Medical Questions > Conditions and Diseases > Spinal Injuries Forum

l5-s1 spinal fusion

Hello all
I just found out recently that i have damaged pretty severely my lumbar spine. the MRI showed bulging of the lumbar spine from 1-2-3-4-5 ans l5-s1. after going the whole painful road of making this better months of therapy injections the whole nine yards. nothing worked. after going the most painful procedure of a discogram the surgeon tells me I have to have a disectomy and or laminectomy plus fusion at l5-s1.
of course the surgeon put his best pitch foward and second opinion pretty much the same thing..i just wanted to ask other people that has been in my shoes is it worth it...its very very questionable if i return to my job as an Firefighter/EMT..
any help would be nice
Geno
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First Helper ILLINI_HOOPS
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replied January 22nd, 2012
Geno, I dont have personal knowledge of the disectomy/laminectomy but I have had my L5-S1 fused.

It sounds like you have exhausted most of the pre-op remedies/therapies and if you're still having tingling, numbness, pain, etc, I'd wager you don't have much other choice than to have the surgeries.

Not having the surgery 'soon enough' can cause serious damage, often irreversible damage. For this reason you have to be careful putting it off. At the same time there are plenty of people who feel they are worse post-op. It's tough listening to others and trying to decide what's best for you.

My best advice is to know your surgeon (how many procedures like yours he's done, how often complications exist, etc). If he can't give you numbers, move on. Most reputable hospitals monitor nerves during surgery, if yours doesn't, find one that does. IF/WHEN you are comfortable, go for it.

I was surprised to know my fusion would take a full yr to recover. Two mths post-op I went down water slides at the water park (stupid-stupid move, but I felt that good). I had asked my Dr pre op how long after surgery I had to wait for white water rafting, he said ONE YR. I didn't tell him about going down those slides and I asked him several times post op when I could raft. He sternly replied, 1 yr. He wouldnt budge on needing a full yr to totally heal. He said after that yr I could sky dive or do 'anything' I wanted.

I need a laminectomy at T12 and I've been putting it off. One advantage to waiting is they're always perfecting surgeries and coming up with new technology and procedures. It seems the recovery for this procedure isn't as long as the fusion. I'm pretty sure being an EMT is a possibility once you have this done and have healed. You won't need the full yr out of work but you will be limited on how much you can lift during that time.

