bonus.

It has felt wonderful to simply write all this down, at last. My thanks to Spine-Health for an excellent site.



  • II had a fusion of the L4/5 in April 2013 for this condition. The procedure I had was the XLIF, where they went in through my right side and then placed posterior pedicle screws. I had the surgery just a few weeks shy of turning 52. I was in the hospital for 4 days and in a morphine pump for about 48 hours. Truthfully, I can't imagine flying 2 days afterwards. On day 5 or 6 I maybe could have done it, with help and in a wheelchair. On day 7 I got in the car with my husband and walked into a store to purchase a sweater, but I really had NO business being out and about; I probably looked like a corpse! On that day, though, I told my husband that my pain level was actually better than it had been prior to surgery. Once I got into week 2 I felt pretty good and recovery went pretty quickly after that. At this point I would say my pain is improved 75%, I feel better than I could have imagined. When I overdo it my back hurts, but day to day I don't have any pain to speak of.
    Lumbar laminectomy L-4/L-5, 2006
    XLIF with posterior pedicle screws L-4/L-5, 4-23-2013
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