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I am needing a spinal fusion

Started by 1079890989@facebook on 07/29/2011 1:35am

I am supposed to have a spinal fusion can anyone tell me what recovery after the surgery is done. I am scared to have the surgery done because I don't know anything about it can someone tell me what it is like afterward.

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The fact is everyone recovers differently and the results are not guaranteed. In fact many people feel worse after the surgery, but many people feel significantly better. I am now 26 and very healthy, but I have had 3 spinal fusions over the last 18 months. If I could go back I would never have had the surgery. My advice would be that unless you are in unbearable pain, hold off on the surgery and continue to pursue more conservattive treatment.

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I have just had a lumbar laminectomy at L4/L5 and a bone graft fusion. I have been suffering from spinal stenosis for several years and neurogenic claudication for about 18 months to two years. It is really too early to say what the lasting effects of the surgery will be but at present it has got rid of my major problem. I was very worried aout having surgery but had reached a point where I was getting rapidly worse and knew I would lose my mobility so decided to take a chance on it. I am 78 years old and have osteoarthritis and osteoprorosis so it was something I thought about for a long time.Good luck with your decision making.

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I had spinal fusion surgery 6 weeks ago because of herniated disks in my neck and so far I am doing quite well. The first week was rough, but it was not because I was in any any pain or anything like that. The surgery just caused a great tiredness and you need rest and assistance that first week. I had two surgeries back-to-back. The surgeon first went through the front and the next day the back. Today I took my grandson to the mall to buy school clothes. I am still wearing a collar, which draws a lot of attention, but most people who ask about it generally just want to know what happened to me. Please consult with your doctor and ask him or her questions because this is indeed major surgery. In my case, nothing could stop the severe pain that I was experiencing except surgery. I had no choice. It also helped that two co-workers had similar surgery and both are doing great. Good luck!

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Please feel free (and this goes for anyone who would like to talk with fusion patients, past and present, regarding the surgery, the outcomes and the procedure itself) to join our Yahoogroup which has been in existence for almost a decade:http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/LooseScrews2/ The archived posts alone are worth taking a look. Follow many of us through our pre-op and post-op lives with lumbar fusions.

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Hi Paige
Your concern is understandable. I have undergone 4 back surgeries which included an anterior & posterior fusion with instrumentation. Recovery depends on you, I had to push myself as I was self employed, actually I taught figure skating. My surgeon said I should be off work for 5 months but I was back on the ice teaching after only one month. In hind sight this wasn't the smartest thing to do. My fusion was sucessful , it took a couple of years before everything really settled down, but that was probably because I should have had a longer recovery period before returning to work. Immediately following the surgery was painful but was controlled with pain meds, my surgery took 7.5 hrs. As with any surgery do your homework, check out the surgeon, ask if he will be doing the surgery or his resident, I made sure that a Claus was added to my consent form stating that he personally would perform the surgery. This may sound strange but I didn't want someone with little experience learning on my back. You should also ask about the problem with fusing one level and the problems that may happen in later years with the level above and below the fusion area. You see when one level is fused it puts more stress on the adjacent areas and can lead to further disc problems - which is where I'm at today.
I wish you all the best, but please do all the research before hand once you've had the surgery is too late.
Polly

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Hi Paige......hate to be so blunt, but why haven't you discussed these questions with your doctor? If they can't or won't explain in detail what is involved with your surgery and recovery, then you need to find another surgeon. There should be NO questions in your mind about having surgery before going forward with it. I have been blessed with caring and communitive surgeons for my three surgeries, and they all suggested that any fusions should be an absolute last resort after more conservative measures have been tried. You have probably already had your surgery, but in any case, best of luck and try to stay active.