Whatever you decide, I hope you do well.
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replied March 2nd, 2012
Spinal Fusion L5S1
Dear Geno, I have had the same trouble for years. Having exhausted the injections as you can only do 3 and eventually they dont work, I went for the Spinal Fusion L5-S1 on 14th January 2012. Not long ago and Im fine.
There are various ways of doing it. Mine was the complete removal of the disk and replacement by some kind of device with holes in it, I forget the name, in which there is synthetic bone. This is the longest in recovery time. 6 weeks no bending no twisting and preferably at home. 6 further weeks no bending no twisting. I ve started work again but I m taking it easy. I m a biker and I can ride my bike if I dont bend or twist so I ve chosen not to for the moment.
I had no pain at all for the first two weeks, then excruciating pain in my left side and leg for possibly 1 week 1/2, now I only have tenderness only in the area where the operation took place. The surgeon went through the front which is much less invasive.
But then I had an excellent surgeon. His name is Bronek Boszczyk. He operations at the Queens Hospital in Nottingham. He will explain the various possibilities you can have. One is to have the disc replaced by another one and you can return to your activities straight away. I would do it again definitely ! Even if Ihave a little pain 7 weeks on, its nothing compared to the agony I was going through before. But I would only be operated by him.
If you need further help, let me know.
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replied March 2nd, 2012
I too had L4-L5/L5-S1 fusion done apoox. a year ago. Let me first start by saying I was injured falling off my roof in 2006, also broke both knee, feet, have some memory loss. I was in a lot of pain before the 1st spine surgery, but at least I knew what my daily pain and life would be like, then I had the original surgery for fusion...Still A Lot of pain, started getting depressed and afraid to leave the house, was in a wheelchair, then found out the replacement disc's had moved (slipped) so they went in and stabalized it with hardward...I should mention the 1st surgery was anterior (through the stomach) 2nd was posterior (back) After the 2nd surgery until today I have been in more pain than I have ever thought possible, I can't sleep much due to pain,the depression and fear of leaving the house is awful, at 45 I was forced to move in with my parents because I lost my house, and have nobody to care for me...my G/F of 10 years left because taking care of me was too much for her....Now they want to take the hardware out to see if that helps....If I only knew then what I know now...I never would of had the surgery...My life as I knew it (very active) is over, I cannot cook, clean or even bathe myself, my teeth are falling out because I don't have insurance and must be put out in order to withstand the pain of sitting for so long.
If you are able to still get around with only level 4 0r 5 pain, I would not have the surgery...I did and live in level 8-10 pain daily....I want just a fourth of my life back...I can't drive anymore, I blackout, I cannot tell when I have to have a bowel movement because it always feels like I do, and I wet myself at times....It would be much better IMO if I was paralyzed that way I couldn't feel the pain....Sorry to give to you straight Geno, but brother it ruined my life....Good luck
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replied March 2nd, 2012
I am very sorry to hear you are in such bad shape Illini. Clearly you have been very unlucky because thousands of people do this every year and they are just fine. But I must repeat that after the surgery you MUST take it easy. Even if you feel fine and you think you really can do anything. YOu cannot ! you must rest. It was made very clear to me. No sitting more than 20/30 mins at a time, periods of lying down during the day, moving is important in small doses so I took one or two walks a day of 30 mins only on steady ground and with comfortable shoes. Twice a day I do particular movements I have been given a leaflet on. After 7 weeks I m working again but only part time. Even if I feel I could easily work the whole day ; sitting at my desk all day would not be good. So I force myself to go home, relax, walk, take it easy. I know how important it is because now is when the bone is growing. After 6 weeks I saw my surgeon and the device is in place and all his well. There is no reason at all why the replaced disk or in my case the "device" for want of a better word should move at all if the surgery has been done properly and you have taken it easy.
Before surgery I was in daily agony particularly at night and I couldnt even bear to have a sheet over my skin. Now i sleep so well I cant believe it.
But the surgeon needs to be an ace. Mine is.
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replied March 2nd, 2012
Thanks GS...
I have a wonderful surgeon, he has stuck by me through all of it...I feel like I have no hope left and often have "self-pitty" parties...I was always out going, very social, active in several sports..the type of person who never sat down...and today I am too afraid to even leave the bedroom at my parents home where I have been forced to move, because I am completely broke, no ins. SSDI is taking forever. I have followed my Dr's instuction verbatum but things just keep getting worse, so he is having me checked for MS, and has said that there is a very good chance that may be an underlying cause...I respect him very much as well as his staff, they always return my calls immediately...I think many here can testify to being "humbled" by the treatment you recieve when you beome disabled, people seem to treat you different and act different...You see prior to this I was in medicine for many years and have now seen it from both sides...I never thought I would ever be on food stamps,I am...or SSDI, I've applied, free clinics, yep have to go to them too...I cannot express what this has done to my once VERY HAPPY life. I was the poster boy for being happy, now I live in fear of everything....
I try not to reply to emails when asked how I am because I either lie and say "Oh I'm ok" or go on a rant, and tell them how I really am...And nobody wants to hear that....I take my meds as directed, I never miss a Dr's appt. I've done everything, to no avail...Now Doc want to remove the hardware in a few months, and I' scared that I may end up worse than I am now...Also I will have to have another fusion above this one in a yr or so...Folks who have been there know what I mean...but its almost impossible w/o sounding over dramatic to discuss it with those who have not....When you wake up and know that today is going to be the same or worse than the day before its hard to be happy about many things...Anyways thx for your reply
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replied March 3rd, 2012
I sympathise greatly Illini as the pain I was in before was so excruciating. And God knows I m not one for lamenting. I m very active all the time. Strangely enough the only place where I did not have pain was riding around on my motorbike. Possibly because of the slightly forward but dead straight position (I have a BMWGS1200). I never suffered even if I rode the thing for a whole week which I have done on a number of occasion.
People who do not want to hear how you are are not real friends !
Today is a bad day, I am in quite a bit of pain. I was told there are good days and bad days. Still I m one of the lucky ones. Indeed you must have another underlying problem. Are you able to take walks around outside at all ? whereabouts do you live ?
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replied June 27th, 2012
I had a L5S1 fusion 1 week ago today and I feel better than I have in 5 yrs and wish I hadn't taken so long to have my pain level is like a 2 with no meds and this time 8 days ago no amount of pills would get it below a 6. so in my case, it was better to get it done. still pain but nothin like before
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replied June 29th, 2012
Im so pleased for you. Mine was now 6 months ago and I ve never felt so good. the pain is completely gone. I have resumed a perfectly normal life, ride my bike as much as I want, gym most days, twist and bend and I have no pain whatsoever. Just please do take it easy for 6 weeks. Stay at home, do the exercises you ve been told to do, do not stay sat more than 30 mins at a time, get up and walk around your house, go for a couple of 30 mins walk outside everyday. You might experience some pain even quite bad pain after the after effect of the drugs used in hospital wear off but dont worry it will go. Good luck !
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replied June 29th, 2012
I am so glad to finally read some posts that are positive! I have had an MRI, numerous Xrays, and an EMG. My MRI shows extensive disc herniation, one bulging disc, a bone spur and mild to moderate stenosis. My doctor is strongly recommending fusion at L4/5. I have read so many posts about surgery that are all gloom and doom and people who's surgery has failed. While I feel very sorry for these folks, that does not mean that every surgery is going to turn out bad.

