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Posterior Lumbar Fusion - Slow Recovery - Is It Just Me?? (Page 1)

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Hi all

really hoping someone can help! I had posterior lumbar fusion in march this year with instrumentation (l5/s1) (the disk had totally disintegrated and the vertebrae were moving against each other), and at the same time I had dynesys fitted around l4/l5 as that disk had bulged for a long time and had then started to herniate. The surgeon also did a bone graft from my pelvis.

I asked the surgeon how long I should be off work for and he said around 4 months worst case scenario. Well, it's now 7 months and i'm nowhere near well enough to get back to work as I can only sit for 30 mins max, after which I get terrible back pain and also numbness/tingling in my left foot (which goes an attractive shade of purple). My gp was amazed that the surgeon said 3-4 months as she said she would think more like 6-12 months.

Although my mobility has improved and the sciatica pain right down my leg has now decreased (hurrah!), the back pain itself is no better than before the operation.

Has anyone else had these procedures done with similar problems or did everyone else feel better much quicker - in which case I wonder if there's some problem??

Thanks for any help you can give,
rolfie
uk
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First Helper krissti699
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replied April 5th, 2009
back surgery
Hi, I had a 2 level fusion l4,l5,s1 in Sept. 2006. I have never felt such pain afterwards in my whole life. I am still on pain meds daily. Of course I was 62 at the time of surgery and I don't think the doc prepared me enough emotionally about the recovery and all the pain associated with it. I have been going to a pain management doc ever since.
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replied April 16th, 2009
How are you doing?
I'm Shane. I am having surgery in August. Is it worth it?
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replied April 16th, 2009
Experienced User
Posterior Lumbar Fusion
Hi there

I feel for you. I treat people that have undergone these type of surgeries and know what you feel.

The average success rate of a lumbar spinal fusion is approximately 75%-80%.
Failure of fusions, or laminectomy's to heal is associated with continued symptoms.
A spinal fusion at one level will decreased motion of the spine and having a spinal fusion at one or more levels will cause more stress to be transferred to adjacent levels.

The problem with the transferred stress is that it may cause new problems to develop at the other levels, which may also lead to additional back surgery.
I mentioned before on this website that in a review of 4,454 patients in 78 reports, it was found the average fusion rate was 85%, and the average clinical success rate (pain reduction) was 75%.
It was also found that a successful spinal fusion takes a relatively long time (3-24 months, average 15 months) for healing and recuperation, and causes more wear and tear on adjacent levels over time.
Premature degeneration at adjacent levels of the spine (Transition Syndrome) remains one of the main problems facing spinal or lumbar fusion surgery. Second spinal surgery usually leads to a 40% disablement
It is not only the surgery that poses risks, but also Xrays or MRI scans.
A recent report by Steve Ford in the nurses news magazine mentions that he safety of magnetic resonance imaging for nurses and other staff is to be investigated by the Health Protection Agency on behalf of the World Health Organization.

Professor Anthony Swerdlow, the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation, said:
'There is a pressing need for a well-conducted study of mortality and cancer incidence in workers with high occupational exposures to static magnetic fields, particularly those associated with medical MRI scanners.

Good luck

Kinetico
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Users who thank kinetico for this post: cali1954 

replied August 18th, 2011
So after 7 weeks I should not be depressed LOL, everytime I try and travel it takes a day of pain to recover. My husband upset didn't want to go camping this weekend, in trailer, no thanks. I just made myself breakfast and had to come lay down. Just worried about not returning to work which consist of sitting, I hope made right decision but when desparate you'll do anything. There has to be someone who has had successful fusion!!!
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replied April 24th, 2009
Looking at having spinal fusion at L4 level this may
Hi all I have been having back pain since 2006 and I have pain, numbness, tingling, weakness etc both legs... I have already had lamonectomy, decompression and been attending pain managment course but it was getting to painful and now have been recommended having fusion. Can people tell me their thoughts, what to expect, I have been recommended going through my stomach as apparently it's has best recovery time. Any info, links for more info would be grately appreciated. I look forward to hearing from people.......
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replied May 23rd, 2011
Lombar Fusion
My doctor also wants to do a lombar fusion L1-L4 but the recovery stories offer here offer no comfort as to the future including 40% disability in movement. Would like to avoid open or legacy surgery techniques. Have you or anyone explored, know anyone with good experiences, or familiar with minimal invasive successes with folks like Laser Spine Institute. It all sounds good but looking for some confidence that its even worth considering. The pain at present is not unbearable but getting there.
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replied April 24th, 2009
HI
when are you having surgery? I haven't heard of the stomach option. I have a lot of the same symptons as you. Except only in one leg.
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replied May 10th, 2009
If I only knew what was in store for me!!!!
Helll all,

