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Posted in: Herniated disc, and Surgery.

looking for experience with plif surgery

Started by jonhoff on 08/08/2010 8:13am

i am a 37 year old carpenter. i have had lots of problems with back pain as can be expected since my mid 20's. i have seen a chiropractor and family doctor for several years for relief from this. about a year ago i developed a drop foot and numbness and jerking in both feet. a couple months ago the muscle spasms started that seem like they never quit in my legs and shooting pain almost constantly in my legs and hips. god bless you if you cough as it feels as though a whole has exploded from my buttocks. i had an mri done about a month ago and it said i had a bulging L3-4, a ruptured L4-5 on the left making good contact with exiting nerve root, and a ruptured L5-S1 on the right making contact with exiting nerve root. i have been on ibuprofen, muscle relaxers, vicodin. seems as though the only way to get any relief is to take them all at one time a couple times a day. had a cortizone shot which was wonderful but only lasted two days. then i went to a neurosurgion last week and he said i need a posterior lateral interbody fusion. i have heard lots about discectomies but not so much about plif's. i am scared to death at my age of considering a major surgery but the pain is no longer from one to ten, it is more like somewhere between homicidal and suicidal. nothing seems to give me solid relief and it seems impossible to get comfortable. i get so grumpy i can't stand to be around myself sometimes. the pain raps all the way around my hips and i have come to terms with the fact that something is definintly wrong but am unsure what to do about it. this is way different than past times when my back was messed up and i could rest and let it heal. but i don't know much about the surgery and to be honest i was in tears when the neuro suggested such a major surgery as i was expecting to hear i needed a couple of discs cleaned up and would be good as new in no time. i have so many friends and contacts that have had terrible problems with major back surgery but none had this exact surgery. doc said he would do a double fusion on the bottom and put in a carbon cage and he showed me some things that looked like rubber roll pins that he would drill and thread into my discs on either side of my spine to spread and keep the discs spread. when i look this surgery up on the internet i don't see or hear anything remotely close to what he told and showed me he wants to do. he also said i would be in for a lengthy recovery. but if this surgery is really what i need i would prefer to have it at a younger age than an older one. the doc says that if i put this off much longer no surgeries are going to offer me much help. i am going to get a second opinion but it seems like the pain gets worse by the day and i don't know exactly what to do. would love to have feedback

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2 Responses


Dear Jon,

I just found out this past Friday that I will have to have a double PLIF on the L-4 thru the S-1. I am 40 and have spent the past 20 years raising my children. I just recieved my BS in March and was looking forward to starting a career. All plans are on hold. I ruptured my L-5 S-1 when I was 26. 4 months of bed rest and pain meds lead to a recovery. For 10 years I had bouts with the disk but nothing a few weeks couldn't fix. In 2006 I had a rupture in the disk that completely compressed the nerve root of my left leg. I had to have an emergency discectomy to save my leg. I am happy to report came out 100% pain free. I was driving in two weeks and golfing in 4. That disk is still in fine shape and causing no pain. However 10 months ago I ruptured my already herniated L-4. Though I have had many painful times with my back this was unlike anything before. I writhed in pain, cried often, cursed like a sailor and lived by counting the minutes until I could take my next med. Oxycodone 15mg every 4 hours, Soma 350mg every 6 and it takes my pain from unbearable to tolerable. I have an extreme pain tolerance but this injury was truly crippling and depressing. I used a walker to get tot he toliet, had to have a raised seat put on the commode, and only moved to pee. After 10 months I can now walk hunched over but can't lift my head or straighten my back when I walk. I finally returned to my surgeon after hoping this thing would heal with time. An MRI showed my entire L-4 had extruded and my vertebrae were grinding away at each other with movement. I have all the pain you mentioned in both legs from hips to feet. One look at the MRI results and my surgeon just said "Oh boy." I have mechanicacl failure in my lower spine due to the extent of the rupture. A double fusion is my only option to stabilize my back and regain some symblance of a normal life. I have done extensive research but there is little to none on double fusions unless you want to pay for research papers online. I have found plenty about single fusions and at our ages we have an excellent prognosis. Having had a sucessful spinal surgery with this surgeon I feel safe in his hands and trust his judgement that this is what I need. However, no one can tell me what limitations will occur after the surgery. My surgeon is working to have this done in the next 3 - 4 weeks. I will keep checking in to see if you are still in this forum and have had your surgery. If I beat you to it I will share my experiences with you. For now be strong. I know how bad it is and how scary and hopeless it feels. I hope all works out well for you and can tell you a positive attitude about the aftermath really helps in the recovery. I broke all recovery records for my surgery at age 36 because I believed anything was better than the pain I had been living with.


at this point i am waiting to see another doctor for a second opinion. i am trying to make it thru the season at my job but isn't going very well. i am having major difficulty walking. i am amazed that it just keeps getting worse and it has me scared to death. but i am coming to terms that this may be my only option as this sucks and is not a life at all. if i stay off the meds to get out of the clouds the pain is unbearable and moving around is impossible. hope we both make it thru. thanks for writing back. i sure am glad to hear any feedback and all experience with this. i am no stranger to back pain but this seems like a whole different animal for sure.