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I posted on here a few weeks ago.but it is now eleven weeks since my back surgery and I am doing very well. I can walk for up to 3 kilometres without any pain( could do more but am taking it slowly) and I go to the pool for hydrotherapy twice a week. If you have already had your surgery, Paige, I hope that you are doing well. I had many people ,including my daughter who is a trained nurse, telling me I was doing the wrong thing. The first neurosurgeon I saw did not give me any confidence in him but the second one answered all my questions,and told me what he would do. Also because I have severe osteoporosis he pointed out the things that could go wrong.. However my quality of life was deteriorating and I decided to go ahead with the operation. .The operation took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, the physiotherapist got me up for a short walk the following day.I have to wear a brace for another 3 weeks but I have had very little pain and most of the pain I had was from the iliac crest where the bone graft was taken from.I realise I still have a lot of healing to do but I am hopeful that my improvement will continue. I hope that whatever decision you make it will be the right one for you.

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Hi Paige,

3 years ago, I was diagnosed with Isthmic Spondylolisthesis Grade 1 at the L5/S1 vertebral level. I experienced daily mechanical pain for which I am sure that you can also attest to. I was told by a chiropractor that it was more than likely that my spondylolisthesis would not deteriorate any further and that conservative treatment ( I.e. physiotherapy, chiropractory, and topical formulas) would suffice.

However, 8 months after being diagnosed, my pain levels had substantially increased and I was having intermittent flair up's which involved multiple disc bulges (this is the domino affect from a destabilized spine - spondylolisthesis was the stressor). Despite continued efforts to mitigate my evolving daily pain, conservative treatment was not helping and I was then starting to experience neurologic issues which involved intense sharp stabbing and burning neuropathic pain down my right leg (sciatica).

After persistent pain and obvious neural problems which were associated with the isthmic spondylolisthesis domino affect, I had undertaken extensive research for a prospective neurosurgeon before my first consultation in February, 2011. Upon my consultation with my neurosurgeon, he arranged an MRI for me and the results confirmed significant further deterioration involving Neuroforaminal stenosis (nerve impingement from narrowed foramina nerve canal) at L5/S1 level; disc bulge with annular tear and facet joint degeneration at L3/L4; and disc degeneration, broad based disc herniation, and facet joint degeneration at L4/L5 level. Upon seeing the evidence, my neurosurgeon arranged for me to have a Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumber Interbody Fusion (TLIF) with hardware at L5/S1 level.

Furthermore, I had my surgery on the 11th July this year and I am now at 12 weeks post surgery. I must say that, I am feeling absolutely wonderful and my pain levels are 90% better than they were before surgery! Without surgery intervention, the reality is that I would have continued having long term crippling pain not to mention more serious neurologic deficits (I.e. loss of muscle function; incontinence; decreased leg sensations; leg weakness; abnormal reflexes; paralysis; and further deterioration of my lumber spine area) Therefore, not being able to work and maintain any quality of life.

If coupled with a suitably experienced/qualified spinal surgeon, the TLIF procedure has a low incidence of complications and in fact, many clinical studies and surveys indicate that the majority of TLIF patient's report substantial pain reduction as well a successful fusion rate (i.e. 90%>).

As with any surgery, you need to weigh up the risks verses the benefits (in my case, the benefits clearly outweighed the risks). When considering spinal surgery, you also need to make sure that you select a suitably qualified and experienced orthopedic or neurosurgeon who has demonstrated expertise in successfully performing spinal surgery procedures as such careful selection will heavily influence the surgery outcome. Yes, there can be potential issues that may arise from surgery implications, though, having an experienced and well recognized surgeon can mitigate such risks.

At this stage, I returned to work last week and furthermore my lower back is coping well. As the fusion is still continuing to form, I still have a few restrictions such as no lifting above 2 kg (my physio was a little conservative I think), no prolonged sitting (30 minutes>) without regular stretching/walking, and no repetitive twisting movements.

I just started attending hydrotherapy last week and I will continue to attend once a week for the next 6 weeks. I must say that, the hydrotherapy is absolutely wonderful as it seems to gently stretch and exercise those deeper musculoskeletal areas which require stimulation.

Later in November this year, I have a scheduled review appointment with my neurosurgeon to discuss my rehabilitation progress as well as arrange a CT scan to assess the degree/integrity of my fusion.

I sincerely wish you all the very best with your decision. In the meantime, please keep me posted on your progress. What sort of spinal issues do you have?

