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What to expect from fusion surgery?

After three spine surgeries - one microdiscectomy and laminectomy, then two additional surgeries to deal with a staph infection from the first surgery - I'm back in the hospital. My disc and vertebrae are infected, probably with staph, but they'll do a fluid draw from my spine to see if additional infectious agents are involved.

So now I'm facing a spinal fusion - my disc is just liquified, and the vertebrae are grinding against each other. Does anyone have any advice about this type of surgery? I know the procedure, but I'm unsure about what to expect afterwards. I used to be in stellar shape and very slim and muscled ... but after the last three surgeries and months of IV antibiotics and oral antibiotics, I'm 30 lbs overweight and I look like my dad!

What's the recovery time like for this type of surgery? I'm sure it'll be several weeks or months before I can resume a gentle workout regimen. I think.

I know nothing about the aftermath of this surgery. Words of wisdom?
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Comments

  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 08/06/2015 - 5:11 AM
    Do you know what type of fusion it will be? From the front, the back, both, the sides? Microsurgery or open? All those things will definitely make a difference.

    I had an TLIF which is microsurgery from the back. I have three 2 inch-long scars (one of those might have been from a prior surgery, I honestly can't even remember now after 4 surgeries in 6 months!!). The day of surgery I was sore, but nothing unmanageable. I had new weakness after my surgery, so I ended up needing a walker for about a week after the surgery for stability. After that, I used a cane for a while. But my situation was not typical in that I had some permanent nerve damage affecting my recovery.

    The first night after surgery was rough. To be fair though, the hospital forgot to give me two doses of muscle relaxers so I'm sure that didn't help. But I just hurt and couldn't get comfortable at all in the bed. I actually felt better sitting up or standing. After passing the little physical therapy test the next (things like climbing a couple steps and walking down a hallway) I was released to go home.

    I spent the next 5-6 weeks sleeping on the couch downstairs. For me, it was much more comfortable than laying in a regular bed. I also had a very hard time sleeping in general, most likely due to the medication as much as general discomfort. Around week 6-7, I felt like I turned a corner recover-wise. I was able to sleep in a bed again. I had weaned off of most of the pain meds and I was able to sleep most of the night again, which always makes everything better. I also started physical therapy sometime shortly after that.

    This was all 10+ months ago. I am still dealing with nerve damage that affects my walking and sleeping at night, but hopefully that will not affect you. I do know that the recovery just takes a long time. You're not stuck at home for months, but you do have to allow yourself to slow down, take it easy and rest. I am able to do pretty much anything at this point. In fact, I just got back from a 12+ hour road trip where I did all the driving both ways (husband had to work). I did surprisingly well, but I have really taken my time recovering since I had a lot of surgery in a short amount of time, with some complications, as it sounds like you have as well.

    All in all, it wasn't really as bad as I imagined it, but it is a big deal and it will take months to fully recover from. The resources on this website about what to expect after fusion surgery and helpful things to have were invaluable. I'm a firm believer that if you go into something like a surgery knowing (to the best of your ability) what to expect, then it makes things not nearly as bad as you might imagine.
    Christina
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • I am 11 days out from spinal fusion at L4-L5. I feel really BAD (much pain in both legs), exactly as I felt right before surgery. Going back to my surgeon tomorrow for a follow-up. This is not the result I was hoping for. Maybe it will get better.
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  • It's a little different for everybody to be honest, Coltsfan and I had a similar experience. You've been through a lot already as it is, I feel bad that now you have to go through a fusion after all your surgeries. This should hopefully be your last surgery after they stabilize your spine. My experience with the fusion was mixed, it was a painful recovery but I feel much better now. I'm 6 months post op and I still have good days and bad days, my life is pretty much back to normal although I suffer with some weakness and nerve issues still. Let your body rest and recover, gaining weight sucks but get well first! Good luck and keep us posted.
  • Kevhead, don't think you were addressing me, but thanks for those comments. I haven't given up hope. It's just that immediately after surgery I had zero pain, it seemed to all have been magically zapped. Now it's back again with a vengeance. Hoping my surgeon can give me an explanation and more reasons to hope that this surgery will eventually be successful.
  • AnewbeginningAAnewbeginning Posts: 1
    edited 08/16/2015 - 7:26 AM
    severe stenosis
    spondylitis
    degenerative disc disease
    bilateral sciatica
    bilateral leg numbness to toes
    15 years treatment with epidurals
    treatment: spinal lumbar fusion

    terrified of fusion. wanted coflex but insurance said no. so hear i am three days out and stunned. apparently i am atypical, because two days after surgery i'm not even using a walker anymore! and folks i'm over 100 lbs overweight! doc planned on xlif but because of my size needed to switch to a plif on the table. four hour surgery.

