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Old 03-22-2008, 05:45 PM   #1
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Questions about spinal fusion surgery

Hi, I am fairly new here, have been reading for quite a while but only recently joined so I could post.

I had an MRI done a week ago and I went back to the pain management doc this past Thursday to go over the results of my MRI.

I should also say that I was fired by my previous pain doc; I had to have two teeth pulled and I accepted a script for pain medicine and my pain doc said I violated my contract. It was my first violation, had been under his care for well over a year and frankly I hadn't thought about it being a violation. I had a very bad abscess in a broken tooth and as soon as it was cleared up I had the two teeth pulled.

Ok........ saw the new doc on Thursday to get the MRI results. I have disc herniation at the L4-L5 and the S1 plus spinal stenosis at a couple of other levels. The new doc is recommending surgery. He also said the disc above the L4 looks like it is ready to blow at any time and said the surgeon would probably do the L3 as well so I will have a fusion from the L3 to the S1.

I had cervical spine surgery 5 years ago from a ruptured disc at the C5-6 level and the surgery was UNGODLY. I was only in the hospital overnight but I came home totally out of my mind in pain. I mentioned something about this to the doc on Thursday and he said oh necks are nothing, the backs are much worse and I thought oh great........

I don't have a surgeon yet, I am still researching it and putting more thought into having it done but to tell you the truth this scares the bejebbers out of me. What can I expect as far as the surgery and what kind of pain control do they do in the hospital following the surgery??

Currently I am on Fentanyl pain patch 75 mcgs every 72 hours, Perocets 10, Lioderm pain patches, and Neurontin 300 mgs, take 2 three times a day.

I need some feedback on this please. I hurt my back about 18 months ago and I have been horrible pain ever since. I have had the epidural blocks done every other month but I can't say they got me any relief, didn't seem to help at all not to mention they were very expensive. We also tried the spinal stimulator but when trying to dial it in while in the trial phase, it kept locking in on my left knee that I have had 4 surgeries on and it was horrid pain and it had to be removed. I have lost 54 pounds in hopes that would help with my back pain but it has not helped at all.

 
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Old 03-22-2008, 08:13 PM   #2
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Smile Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

I'm sorry to hear you are in such pain. I had lived with my pain for over a year. Mine started with a fall from my horse that fractured my sacrum and pelvis. It took about 4 months to heal from that. I continued to have severe low back pain and changed doctors since the 1st doctor was just concentrating on the original injury. My new doctor immediately had me get an MRI and a discogram and it confirmed I had injury to my L4 and L5. I had Anterior/Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion on Jan 31st. I have to admit that waking up from surgery I thought I was going to die from the pain in my back. It felt like I had a rod jammed thru my back. My surgeon went in thru my lower stomach to remove the discs and then went thru my back and placed 4 screws to stabalize my spine. The hospital I was in was wonderful. They never let me stay in pain. It was hard to move for the 1st 3 days but after that it got so much easier. I am a new here as well and just posted about leg pain. Even though I am having problems with my leg, I no longer have ANY pain in my back. If I had to do it again, I would. I think a week of surgical pain outways living in constant pain!! I do wish you luck!!!!!

 
Old 03-22-2008, 08:44 PM   #3
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

Thanx so much for your reply Denise. As I said I am very scared of the surgery, I have had other surgeries but nothing so major as back surgery. Looking at a knee replacement in a couple of years but I feel that is nothing compared to the upcoming event.

What I am concerned about is going through the surgery and my back pain being no better or even worse which I have been told this is a very real possibility; pain no better, pain worse, chance of paralysis, or surgery being a success. Frankly I don't much care for those odds but this has impacted my life so much, been in pain for more than 18 months, quality of my life being pretty poor but still the idea of a surgery like this really scares me.

Would really like to hear from others who have had a spinal fusion; the good, the bad, the whole ball of wax.

 
Old 03-22-2008, 09:29 PM   #4
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

Hello and welcome to the board,

I had a one level PLIF at L4-5 in early January after being in pain and trying to avoid surgery for 3 years. My pain came on slowly so I had plenty of time to contemplate the surgery and I consulted with 8 different doctors. I also had 3 epidural injections and tried physical therapy.

I would not jump to the conclusion that you will need that many levels fused. I would do some research to see what fellowship-trained spinal specialists are in your area. These may be either orthopedic spinal specialists or neurosurgeons. Then I would make an appointment with several of them and go see what each recommends.

