10 years Post Lumbar Fusion L5-S1
Hi! In 10 years I have never entered one of these discussions, but I am beginning to have serious concerns so I am hoping there are others this far out from surgery (or further) who might be able to advise. I am a 46 yr old woman, 5'7', athletic & healthy in appearance but not so much in the reality that i hide.
In 2005 post a car accident I had instrumented fusion at L5-S1, lamenectomy, & discectomy at L4/5. I also had three herniated discs in my neck and concussion. I refused to believe I needed surgery at first, and a orthopedic surgeon and friend told me flat out "You can try everything else out there if you feel you need to, but you will have surgery in the end." So i did. At the time of the accident I was an endurance athlete, 35 yrs old and never had any physical issues, ran 35 miles a week, swam 6, biked 60, skated 30, and for extra fun rock climbing, kayaking, dancing, hiking, whatever was fun and active- my solid frame probably saved me from worse results- I had a grade 3 spondolysthesis (separation of spine- i hope I am getting this right as the effects of the concussion also took my memory) and ruptured L5/S1. ( as well as the 5 other herniated discs).
In the end I saw three orthopedic surgeons all of which wanted to do a 360 spinal fusion at 3 levels & I finally scheduled the surgery with one- I was in a wheelchair at this point 2mos. post accident. A week before surgery a friend urged me to see a neurosurgeon friend who was also an avid athlete. Thank goodness I did, I would urge anyone to see a neurosurgeon first now! He took the more conservative approach. It worked. Not to say pain hasn't been a part of my life since, but manageable. I stopped taking pain killers within a month of surgery & was walking 5 miles a day within 3 mo. At six months I stopped wearing the back brace, started physical therapy- basically working out at gym with a side of electro-stem & heat- and started cycling (18 to 20 mile rides twice a week) and swimming (a mile or two 3 times a week). It took about 3 months for my over zealous workouts to slow me down a bit, readjust my riding position & swim much less or with an inconvenient float under belly (I'm a sinker, not good for spine when swimming in these circumstances). A few more months pass and I get my first ESI in my neck and I am down to working on light weight lifting & elliptical training (indoors- not my preference) and no swimming and very occasional cycling. (and occasionally running because it is my drug of choice, a costly one in these circumstances) During this time, approx. first 3 yrs I continued PT which ended up being pain treatment 2 to 3 times a week, massage therapy 2 to 3 times a week, acupuncture occasionally & chiropractic. Until I went bankrupt (7yrs later)- did I mention my private pay insurance that I had for 6 yrs prior to accident & had never ONCE used cancelled me day of surgery (!! fought this but they were too big to fight). I feel fortunate that I was in a position to take care of myself, so many aren't. That aside, I continued on my own doing everything I had learned on my own trying to scrape out an existence with my new body & brain & pain. I had ESI again in neck at 4yrs. Skip forward to now: I have insurance again, finally, thank you Obamacare, and I had an MRI on neck last week & my third ESI. C5/6 & C6/7 are herniated and I have disc degeneration C2-7, bone spurs & other stuff. I am in a lot of pain. What I am really really concerned about though is that I have sciatic pain in both legs now (originally it was left leg only), and the right is severe down to my pinkie toe. I have been taking pain meds for almost 2 months now (5/325 norco once a day- mid day to be productive) and i don't tolerate them well and my stomach is destroyed from too much ibuprofen :-P … I am getting a CT scan with dye (MRI not effective with instrumentation?) in a month, procrastinating it actually, and i fear I know the results already. So if anyone actually made it through my tome and has experience with 10 yrs or more post fusion I would love to hear from you, good or bad. And i hope for your sake, good :-), and thanks for actually reading all of this!!!