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    debating whether to have the spinal fusion
    abbey123 posted:
    Hello,all.My Dr. is recommending I have a spinal fusion on L4/5 and a laiminectomy.I have been in severe pain for years so I went to a neurosurgeon,who ordered a MRI-hence the suggestion for surgery.My question is--does anyone know of good results?I have been researching this and I can't believe the horror stories! I would also like to know how much this surgery costs.My ins. will not pay on any problems with my back.I would appreciate any advice anyone can give me.
    arcadylady responded:
    I had a L5-S1 fusion in 2002. After two microsurgeries! By a highly renowned neurosurgeon. Not much choice as I was down to bone on bone. Done with fusion cages and BMP. No rods, etc. My hospital was $10,000/day. All covered by insurance. Never saw the bills from 2 surgeons. Still in constant pain. Supposedly due to nerve damage. Lyrica helps considerably. I'm also on MS Contin and Percocet as needed. I've seen 4 pain specialists and have had every spinal injection in the book. They don't help. This is a chronic condition. I"d probably feel better if I got out and walked more. Not easy to do when I'm so drowsy from all the meds. I don't look forward to 30 more years of pain. Just hope something will come along to make us feel better.
    oldbuckeye responded:
    I had fusion in 2006-L4-L5-S1. Had pain for years but then went down my leg and foot felt as if I was standing in a campfire. Had MRI and two doctor analysis. Was caused by degenerative arthritis that was iritating the nerves. Eventually entire back will disintegrate. Tried the cortisone shots but no relief. I opted for the fusion when second doctor advised if he needed the surgery he would use the Doc that happened to be my first Doc. I did everything they recommended to recover. ie: quit smoking, do the exercises as recommended and walk daily to stimulate boood flow. Over a period of three months I walked 392 miles. I feel great and would do it again knowing what I know now. Total cost including all tests, shots, medicines and surgery $244,000.00. My thoughts to you, wait for the new insurance programs to kick in and get the best surgeon!
    LivingWithPain9 responded:

    I underwent a lateral spinal fusion XLIF on L4/5 with a plate and 2 screws a year and a half ago. They say this is a minimally invasive procedure and I was back to work in 3 months. Unfortunately my pain returned. Make sure you get an opinion from an Orthopedic Spine Specialist as well as a Neurosurgeon before having any surgery done. Good Luck.
    An_189510 replied to cweinbl's response:
    Hello Abbey, First, I am so sorry that you have this diagnosis. I had L4/L5 fusion accessed through my back about 8 years ago. I started to be OK for short periods of time and then a couple of months later, I woke up and the pain was the same as it was before the surgery. I then had L4/L5 fusion repair with inclusion of L3 accessed from both the back and the front. I have not had a day without pain since the very beginning. However, the doctors did not say my pain would go away. It was walking and moving that I needed to fix. I was in really bad shape when they started. Hopefully your doctor will tell you that back surgery usually does not end back pain. I now have disks above and below my fusion that need repair, a disk in my thoracic spine needing repair and also a couple of disks in my neck needing repair. My first mistake was choosing the wrong doctor. My 2nd doctor repaired many of my 1st doctor's failed surgeries. However, the difference was that he was able to fix them the first time with far fewer of the problems I had. I sure wish I had met him first.

    DO YOUR RESEARCH and find the right doctor at the right time in the right place that meets your specific needs.

    Thanks to those of you who shared good outcomes. I wouldn't want us to talk Abbey out of doing something she needs to do, but like someone else said, this is a place where mostly people with bad results are posting. I'm sure there are lots more people with good results, we just don't hear about them as much.