I have had an Anterior & Posterior Fusion at L5-S1, and a cervical fusion at C5-C6. I have had back problems for a long time and was told that this was the way to go to fix it!! I believed that this was truly my only option since I had tried just about everything up to that point... If I would of known what excrutiating pain I was about to endure I would of remained in the pain I was in prior to the surgeries. I am 18 months out from my last surgery which was the posterior lumbar fusion. Not only do I look like the bride of chuckie from the scars of the surgeries, BUT I cannot walk for any long periods of time, spend most of my time in my bed on heat and ice, and the pain is so severe I cannot bend at all and likely to be on pain meds the rest of my life. I wish I would of known the full consequences that came with messing around with my spine, but now that I know them its too late!!! I have no life since this all happened, whats worse is that I was better off being in the pain I was in when I was at least able to still walk, sit and stand for longer than 30 mins to an hour! Anyone considering having this surgery performed should really understand what your dealing with before you let ANYONE cut you open..Good Luck to those who are considering it and I feel your pain to those who have been there and done that...I wish all well
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replied May 24th, 2009
I had posterior laminectomy and fusion of L4-5 in April 2008 for severe stenosis. I am a nurse and on my feet all day. 45 years old. Before surgery I couldn't stand or walk for more than 10 minutes without severe burning pain and numbness down my leg and into my foot. I researched the best spinal surgeon I could find and went for the surgery. I was out of work for 11 weeks and went through physical therapy for 4 months and am now doing things I haven't been able to do in years. I work 10 hour days and don't have to take any pain medicine to get through the day. Wish I had done the surgery sooner. Find a good surgeon and best of luck to all.
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replied September 25th, 2012
Can you give name of doc
Who was the surgeon and where was he ?
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replied June 23rd, 2009
Lumbar Fusion at the level of L-4 & 5
Thank you all for posting your questions and results from lumbar laminectomy and fusion surgeries. I am experiencing many of the same symptoms with severe pain in lower back and left leg with associates bilateral leg weakness. I've right(2004) and left(2008) lumbar laminectomy surgeries. The Right Lam. surgery went extremely well with a quick recovery time. However, the Left Lam. Surgery was completely different. The Left Lam. surgery was an absolute waste of time, effort and money. My symptoms worsened after the Left Lam. surgery and my surgeon said there was nothing else he could do. Recently, I was re-evaluated by another surgeon physically and by reviewing my medical images. I was informed that the only way to reduce or eliminate my pain and conditions with prolonged walking, standing, bending, swatting or sitting is to undergo a Lumbar Fusion of L4-5. I did not want anymore surgeries but my quality of life has decreased greatly since April 2008. I'm very tired yet very thankful of depending on others in helping me during this time of dispare. I want a better quality of life for me and my family. I have a 18 month old daughter and a 6 year old daughter that I'm unable to share the quality time they desire and deserve. Although, I was very hesitant about the Lumbar Fusion surgery, I have discussed it with my family; and more importantly, prayed about it and has placed it in GOD'S HANDS. I desperately need my life back for my daughters' sake. I'm 36 years old and my family needs me as well as I for them. If there are any comments, replies or questions pertaining to this blog, please writeme. I'm looking forward to hearing from anyone to share his or her experience with the same or similar matters. Sincerely, Andre'
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replied August 18th, 2011
Fusion
I too have been in pain from disc herniations at L4-L5 and L5-S1 since May 2008 when I was dragged by a bus. I have had pain management, discogram, PRP injection, epidural injections, nerve blocks, disc decompression therapy, chiropractic, an Endoscopic Lumbar Discectomy, physical therapy etc. The ELD didnt have seem to work. 4 week recovery and 2 weeks no pain then took a step and the shooting burning pain came back in full force. Now we are doing an updated MRI to see if that surgery in fact failed. If the surgery failed, then I have to consider a Fusion Surgery. I am not thrilled. I have been out of work since 2008 and cannot find work, nevermind the concern of not being able to sit and perform any real work for a length of time never knowing how the heck I am going to feel that day. But I too have a 21 month old daaghter that depends on me for all of her care. I am depressed, always in pain, tired from pain meds, etc. My quality of life is horrible and I am 34. My mother had a 2 level Fusion years ago and said it was the best thing she ever did. I am reluctant to have it done because of the recovery time being so harsh. But it is my last option, so I guess we will see after the results of my 4th MRI in 3 and 1/2 years. Craziness!! Good luck to you. And I hope the surgery works!!!!
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replied April 1st, 2012
Hi Andre-I can relate to your story. I have a 6 year old, am only able to work 12 hours a week, and spend most of my afternoons in bed. Yep, I do hope that God is looking after us. I too need my life back. Feel so useless. My predicament is that my health insurance turned me down. The area I live in does not have vascular surgeon support which is necessary for the anterior approach to the surgery. The recovery rate for anterior, I believe is quicker and slightly better odds of being successful. My Super City of Auckland has hospitals with vascular surgeons, but you are limited because of where you live in the region. Bureaucratic Bull *h*t. I am looking at it like this, what option do we have, surgery, possibly working or living like this for the rest of our lives. At least if we try then no-one can say we did not try. Good luck with your surgery if you decide to go ahead. I am being offered the posterior approach, not happy about being dictated by the bureaucratic system, but what option have you. lol. Jilly
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replied April 21st, 2012
Successful fusion and my tips for yours to be successful
Hi i just had an l5-S1 fusion on December 16th. Its four months later and im back to full time at school and my two jobs. I still have some pain and it comes in waves but it is just a soreness (after chronic back pain this is nothing). I have some advice on why my surgery went well. I have lots of medical people in my family so i had some good advice given to me.

