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    Spinal Fusion L4-S1
    Jillybeans1205 posted:
    I am having a spinal fusion in 8 days of L4-S1. I've had ongoing back pain for several years now. I found out in 2006 that I have degenerative disc disease and had 3 herniated discs in my lower back and 2 in my neck. After cortizone shots and PT my neck was fine and has been ever since. Unfortunately the same did not happen with my back. Back in 2006 I had gone through taking steroids, pain meds and bed rest, onto PT then did a series of 3 epidural injections. I started going to a chiropractor for a while also. My pain was ok after that for a while although I still had to be careful and still had episodes of "throwing my back out". I would go for Tuina therapy aka acupressure ~ it's been a lifesaver to me many times. So anyway, I got married this past June of 2012 and between dancing in heels several different nights, long car rides, horseback riding, biking and hiking all within a few weeks I was back to square one. This time the Tuina couldn't "fix" me. So I once again went through everything I did 6 years ago..."everything under the kitchen sink" as my doctor referred to it as, and bed rest...onto PT which started making me worse. My back had gotten worse in the past 6 years as per my MRI. This was an orthopedic doctor I was seeing and he now referred me to a spine specialist. I went through another series of epidurals but they didn't work this time. Then I went for a discogram to pinpoint exactly where the pain was coming from. It turns out it's coming from 2 of my 3 herniated of them is torn and the other is not too far behind. So the doctor gives me 2 of them would be a minimally invasive procedure where they would go in and clean up the bad disc and hope that it would relieve the pain and hope that the disc would regenerate healthy tissue but there was only a 60-70% chance of helping. My other option would be the spinal fusion. He said the procedure will take about an hour and a half. They will go through my abdomen so they have a clear view of the spine to remove the bad discs, then they will replace them with a bone like material and close up the abdomen. Then they will go through 2 very small incisions in my back to put the hardware (titanium screws) in. This procedure is much more effective and I would probably need it anyway in the future if I went with option 1. I am 30 years old with no other health problems so I figured I should just do it now while I am young and strong and should do very well with recovery. I am scared and I know it's not going to be easy. I have a lot of faith in my doctor though and feel that this is the right decision and I hope to be back to normal in 6 months! If anyone has had this done and has any questions or feedback or pointers please let me know. Thanks.
    aprilrose9 responded:
    It must be a sign, since I see this was just posted. I hate it when people send out bad news to others, when their mind is already made up.

    I was 32 when I was injured, told the same anterior fusion would do the trick and I would be back working as an R.N. in the ICU in 4 months. I too, was fairly newly married. Also, I looked at the surgery as something that would help me get on with my life.

    This may be a good decision for you and it appears you have firmly made up your mind. I have had back surgery x3 and a SCS placed. The anterior fusion was by far the most painful. I also had some post op complications. Post op temp of 104. IV antibiotics, resp. therapy tx, p.illius, blood transfusion and skin breakdown in two places. When I came out of the anesthesia, I knew I was in trouble. The pain was so great, I felt like I had surgery at a hospital that was missing a pharmacy.

    This is a serious surgery and must be viewed this way. Also, if you must go through with this, and are having the surgery at a teaching hospital, consider stating clearly on your consent form, who you want doing your surgery. My surgery was changed at the very last minute, I never signed a consent form and the resident did my surgery.

    I have ended up with so much scar tissue, I was recently bedridden for 95% of the time for seven years. I have a high tollerance for pain, i.e. broke a foot and never knew it, broke an ankle and didn't know it until bone spurs caused me to wake up with my toes pointed, and I was unable to put my foot flat. I get my cavities filled minus anything to numb the area.

    I honestly do not want to offend or scare you. I swear. We all have to make our own decisions, but I can only tell you that you may get good results or you may have a negative outcome.

    There is currently nothing anyone can really do for me. I have been in pain now, every day of my life for over 25yrs. As you age, it just gets harder and harder. I regret the surgery all the time. The pain can be so bad, I have prayed for God to give me something that will kill me. This is not depression, this is desperation. The way an animal chews off his leg after getting caught in a trap.

    I will probably get banned from this site for speaking to you like this, but if I can get you to really think about this before you make a move, I feel I have done the right thing. Just remember, you really overdid it and it is no wonder you ended up in pain. Your back anatomy is different due to your injury. The surgery will change it even more. you will loose the natural "S" curve of your spine post op. You will forever have a "flat back" after the surgery is done.