    Best of luck and God Bless!
    Laurabeth199 replied to Evangeline22's response:
    Evangeline22, I was interested to see a post about a cervical fusion. Mine was done 10 weeks ago. I had pressure on the spinal cord, so the surgery was necessary. My symptoms have been relieved, but I am getting a severe headache almost every evening. My surgeon thinks I should see a pain management specialist for a shot or two in my neck. I am wondering if you or someone else experienced a similar effect after neck surgery. Laurabeth199
    Suzzique responded:
    Next week will be 3 mo. since I had a spinal fusion which included L2, L3, L4, & L5. I had 4 ruptured discs, 2 degenerated vertebrae, a little scoliosis, and some arthritis he 'scraped' out. I went to Riverside Methodist in Columbus, OH and I would recommend it to anyone. But, the cost was an outlandish $109,000.42! (That's just the hospital bill.) The surgeon has to cut the lamina off to expose the area where the discs are, so he uses that in a mixture that now replaces the need to use the patient's own hip bone or cadaver bone in the fusion process. I have rods and 8 screws and am a new bionic woman! I had my surgery on a Wed.; was up walking the halls on Thurs.; walked the stairs on Fri.; and that Sat. rode in the car the 2 and a half hour trip home. I still get a low backache when riding in the car if I don't lower the seat back some. The doctor said it's still too soon after surgery to be completely pain free, but I am 90% better - at least. Their theory was to get up and get moving: lots of walking and never wear the old-fashioned brace that patients used to wear that just restricted moving and getting over it. (No bending, no twisting for 4 weeks though) I am thrilled with my surgery and wished I'd had it done two years earlier. If I could I'd attach my X-rays here that they gave me on a CD as a souvenir!
    ssonmys responded:
    Dear Abbey,
    I replied earlier, but after thinking about it and wanted to give you more information.
    My first fusion surgery failed and I had to go to another doctor to have it fixed. It turned out that the 2nd doctor was doing a much more progressive procedure which included rods and screws but did not actually fuse the bone. He did my friend's surgery and she is doing great these days. He removed her broken disk, replaced it with a new one, used rods & screws to keep her together, but repositioned all of her tendons and nerves and all that stuff. That extra care, and the use of a brace and bone stimulator after surgery are what I believe to be the reasons she did so well. In fact, when I saw this doctor, he told me it was a shame I hadn't found him first because my situation would've been much different. So... the moral of the story is - Find out what alternatives you have to a full blown fusion. If your doctor doesn't know or won't tell you or anything like that, you need a new doctor.
    Best of luck to you, and God Bless.
    katsmeow5256 replied to An_189510's response:
    Hi, can someone please help me here. My daughter is 31 years old and she had her discs shaved and cut but doctor couldnt promise it would help. Well at almost 3 months, pain again in lower back, left leg gets numb and swollen and sometimes it makes her fall down from the numbness. Now the doctor says its bone hitting bone and she needs fusions and she is scared and so am I. What happens if she does not have the surgery??? Shes in pain all the time and is addicted to pain meds. Any info would help. Thank you.
    nojtuna responded:
    Surgery for your spine is veryu costly. 1st surgry in '86 cost 17k 2nd in 2000was 30k. I have had a spinal fusion ,posterior, from l3-s1 with steffe plates and lag bolts thru my spine. I had problems with it the entire time I had the metal in me. Metal was removed in 00. I have had more problems since and it has rendered me disabled. I also have a diagnosis of failed back surgery syndrome. Even though I have lost 2" in height since Jan 00 things seem to only get worse, for me, but there are many "side effects" to having surgery. In hope you get several opinions and keep in mind if you see a surgeon they want to do surgery. have you tried all the physical routes to go through? Swimming, strengthening core muscles, spwecific exercises to address the impacted areas of your back. If you decide to go the surgery route find a surgeon whom has done MANY of the procedures being proposed to you. Have you visited with neurosurgeon vs orthopedic surgeon. I have more faith with the ortho guys but you will also have to find someone to trust for a decompression of your nerves if needed. I wish I could give you a more cheery view from my perspective. I have met a great deaal of people whom have had surgery and its a mixed bag of nuts. I believe I know of mre failures than successes. If you smoke stop, it greatly reduces the healing porcess. I have seen research that indicates smokers take 60% longer time to heal. I also know the Drs where I had mine done, Univ of Mn hospitals, would not do surgery on smokers. Let me know if I can be of any other help ,jon
    bj1208 replied to nojtuna's response:
    hi nojtuna (jon) - I just wanted to let you know that Abbey had posted her questions about 2 months ago and we have not heard from her since then -

    you are right - I had Anterior Lumbar Fusion L5-S1 over 2 years ago - I have failed back surgery syndrome - they removed my disc and put titanium plate, screws and cage in - I fused by my 6th week post op and by my 6th month post op I was worse than before the surgery - they could not do anything for the nerve damage in both legs and my lower back hurts worse now - and I am a smoker (yea I know it's real bad for the back) but I did fuse and everything on the plate is fine -

    my surgery was over $75,000!!! that was the hospital room and surgery - then the bills for the other docs were so high too - so all in all it cost about $6,000 more - and I was in the hospital just under 24 hours!!!

    fusions do have lots of risks involved and there is 50-70% chance it will fall under the failed back surgery syndrome -

    just thought I'd let you know how much mine was - I live in MO -
    take care - Joy~~
    bj1208 replied to katsmeow5256's response:
    hi katsmeow5256 - I see that you responded to a post but really have a question regarding your daughter -

    i would strongly suggest that she get as many opinions as she can and i would have her see an orthopedic spine specialist -

    any type of surgery is scary - but the longer this is put off there can be permanent nerve damage in the nerve roots in the leg - unfortunately they waited 2 years before sending me to see a surgeon and the damage was already done to both my legs -