BTW, no one can promise that you will be totally free of back pain after the surgery but it has to be better than the pain I am going though right now! I am going for a second opinion but feel like surgery might be a good option for me.
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replied July 25th, 2012
Hello group, Its me...lol.. and im a single mother of 2. To start out with, I dont want to scare anyone but this is a major heads up and I got a huge awakening. I suffer from spinal stenosis and grade 3 almost 75% slippage, lumbar Spondylolisthesis of L5. I had my 2nd back surgery March of 2012 with a bone graft surgery because my surgeon noticed that the fusion had not worked and what they called pseudoarthorsis was occuring. Among other things, the screws the 1st surgeon used during my surgery Jan of 2010 which they did a PLIF surgery, The screws they used were too long and they were completely thru my spine so my surgeon took those out and put in shorter screws but larger diameter ones. During the summer of 2011 I started to have increased pain, and mind you I can handle pain, but the last month or so its increased and theres like a knot on my spine area where the surgery was. This pain is 5 time worse than before the first surgery and I cant give my baby a bath without crying or even plucking my eye brows cause leaning towards the mirror is complete murder, it took me 10 years and 3 spine dr's I sought out to finally find the 3rd. They had all the same information my 1st surgeon did the surgery off of back when I saw the first doctor in 2002. They knew then something was wrong but never did anything. So back to subject, over the summer I would bend over and it felt like something was catching and when i would sit sometimes I felt like someone was poking me with a pin. So My second surgeon tells me at a recent check up and recent xrays that my back looks great and that its healing great. The 1st surgeon did a wonderful job with the cage and such and to expect a longer period of pain due to the screws and I thought well ok, hes the boss. I have been experiencing a popping sensation in my hip/pelvic joint area so he referred me to the hospital chiropractor and this is when my life changed and I was blown away...The chiropractor comes in and looks at the same recent xrays and says so what are your simptoms, what did they do during your last surgery. So I told him everything especially the recent increase numbness in my legs and feet, the drop foot syndrom is back again and even worse and he said come here and look at this and there it was, starring back at me..My slippage is at L5 and is still there. The cage and 4 screws is a level higher. The chiropractor told me the reason for my pain is because I still have the slippage and suffer from Lumbar Spondylolisthesis. Both surgeons never fixed what I was ultimately in there for. Then I get a call asking about my 1st surgery and if they used a material called BMP, they use it for bone growth but theres a problem with it. It can create an overgrowth of bone spurs. Well, I have to get my records to find out if they used it because with my symptoms its a pretty good bet that they did. I am so frustrated with this ya know. I can deal and live with the nerve problem for the rest of my life but what I cant live with is knowing that a manufacturer knowingly knew it had worse side affects than what it lead out to people plus from what I understand some surgeons where aware of the severity of the side affects too. Thats what I can fathom right now and I have to say being on disability has really affected me mentally and emotionally and now to know this plus both surgeries they never fixed the main problem, and now its definate that I am looking at a 3rd surgery but how severe is it going to be with all the scar tissue and whatnot now. Any ideas for a lost soul?

Thanks, Angeleyez
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replied February 13th, 2013
I had spinal surgery 2007 BUT was never told to take it easy afterwards. I had op on Tuesday and was discharged on Thursday, same week, as if I had just been treated for a cut!! Since then have had permanent pain, but now seeing different specialist and doesn't want to operate as it is such a major job!! So now in permanent pain, can't walk without pain and waiting to see if anything can be done to help without taking 21 pills a day.
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replied June 2nd, 2013
i had my spinal fusion about 2 weeks ago. I went to a 'rehab' hospital, which was really a nursing home. It had all the usual nursing home problems. I thought I would end up in a unit with people like myself. alert oriented and fresh post op. wrong. after 3 days i couldnt stand it and came home. i am most frustrated being pretty much bed bound. i find that TENS helps a lot with the discomfort. I use a battery a day. hard to believe, but true. my doc doesnt want me to do PT for at least another 3 weeks. I am so bored, frustrated and depressed. The pain is better, but still there everyday.
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