Take care & kind regards,

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It's refreshing to read of positive outcomes after fusion surgery......

My spondy was diagnosed in 1997, after six years of being prescribed ineffectual anti-inflammatory drugs - because my intermittent pain was first thought to be arthritic. Those drugs eventually caused my stomach lining to become inflamed. .....

I was told from the begining that spondy is degenerative - but niether I or my doctors expected it to progress as quickly as it has.

In 2008, the pain became a constant and I was referred to a consultant spinal surgeon at our local hospital.

She led me to believe that a very simple discectomy would be all I'd need to restore me to full, pain-free mobility. However, she wanted me to have an MRI - just so that she could be absolutely certain as to where the screws needed to be placed......

I had the MRI - a horrible experience - and three weeks later, I was called back to see the surgeon.

So sorry, I was told, but the simple operation would not be possible. My vertebral slippage had been shown to be worse that thought. What I'd need was spinal fusion surgery. Oh, so glib......

Long story short: I knew two people who'd had this surgery - and wished to GOD they hadn't!

However, I researched the latest online material I could find - and all indicated that fusion surgery is seldom successful.
I decided not to undergo it, then discussed it with my GP.
He agreed that it would be wrong for me.

Now, I've been reviled in these forums for advocating the non-surgical approach. I've been callled ignorant and stupid - even insulting....

I'm neither; i simply made a choice. And ,if asked for my HONEST opinion, I'll advise AGAINST surgery every time.

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I also know people for whom spinal fusion with instrumentation was a complete failure. In my case I was told that because of my osteoporosis it was unlikely that screws would hold so I had a bone gaft fusion and bone substitute. I am now fifteen weeks post op and still pain free.
I agree it is a very difficult and individual decision but I had reached the stage where I could see myself being unable to walk, stand or sit without it causing me pain. i had done a lot of research and think that, in my case, I made the right decision. I wasn't talked into it by anyone,in fact my daughter tried to talk me out of it, But I think even she agrees now that it was the right action for me. We are all individuals and see things differently. What is right for one person may not be the right solution for another.

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Hi Paige, I had spinal fusion minimal evasive March of this year. L5-s1 with 1 rod, 2 screws and artifical disc. I'm doing pretty good. The first 4 months were very rough for me. I'm glad I did the surgery. Get into Pt as soon as your dr authorizes it. I started 5 wks after surgery and it was a life saver. My therapist is great and she has helped me so much. Do lots of walking helps with the stiffness. Its not going to be easy but hopefully you be like myself and many others and have a successful outcome. Good luck to you!

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Whatever I say will be poo-pooed by someone else......But MY considered view concerning Spinal Fusion, is DO NOT HAVE IT!!!

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I would not presume to advise anyone what path they should take regarding spinal fusion. It is a decision only the person involved and their specialist can decide, especially the person involved. In my case I would soon not have been able to walk without having the surgery. My decison was made after a lot of research and thought. So far it has proved the right decision for me. I know that there is a possibility of me having further problems but I do not regret my decision. I was a person who always said I would not have spinal surgery but for me the time was right and the surgeon was excellent.

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I'm already at the pont where I cannot sit, stand, walk, sleep a night through without pain.

BUT, I decided NOT to have fusion surgery, because of the risks associated with the anaesthetic (I have COPD) and the high failure percentage of fusion.

I had also to take into account my susceptibility to post-operative infection. Frfom having had my appendix removed when I was nine years old, through a D&C at sixteen, a repair to a damaged tendon in my left wrist, to sterilisation in my late thirties, there has never been an occasion on which I haven't developed infection in the wound.

I also have allergies to most metals - the only exception being silver. I haven't even been able to wear earrings of surgical, so-called hypoallergenic metal without my ears becoming infected!

I know that the time is all-too fast approaching when I'll need the wheelchair that's stashed in the shed. But, for now, I grit my teeth and take my drugs and will NEVER submit to fusion surgery.

It's my INFORMED decision and I hope it will be respected. Even when I advise newcomers NOT to go ahead with surgery......

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