All of my back problems started six years ago when i landed halfway on the diving board. I attempted to do a gainer and when i hit the diving board my bones were destroyed and my disc was pushed into the spinal cord canal. Since then i have done literally everything that is out there to not have to go in for surgery. Last year i started noticing fusion was my only option. This is where my story is different from other people. You have to think about the fact that your doctor referring you to a surgeon is just picking one doctor your insurance covers. Do you know anything about that doctor or how well he did in school? I saw the one doctor i was sent to and hated him. He was very rude and didnt seem like he knew his stuff. I then called my insurance and got tons of numbers for neurosurgeons in my area and went to all of them. You are putting your life in the hands of one doctor. You have the right to be picky!!!

During this time i asked around about who saw what doctor and their experience. You would be suprised at how many bad doctors are out there. While i was asking around two names kept on comming up and the success of the surgeries while excellent. The bones fused, there was minimal pain, and after about four to six months all the people were back at work.

Last september i went and saw a newer neurosurgeon in my town and he knew his stuff. I forgot to mention im only 24 and was 24 when i had surgery four months ago. A few doctors wouldnt touch me because chances are a fusion wouldnt last my whole life. The doctor i saw said he was going to do my surgery a little differently. He took part of my spine instead of the hip bone and grinded that up into the paste stuff they were going to put between my two vertabrae. He also put in a cage and the regular two rods and four screws. After surgery i still hurt really bad but the nerve pain was almost nothing. After about a week i was up walking around in my hideous back brace i bedazzled with tons of rhinestones (it gave me something to do in the hospital and all the nurses knew me lol). After three weeks i started driving and school for me started. I was uncomfortable some days but it wasnt terrible.

Its now been four months and im back to my normal life. My dad who had seven levels done after a motorcycle accident gave me excellent advice. He said you are not going into this surgery looking for 100% recovery. Instead you are looking for 80%. you will feel like you have been worked on (which you do. I still can tell there is metal in me and that my lower back dosnt bend like it used to). He also said the pain will come in waves. You will be pain free for a while and then the pain will come on gradually and then go away gradually. This is very true!!!

I stress to anyone looking into surgery young or old to do your homework!!! Go see multiple doctors, ask people who they saw and their recovery, and then make your decision only when you are confident about your doctor.

The difference between the fusion on the front of the spine as apposed to the back of the spine is really a preference to the doctor. Mine was done from the back. If you bring this up to your doctor he will be able to give you the pros and cons of both. Also there is a new surgery out called artificial disc replacement. I almost did this but we would be paying about 50 grand instead of one grand. My insurance didnt cover it as much. But the surgery is from the front and instead of putting rods and screws in they put in an artificial disc made of metal and plastic. This allows that joint to move. A friend of mine got this done and she has no back pain. So i would recomend people to look into it. Few doctors do it though so you may have to go out of town. I was going to have to go three hours away but if i could i would have its that good!!!