It sounds like you have had your share of surgeries. This was my first, so I had nothing to compare it to, but I didn't think it was bad. I was expecting much more pain!! I was kept very comfortable all along -- both in the hospital and once I got home. I was on an IV in the hospital, morphine I suppose, with one of those push buttons so I could control it myself. My surgery ended around 8 p.m., I got to my room around 10 and they let me sleep all night and then got me up about 6:30 a.m. to walk. I was in the hospital 3 days.

I am almost 11 weeks out now and I am very glad I had the surgery. I have a couple new pains that I have been told will eventually go away. My horrible pain in my legs is gone and I can now stand and walk painfree.

Feel free to ask questions and tell us a bit more about your situation.

xx MM

 
Old 03-23-2008, 01:08 PM   #5
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

If you need this surgery, you'll be glad you did it, no matter how hard the recovery is. Many, many people have fusion surgery and get their lives back. Most of them aren't hanging around here on the board. Why would they? They can get out and do things that those of us with continued problems can't. So please keep in mind as you read posts here that we are NOT a representative group. Most of us here have problems that don't require surgery or are either still contemplating surgery or have had more problems since surgery. It bears repeating that most people who have this surgery do just fine with it!

That said, though, it is a big surgery with a long recovery time. MM might be a better one to listen to regarding recovery pain, as my recovery was quite painful and difficult. Looking back now, I have to say I got through it by lots of people praying for me and keeping my thoughts as positive as I could. It was harder than I expected, and it was my second fusion. I knew what I was getting into. I had read here on the board and talked to lots of people here who had already had the surgery, so I was prepared. But I did have a lot of levels fused, 8 this time around for a total of 14. That does make a huge difference. I was mostly in bed for 2 months, in bed more than out of it for the third month, and needed to lay down for several hours a day for several months more after that. I was on Percocet for about 2 months, then switched to Vicodin. I think I scared MM before her surgery, but wasn't it nice for it to be easier than you thought? Sorry about that, MM!

If you read the thread at the top called "Post Surgery Tips," it has lots of great suggestions that will make your recovery easier. Best two tips: get a grabber tool. It will be your best friend! And get a satiny type bottom sheet for your bed. It will let you slide to turn instead of fighting friction, so you'll have less pain. I got slippery pj's, too, but some people here have found that to be overkill. But it worked for me.

I would get at least two opinions from surgeons before you make your decision. Make sure you go to two surgeons who practice in different groups. Surgeons in the same group share notes. When you go to the second one, it's fine if he knows you're there for a second opinion -- doctors are used to that and understand it -- but don't tell him what the first doctor said. Let him come to his own conclusion without pressure to agree with a colleague. Try to find surgeons who specialize in the spine and who have done a fellowship.

Let us know what you decide. If you have other questions, we'll do our best to help. We're not doctors, but we've been there and done that.

And I'll try not to scare you.

Take care,
Emily

 
Old 03-23-2008, 06:47 PM   #6
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

I had a surgery in 2002 posterior with a fusion and screws and pins. I had a good pain free life until 2007 I was having really weak legs and alot of pain so i went to my doctor and i found out the screws were broke in May. Then in October i found out after the mylogram (different doctor) that the fusion never healed when i have been told all along it was fine. So i go back for my second surgery this friday the 28. They are going to try and go anterior but since they did not do the first surgery they really do not know what to expect so they may end up haveing to go in posterior also. I hate not knowing what all they are going to have to do wont know until i wake up. they will fuse it again and put in new hardware pins and screws and a cage with donor bone. But knowing what i have learned form this board i feel this time will be alot better.

Good luck!!!

 
Old 03-23-2008, 10:58 PM   #7
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

First thing let me say....... I DON'T WANT TO HAVE SURGERY. But.......... all of this has stolen so much from my life and I am beginning to think this is the only way I will get even a portion of my life back.

When all this happened, I was in the bathroom one morning leaned over scooping out the cat's litter box. A couple days before this happened, I had been feeling a lot of pressure in my lower back and wondered what the heck was going on. When I straightened up from scooping out the litter box I had the most horrible instant pain in my back. I would not have been surprised to turn around and find out that someone had shot me in the back, that is how crushing the pain was. I couldn't sit down, couldn't lay down, all I could do was hang on to the walls and scream.

For the past couple of years before this happened I had noticed that certain things caused my back to hurt very bad; being at the sink washing dishes or making a salad. Normally I would take a basket of clothes fresh from the dryer, dump them on the bed and stand beside the bed and fold them. This got to the point I could not stand for more than a couple of minutes before my back would start to hurt really bad. Vacuuming........that was a biggie, it would make my back hurt to the point I would be in tears from the pain. I would have to vacuum say one room and then quit, go back to it, vacuum more, have to quit, and so on.