    Even if you move forward, bone growth occurs slowly and you may not get bone union for 18 months. I ended us with horrible SI joint pain about 2 years post op and lost my ability to sit. This has never gone away and is far more painful than back pain. Ask yourself if you want to spend the rest of your life horizontal?

    How many opinions have you had? Please consider the idea of a less invasive approach first and move to a more aggressive approach in the future. You cannot undo this surgery.

    I cannot tell you how much your story has touched me. I will be praying for a good outcome and that everyone involved in your care has your best interest in mind.

    One last thing. Realize the limited mobility you will have with your anterior fusion. You do miss the mobility once it is gone. Please don't be too angry with me. I am truly only wanting to help. I once wrote on this site, how much I hated it when other people scared people concerning proceedures and surgery. This surgery should be of concern to you. I wish someone had told me so I could have made an educated decision.

    All My Best, April Rose9
    bj1208 responded:
    HI JillyBeans1205 - welcome to the support group -

    I had a single fusion - Anterior Lumbar Fusion L5-S1 - my operation took from 7am til I woke up in recovery at approx 11:30am. there were 2 surgeons - the first one, a vascular specialist, was the one that opened me up, moved organs around so the spine surgeon could operate and he moved everything back and sewed me up.

    The first couple of weeks is the worst as far as pain from the surgery then healing starts to work as pain levels will start to get better and mobility will be easier.

    scar tissue will and can develop and sometimes may hurt worse than your pains now. there really is nothing that can be done for this - they can operate to remove scar tissue but this will cause more to develop having the surgery approx every 5 yrs.

    the best thing to do before surgery is go around your house and everything you use put at counter top reach, i.e. can goods, cooking oils, spices pots and pans etc., you will not be able to reach (purchase one of those "grabbers" I have one and it was great) for anything or bend down (you can squat and use hands to grab on to counter to help urself up). It would be a good idea to have someone help you during the first couple of weeks, especially getting out of bed. the best thing is to have lots of pillows so you will roll over on your side and use your arms to push yourself up, again no pulling. just remember to do as the doc says - he/she will give you a list of do's and don'ts so follow that closely. best healing advise is to rest, rest and rest and when allowed to start out slowly walking.

    Hope this helps - best of luck to you~~keep us posted how u are doing~~
    ~~ Click on my name or picture and read my story ~~

    Take care ~~ God Bless ~~

    ~~ Joy ~~
    Jillybeans1205 replied to aprilrose9's response:
    aprilrose9 responded:It must be a sign, since I see this was just posted. I hate it when people send out bad news to others, when their mind is already made up.
    If this statement is true then you hate what you just did to me. My surgery is one week away and I have one of the top spine surgeons in my area. He was the first one in my state 15 years ago to perform artificial disk replacement and has been named Top Doctor 4 years in a row. The hospital that I am having it done in is a teaching hospital but I already know to make sure MY doctor is the one performing the entire surgery, aside from the vascular surgeon which will also be there for the front incision and moving my organs out of the way. I already had a bad experience with a resident doing an epidural once that caused a spinal migraine and I will not let anything close to that happen again. I am very confidant in my doctor and have a good feeling about him as well as hearing success stories from people he has operated on. I am aware of the seriousness of this surgery. This is my last resort. I certainly cannot live with the current pain I have now. I have been out of work and had to cancel my honeymoon which I was supposed to be coming home from today. I wouldn't have cancelled 2 weeks in Hawaii if my back wasn't in serious pain. I can't sit for anymore than 20 minutes without being in horrible pain. Also it sounds like you had your surgery a long time ago...things have advanced a lot in the medical fields in the last 25 years. Sorry you had such a bad experience.
    Jillybeans1205 replied to bj1208's response:
    Hi Joy, thanks for the feedback. Luckily my husband is a landscaper and this is his slow season so he will be right by my side helping me with anything I need. My mother also lives 10 minutes away and she will be at my house every day checking up on me. I already do actually have one of those grabbers ~ i had it at work and brought it home because I figured it would help me.

    I'm still very nervous but I am hopeful for things to go well and get my life back!
    aprilrose9 replied to Jillybeans1205's response:
    Dear Jillybeans 1205, You requested feedback from former anterior spinal fusion patients. Feedback requires the pros and cons. This was my story.