So really all im recomending is for you to do all your research. I have spent days on google reading and researching all my options so when you go see all the surgeons tou called up you have a lot of knowledge. Trust me if you know your stuff the good doctors respect you more and will take good care of you. You are putting your life in someones hands. You deserve to be picky!!!!
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replied June 13th, 2012
Hi jackifish, I'm 4 months out of surgery, and generally painfree. I do worry about everymove I make and if its going to affect my fusion. Can you tell me how long you took to fuse and what kind of activities you were able to do and not do by 4 months and beyond. I'm so happy to hear an upbeat story. I have no pain at all except when I lift my 22 lb dog. I had a bmp fusion, he went in through my stomach and then put screws in my back. The downside is the scar was so ugly next week I'm going for a scar revision.
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replied October 20th, 2012
Artificial disc replacement
With regards to the artificial disc replacement, you new to make sure and speak with your surgeon, primary care doctor, and physical therapist. I have the ADR five years ago when I was 21 years old, due to degenerative disc disease, and am now weeks away from a posterior lumbar fusion. You need to make sure the drs understand how your body works and your flexibility prior to surgery. I am and always have been super flexible, which my surgeon believes caused the disc replacement to fail. We have tried everything since then to avoid surgery, but to no avail. I wouldn't suggest talking to too many drs, but do your research.
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replied August 23rd, 2010
failed lumbar fusion
Hi All,
I'm a 58 year old woman who has been battling neck & back pain for 15 + yrs. Two MVA's , having severe arthritis, spinal disc disease & scoliosis contributed to 3 spinal surgeries. I had a successful C 4-5, anterior fusion done in 2001. In 2007 I had an unsuccessful lamenectomy done, L1 - S1. My symptoms worsened till I could no longer walk.In Dec. 2009 I had a complete fusion L1- S1,( using my own bone which was removed from the facets & mixed with a polymer )including instrumentation- rods & screws. I was slowly progressing & experienced 60 - 70 % relief from pain. Over the past 9 months all the old symptoms have returned with a vengence. After numerous tests, a bone scan indicated that all the screws are wobbly & no new bone had grown to create the fusion. My surgeon recently told me that he had to re-do the entire surgery. The fusion would involve 10 larger screws & longer rods into the pelvis. I'm feeling like this is a really bad dream I can't wake up from. I have agreed to surgery without having full knowledge of fusion material being used.I've been researching alternate fusion material ( ie. cadaver bone with my own donated stem cells that can be used for the fusion). Does anyone know if this type of surgery is being done in Canada ? & if anyone has a similar experience with a second full fusion?
D.D.
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replied August 27th, 2010
Hello
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replied March 9th, 2011
I am 22 years old and had a laminectomy at l4-l5 then the disc re-herniated, then went ahead with a fusion at l4-l5 because I had stenosis and was told that the fusion cage was the best way to go and the surgeon said that he did it for a NFL player who was playing full contact within a few months. So i though great! I am getting a degree in Petroleum engineering, and was working last summer. I had had radiating pain down both hips to the knees for over 8 months. I am a college student so no narcotics for me. I just took ibuprofen, tried all exercises and therapy, and just walked around funny for two semesters and a summer job. The pain got so bad so I got a MRI and they found stenosis and herniation at L4-L5 and slight herniation at L5-S1. I then had the two surgeries, (like i said the first one failed due to re herniation.) Now I am at home with my family in my second semester of missing school. I am still in pain every day and post surgery am still on pain medicine both narc. and non narcotics. I too think about it all the time if I could have just grinding through my pre surgery life if things would have been better. I would just like to say that some Dr.'s are in it for the $$ despite what they say, and just research wisely and don't feel forced into doing anything that does not feel right.
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replied March 20th, 2011
My surgeon was great. I am 36 and had my L4-S1 fused. He explained to me fully about the procedure, pain, recovery time, and the stats with success. I was out of work for 3 months. I am now 9 months post op and doing well. Much better than before the surgery. I do still have the post op backache but my surgeon and the RN's that I work with tell me this is normal. They also took the graft from my pelvis, which can be just ad painful or more so as the surgery. My advice...be patient and follow the advice the doctor gives you to the letter. Also do your research on a good surgeon. Read patient reviews. It makes all the difference in success.
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replied March 29th, 2011
Is this worth it for me?