    first night on morphine, but they even told me i wasn't pushing the button enough. going home today. no more numbness or sciatica so far.

    so for those who are considering surgery, i look at it like this. you've lived in so much pain for so long, take your chances to live life again. it won't get better if on its own.

    i have read of so many on this site who have had difficulty after surgery and my heart goes out to each of you. i've lived with pain that made me scream. but i also wanted to let people know that not every lumbar fusion is a nightmare. i'm stunned how well mine is going.

    biggest suggestion: don't stop till you find a doc you love and trust. i ended up with a neuro-surgeon. best decision of my life. now i just need to learn how to wipe my butt and it's all good!

    welcome to spine-health
    please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
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  • ChappsCChapps Los AngelesPosts: 11
    Turns out, my type of surgery was PLIF. They went in from the back, cleaned out all of the scar tissue from the other three recent surgeries, then began the real work. My L4/5 disc was liquified and nearly completely eaten away by the staph infection, and the L4 and L5 vertebrae were similarly badly infected. So a lot of bone and tissue had to be debrided. An allograft was performed - bone from another donor was placed between the vertebrae in place of my disc. My vertebrae were in good enough shape to accept screws, to which titanium rods were attached. The hope is that the donor bone and the vertebrae will fuse as soon as possible - a distinct possibility, considering that I have ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

    The pain wasn't horrible - it was being treated with Oxycodone - but it went off the charts when my surgeon took me off Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory that I had been using for my AS. The day after surgery, I had been walking pretty well, which ended when Celebrex was no longer in my system. My biggest at home post-op issues are the massive back muscle spasms that I'm having. They trigger when I'm lying in bed, usually asleep, and practically bend me over backward, one after the other. Massive, horrible, beyond painful. I don't think this is typical, so if some of you are looking to have this surgery, don't get freaked out. Having this kind of surgery with AS is very difficult, and I'm completely in flare because of the assault on my body. I just wish I knew how to stop them, because I've become afraid to sleep. Instead, I try to sleep while sitting up in bed or in a comfy chair. I'm so tired, but I can't afford to have many more of those spasms - they go on forever and on a 10 point pain scale, they're a 15.

    If anyone else *has* experienced these spasms, let me know how you treated them. I'm just taking a med for muscle spasms - which doesn't seem particularly effective.
  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 08/23/2015 - 3:50 PM
    Wow, that sounds really painful. I'm glad your surgery went well, but I think you should definitely let your surgeon know about the intensity of the spasms because rest is important for your recovery too. You may just need a different muscle relaxer. Flexeril worked much better for me than Robaxin, but I'm sure there are others as well. Hope you can find some good relief ASAP.

    Christina
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • ChappsCChapps Los AngelesPosts: 11
    I'm seeing my surgeon this Wednesday, after getting a CT scan. I've had Flexeril around for years (I have ankylosing spondylitis - AS - and it helps me to sleep by relaxing my muscles), and just used it the other night. It's very powerful and leaves me with a bit of a drug hangover the next day, but doesn't stop the massive spasms. I still have to sleep sitting up - lying down triggers the spasms. One of the other people here mentioned Diazepam as a great wa to make the spasms recede.
  • anewbeginning said:
    severe stenosis
    spondylitis
    degenerative disc disease
    bilateral sciatica
    bilateral leg numbness to toes
    15 years treatment with epidurals
    treatment: spinal lumbar fusion

    terrified of fusion. wanted coflex but insurance said no. so hear i am three days out and stunned. apparently i am atypical, because two days after surgery i'm not even using a walker anymore! and folks i'm over 100 lbs overweight! doc planned on xlif but because of my size needed to switch to a plif on the table. four hour surgery.

    first night on morphine, but they even told me i wasn't pushing the button enough. going home today. no more numbness or sciatica so far.

    so for those who are considering surgery, i look at it like this. you've lived in so much pain for so long, take your chances to live life again. it won't get better if on its own.

    i have read of so many on this site who have had difficulty after surgery and my heart goes out to each of you. i've lived with pain that made me scream. but i also wanted to let people know that not every lumbar fusion is a nightmare. i'm stunned how well mine is going.

    biggest suggestion: don't stop till you find a doc you love and trust. i ended up with a neuro-surgeon. best decision of my life. now i just need to learn how to wipe my butt and it's all good!

    welcome to spine-health
    please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
    even with ongoing pain and loss of mobility i'm very much like you, surgery gave me so much relief i'm thrilled about it.

    i've read quite a few posts and you're the first to ever mention having to learn to wipe your butt again. it's 3am where i'm at and i'm pretty sure i've caused half the neighborhood to wake up early this morning laughing.
    i have no doubt that you'll pull through but you're quite right it's definitely a challenge.
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