When I had the first MRI done, I was told I had degenerative disc disease and spinal steosis at different levels. Then last year I had a bone scan done and the radiologist was quite alarmed at the bone loss I had. I have several stress fractures in my neck and my neck and shoulders hurt a lot but this is nothing in comparison to my back. I had a C5-6 disc removal done 5 years ago; pins, screws, a plate, and bone graft was done on my neck but I have nerve damage in my left shoulder and this causes me a lot of pain.

So many things I can't do; things I want to do and things I need to do such as housework. I can't vacuum anymore period, it causes so much pain I just can't do it anymore. Loading the dishwasher; that will take me as long as an hour to get it done. Put in a few dishes and have to quit, get my back calmed down and then go at it again. It takes me forever to get things done; my back will begin to hurt so bad I have to stop and then go back to it. Doing the litter boxes for example, I have to get down on my hands and knees to do it, forget about leaning over to do it. Going to Walmart; if we (hubby and I) are going in to just pick up a few items, that I can do but if we go and then amble all over the store, by the time we get out of there, I am in tears and doing a lot of walking causes my left leg to go numb. I have a lot of sciatica pain; left side is the worst but the right leg hurts at times as well.

I am on a 72-hour Fentanyl patch, Percocet 10s, Neurontin, Lioderm patches that I place directly over the places my back hurts, and Soma muscle relaxers; 350 mgs and I take one of them 4 times per day. And then I start to think; good grief, if I am on this much stuff and I still hurt so bad then how bad is my back, how bad would the pain be if I wasn't on all this stuff.

I don't know about the rest of you but I get pretty down about all this. I feel like some horrible monster has come in and stolen away my life. There is so much I want to be able to do, so much that I need to be able to do. Poor John, he works 50 hours a week, two hours on the road every day going to and from work, most of the time he has to do the weekly grocery shopping, run errands, and all that good stuff. He takes me to all my doctor appointments because if I were to be in an accident and I was driving, our car insurance would not be any good because of the narcotics I am on so we don't take any chances, he takes me to all my appointments. I start to think sometimes, where do I go from here?? This is not much of a life.

 
Old 03-24-2008, 05:46 AM   #8
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

It sounds like you're in so much pain and the quality of your life has been so drastically affected that if the surgeons agree that surgery is the answer, it's time to get it on the calendar.

I hope you find the perfect doctor and can get the ball rolling quickly.

Blessings,
Emily

 
Old 03-24-2008, 11:49 AM   #9
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crittermom HB User
Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

[QUOTE=BlueAtlas;3499718]It sounds like you're in so much pain and the quality of your life has been so drastically affected that if the surgeons agree that surgery is the answer, it's time to get it on the calendar.

I hope you find the perfect doctor and can get the ball rolling quickly.

Blessings,
Emily[/QUOTE]

I am starting to think that is what I am going to have to do but it scares the stuffins out of me to even think about it.

With the discs at L4-L5 herniated plus the S1 and the spinal stenosis at a couple of levels, I am starting to think this is the only chance I have at getting out of this pain. The doc said a couple of times; "see how far out this is herniated" he showed me on the films and he mentioned that a couple of times, "these are really out there" referring to how bulged out the discs are. If I had a fusion done it would be from L3-S1 and that is a large amount of fusing to do. Also not real crazy about the odds; it might help with the pain, might not help with the pain, pain could be worse after surgery.......... I really don't like those odds. On the other hand I am getting so fed up with all this pain and yes the quality of my life is pretty poor. As I said, it feels as if some monster came in and stole away the majority of my life and I am left with trying to clean up a train wreck. Hurting a lot today and pretty down about everything. I do battle quite a bit of depression from this but then who wouldn't be getting depresses about it all??

 
Old 03-24-2008, 12:02 PM   #10
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Re: Questions about spinal fusion surgery

I agree with what Emily said...and I would get one opinion from a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine specialist and a second opinion from a neurosurgeon. With all you have going on, it doesn't sound like you are going to get any better on your own.

Thanks to Emily, I didn't think my surgery was bad at all. There was never a point where I was in more pain than I had been living with on a daily basis, pre-surgery. I am still recovering, and am not yet pain-free, but I do feel much better, and I can stand without having my leg and/or foot go numb.

You might want to have a consultation just to see what your options are, and to see if you are possibly causing more damage by postponing surgery.

 
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