I am having a spinal fusion done in august. I am a 17 year old male who is very active in volleyball, basketball, and snow boarding. I have a bilateral pars defect on my L5 S1 and am told that I have degenerative disc disease. my spine has a grade 3 slippage which is 50% slip. Please give me any information you can on this. Seeing as I am just a young adult.
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replied May 4th, 2011
how much fusion can a girl take??
I am fused from T4-L2 from scoliosis & now have severe degenerative discs etc. The Dr told me he wanted to fuse me the rest of the way L2-S1. I can stand for about 15-20 min, sitting 30 min. When I stand after sitting it takes about 30 sec before I can start walking. I recently have had numbness in my left toes. Has any one heard of someone having this many levels fused?? Would appreciate any advise.
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replied June 5th, 2011
Just to give some good points to those thinking about surgery. Everyone is different. I recently had a anterior and posterior fusion, so far recovery has been going well. I am five weeks out in my recovery process. Weather my age helped me heal faster or just the fact that I had an excellent surgeon, is beyond me. I also had a back surgery a year ago, and I can tell you that this one feels nothing like the last one. I had consistant pain with that one and know I feel ready to run and keep running. I am 29 and have never felt better. I just wish I could bend over, I am still on restriction, so I find it difficult to stand and see something on the floor, and just want to reach but don't want to risk having pain as I did before. I guess the best advise I can offer is do tons of research, and ask many questions, after all it is your life that will change. Be sure of all the facts.
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replied June 6th, 2011
alternative to lumbar fusion?
I just met a guy here in Baltimore this evening who offers non-invasive Vital Therapy through St. Agnes Hospital. He offered me his assistance, and I am seriously considering the alternative...My surgery is scheduled in two weeks, and if his treatment works, I am going to cancel surgery.
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replied June 24th, 2011
Going on second spinal fusion
I had my first spinal fusion in March of 2009 I was fused from L5-S1 with two rods and 7 screws and had three discs replaced. It did help a lot! I was pain free until 6 months ago when I started to get weak legs, it is not from surgery but do to the fact my mid spine has now become unstable and is causing nerve damage, I do have scoliosis so this plays a roll, I am having my second fusion in about 6 weeks. I saw a few posts I thought may scare people, not all back surgeries go wrong, some do help and even with the fact I have to get my second one I still remain optimistic, staying positive is key to healing. I wish you all a painless recovery!
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replied June 29th, 2011
I think everyone is different in the rate of healing, perhaps based on their physical fitness at the time of their surgery. I've had two fusion surgeries, of C4-C5-C6 and L3-L4-L5. The cervical fusion was pretty successful and I felt much better right away, but it was about 18 months before I fully recovered, and by then some other discs had begun to deteriorate below the fusion site. I probably need more surgery now at C5-6 and C7-T1. My lumbar fusion seemed to take forever to heal and was horribly painful during the first several months. Though it's now been more than 2 years, I still have pain and problems with my lumbar spine (and new problems in my neck as noted). But at least I can no longer feel the rods in my back clunking around. Not sure if I'm glad I got the lumbar fusion...it helped me walk longer distances, but that is the entire extent of the improvement. Still taking pain meds daily and unable to live a normal life. In fact, it's time for my several-times-per-day, moist heating pad treatment, so I need to sign off.
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replied August 3rd, 2011
I'm interested in hearing from anyone about their second level fusions and the success/lack thereof. I had a fusion at L4-5 2001. Recovered well, minimal additional pain until 2008 when it all went south. The disc at L5-S1 is essentially gone, and the L3-4 area displays both stenosis, displacement, and a cyst at the facet joint on the right. Two different surgeons have insisted on fusing L3 to S1, but I'm concerned about eventually being fused stem to stern, as it were.
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replied April 21st, 2012
Hi. I just had my L5-S1 fused four months ago. Something you may want to look into is called artificial disc replacement. Put thise words into youtube or google and research it. Instead of having your four vertabraes fused They replace your old disc with a fake metal disc. This allows your spine to move like it used to. If you Fuse several levels it will hurt you. You gotta keep in mind that your back wont be able to move so the discs above will take all the impact. The artificial disc is almost like getting new discs except they are metal. My friend got the artificial disc replacement instead of fusion and shes living with very little pain. Sadly not a whole lot of doctors do this surgery so you do have to do your research. If i hadnt found such a good neurosurgeon and if i was getting more than one level fused i would have driven the three hours to go to a surgeon who did this.

Hopefully this helps Smile
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