    All the Best,
    iluvmipug responded:
    I had my spinal fusion surgery, the first time 11/200. I had the last three discs (L3/L4, L4/L5 and L5/Si) fused. Exactly one year later in 11/2001 I had to have the surgery repeated because there were complications with the hardware. I don't believe in back surgery, because I have not had very much success with it. I am in pain most all the time. I am very depressed because I was always a very independent person (ie. I was a Police Officer) but now I have become dependent on my family. There are many things that I can't do, which interferes with my life with my daughter. I feel guilty all the time because I can't do certain things. Now this might just be an isolated case, but I do know others who are having the same problems I am having after their surgery. I wish you the best of luck and I do hope that you have seriously considered all of your other options. One last thing, learn to dependend on others. It will help you.
    Jillybeans1205 replied to bj1208's response:
    Hi Joy. It has been 3 months now since my surgery. You were so right about the first few weeks being the worst. When I first actually woke up from surgery they were supposed to have me on a pain pump immediately but they didn't have one available, I was in the worst pain I have every felt in my life and I was scared to death. Over the next few days in the hospital I was dealing with nausea and vomiting and even still when I went home the pain meds were not agreeing with my stomach. I have not really needed the pain meds lately so that is now under control. I started pysical therapy at first on April 1st but then I started developing a burning sensation in my foot. I have had this pulling/ cramping feeling in my foot since the sugery but they said this is a nerve thing and the nerves could take a while to heal and this is normal. I have also been getting a cold wet feeling on the back of my leg/ lower buttock area and recently started feeling a hot feeling on the front of the same leg. Once i got the burning though they stopped PT and put me on steroids. That helped clear it up and they started me again about 2-1/2 weeks later. I am back at PT but still experiencing this foot pain. Of course the less I do the better it is and I know I have to have patience but I haven't been able to go back to work yet because I can't drive too far or sit too long because it triggers the foot pain even more and I am bored out of my mind. I have also been trying to lose weight which is not an easy thing to do when you can't excercise. I go to the doctor this week for my 3rd follow up since surgey and I will see what they have to say about all these feelings I'm getting. I am feeling better than I was before my surgery and I'm hoping to ust continue getting better as the days go on. How are you doing?
    Anon_973 replied to Jillybeans1205's response:
    Hi Jillybeans1205 - glad to hear from you and that you are doing so well after your surgery~~ Really Great~~~

    I am amazed that you are doing PT so early in your recovery. I wasn't allowed to do PT until I was released from my surgeons care which was about 6 or 7 months post op. Reason for this is the surgeon wanted to make sure my fusion stayed fused (I fused 100% by 6th week post op) and to check status of bone growth. Once I was released I was sent to PT and also Pain Management so that steroid injections could be administered as these go hand-n-hand, the injections to reduce any inflammation/pain. There were several exercises that we had to stop doing as they would cause increase in pains - but I did have several problems that cause me to have to stop all PT as it made me worse and not good results at all.

    Anyway - glad you are doing great - sounds like you have a great start to healing properly. I would ask your surgeon about ur legs and see if they will do some testing to see if there is any permanent nerve damage and how bad it is etc.

    Well I had a MRI done 4/10 and it shows my L4-5 disc is severely bulging so I went to 2 of 3 appts with spine specialist. the first one said he would refer me to a university hospital as they would have all departments that would help me reduce my pain meds, operate, and then be there when I awoke to dose me up as I would be in worst pains than I am in now - which really let me down - then I had my 2nd appt with a spine specialist - he wants me to have a CT Scan and x-ray (flex and extension views) done on 5/25 and then come in after those are done. He said he may not be able to help but is going to look at all angles and see how bad it is. then I have my last appt on 6/4 with another spine will get opinions from several docs to see what I'm up against.

    I also found another spine specialist that works on the football and baseball teams we have (Chiefs and Royals) so he is really good. I may make appt with him to just to see what he says.

    well that's were I'm at right now~~~

    Keep us posted what you find out and take it easy - don't rush your recovery!~~
    bj1208 replied to Anon_973's response:
    hey Jillybeans - not sure why my post came up anonymous - just wanted to post to let ya know it was me!!
    ~~ Click on my name or picture and read my story ~~

    Take care ~~ God Bless ~~

    ~~ Joy ~~

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