    there are physical addictions and mental addictions to pain meds - what she may be is fearing not having the pain meds and then being in worse pain - i know it's horrible to see this as my husband is worried about me also - only that i will be on pain meds the rest of my life as I have failed back surgery syndrome and there is nothing they can do about it -

    please let us know how she is doing - i do see that your post was about a month ago - take care - Joy~~
    Janiceofohio replied to bj1208's response:
    I read your reply to someone else and you stated some of your surgeries and pain which I wanted to respond to. Taking out the cage etc... is in itself a painfull procedure on account of scar tissue grown onto everything in there. Taking OUT means TEARING out! The pains I have are caused from spine surgeries and EPIDURLS. Having a baby with a SPINAL = EPIDURL. The medicine that is injected into your spine is the cause of a disease called ARACHNOIDITIS. My pain symptoms are lower back pain aching, burning, siciatic pain in right hip, thigh, butt. Numbness in left leg,foot and toes. Leg cramps at night. If a Dr. tells you that nothing will help your pain with surger you had better look up ARAC. Type in COFWA and click on the links. See if your symptoms are related with what you read. If they are, get a copy of your last MRI. The Drs. rarely tell you you have that because they know it's caused by Drs. and are afraid of lawsuits. I had this for several years and found out by accident when I went for another epidurl. The Dr. pulled up my mri and got furious and told me he can't give me the shot cause it wont help, and that I have Arachnoiditis. That's how I found out. This Dr. had givin me two epid. before that. Guess he never got around to looking up my mri before I requested another shot location! If you DO have a copy of your mri, go to ..."adriaanliebenburg terminology". That will explain every big word on the mri. You'll know EXACTLY what you have after that. This is for the LUMBER area of the spine. This disease is kept secret so don't expect a Dr. to warn you. Maybe that's what your Ortho. read and that's why he said more surgery won't help you. I only pray that you don't have this, like more and more people are finding out. It's also called "failed back surgery syndrome "etc... keep me posted on what you find out, I care! Jan
    bj1208 replied to Janiceofohio's response:
    hi Jan - I think you may have read where I recently saw a surgeon in Feb and he said that since I now have 3 bulging disc that the only way to fix that was another fusion surgery - and that they would have to remove my hardware to do the multilevel fusion - the surgeon even stated he would not suggest the surgery as that when they do remove the hardware that there is so much crap that 'grows' around the plate, etc. that it causes more and more pains and is not worth it - so the word is NO for this procedure! LOL

    thanks for the websites and terminology - I dug out ALL of my MRI's, CT Scans, Myelogram reports and looked up all the terminology - it did not say that in any of them - however I have been labeled Failed Back Surgery Syndrome - I will ask my PM doc if this is what I have and why all treatments have failed.

    I will let you know what I find out - thanks much! - take care - Joy~~
    FlamingMonkey; responded:
    Hi Abbey123,
    I had the same surgery you described. My surgery was in 2008 and I live in Atlanta GA. Thankfully mine was covered by my health plan but I did get a shocker when I saw the itemized bill. It was around $70,000.00. Obviously the cost varies some and based on the research I did at the time it seemed that mine was near the upper end of the average.

    I had several steriod epdural injections as a "band aid" and most of the time they gave me enough relief to last a while. Some of them as much as 6 months. So the epidurals are worth a try.

    My surgery was an ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) and except for the post-op pain and the long recovery time (8 weeks at home on short term disability) I don't regret it at all. In fact, my L4/L5 disc had completely ruptured and the leg pain was beyond words.

    My surgeon (Orthapedic) used a plastic/rubber "cage" with Morphgenetic Bone Protein. I don't recall the actual device name he used but I do know it had four screws (2 each) that attached to the L4 and L5 bones. I was very careful post-op and to date with only a few lingering irritations of my sciatic nerve every now and then, the fusion has been a great and wonderous thing (I was 45 when I had the surgery and in general good health otherwise.) We did try a posterior discectomy a few years before that but it wasn't successful enough to avoid the outcome of the ALIF.

    The other benefit to me was that I had been dealing with it for about 8 years and was living on pain medication daily. And it had become relatively ineffictive (I always felt like Dr. House without the cane) so the surgery was a double bonus.

    My sugeon (he specializes only in spine/neck/back surgery and has several published studies) was very strict about post op medication management - including absolutely no NSAID use for the first 6 months (there was a couple of short exceptions) and within the last week of recovery I hardly needed any pain meds at all.

    6 weeks ago (almost to the date) I had to have the same procedure done at C5-6 and C6-7. So far so good!
    BitsySpider1 replied to RMS1970's response:
    You know I don't think lifting after a fusion is very wise..I was told after a fusion you should never lift more than 30 pounds..In my opinion, your going to reinjure your back by lifting, & if you go back to work, I would advise doing something without any lifting or anything strenous. To me, your doctor is trying to get you back to work to help your employee..Be careful please..

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