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Old 06-14-2008, 02:35 AM   #1
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paula456 HB User
2 Level Fusion and Brace

Hi guys! 10 days and counting and boy, am I getting nervous.

This past wednesday I had an appointment with the orthotics place to have my brace fitted. Seems I will be in a full body brace from my underarms to my hips, and I will be wearing it for 6-9 months. It was created by putting me in a full body cast, having it cut off me, and then he uses it as a mold for the brace.

The orthotics guy gave me a book of instructions that were developed by them and my surgeon, and it put a very different light on things. It reminded me this is treated like a broken bone - which makes a great deal of sense. My surgeon is very conservative and his first and primary focus is the fusion. He won't even consider PT for 6-9 months because he wants that fusion set above and beyond anything else.

I am to be in the brace 24 hours a day, and I can't even shower until 2 months post op because I can't stand without the brace off until he sees a "callous" start to form around the fusion. Until then, it's sponge baths. My husband will learn a new skill...

This will be an instrumental fusion, but it seems the surgeon does not want to risk any screws loosening. He has an incredible reputation for success and a very high success rate for fusion. My question is, in all my reading here I haven't heard anyone else talk about being in a brace or being in one this long. Does anyone else have experience with it?

Thanks guys! My pre-op shopping is complete, and since my back has gotten substantially worse in the past week and no sign of improvement, I'm ready!

Oh, btw, I learned if you want to learn about a doctor talk to someone in the medical field who isn't a doctor and who doesn't feel they must keep quiet. The orthotics guy knew the first doctor I was seeing, and quietly said "errr, I'm glad you switched." So, I asked him for details and I got an earful, that ended with "I can't believe he still has patients." Talk about dodging a bullet!

 
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Old 06-14-2008, 05:16 AM   #2
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Paula, I'm glad you're confident that this is the best route for you and that this is the right doctor. He sounds like a keeper!

Many of us have had braces of different varieties. I had the kind you're talking about. I wore it for 5 months. I was showing bone growth at only 6 weeks, and was fully fused by 6 months, so I had no fear of coming out of the brace, but it was hard! I had become dependent on it. It took me a full month to wean out of it. If I had it to do over again, I would do it the same way, though. I didn't want to risk any shift in my fusion area, as that was what prompted the fusion in the first place.

Your doctor is very conservative, but I think that's a good thing. That's probably why he has such a high success rate and good reputation!

I wish you the best as you head into your surgery. Try to keep yourself as busy as you can as the date gets closer. It will help the time go faster and keep you from thinking too much about it.

Blessings,
Emily

 
Old 06-14-2008, 05:45 AM   #3
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Thanks Emily! It's good to hear from someone who was treated the same way post-op. Yeah, I keep hearing very good things about this doctor from everyone who asks who my surgeon will be. This is extraordinary because people in this area are inclined to go to NYC or Phili for serious surgery. My own GP thinks this surgeon is tops in his field.

I am working up to the day before surgery, and although sitting all day is extremely difficult it's helping keep my mind off it. Sorta.

 
Old 06-14-2008, 03:29 PM   #4
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Hey there Paula, you responded to one of my posts but right now I can't even find it. I am having similar surgery on june 30th, L4-L5_S1, & filled in in the front with cadaver bones, & yes I had to go for my casting this past tuesday, I too am very nervous. Also the guy who did the casting also told me very good things about the 2 surgeons I am having. & I am suppose to wear the brace for 3 months, here in Cleveland Ohio it is always very hot in the summer, we have picked a very bad time of the year for this but I know I can't wait anylonger, the funny thing is I have been having very good back days lately, which really makes me wonder but not enough to stop me from doing this. I am wishing you the very best, & hoping maybe your hubby will post for you so we all know how you are doing? My thoughts & prayers are with you.
gijuie

 
Old 06-14-2008, 03:46 PM   #5
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Hi gijuie! I know it'll be the summer for recovery but I can air condition my house and since I'm in the mountains it won't be too hot outside. My other choice takes my recovery into the winter and once again, since I'm in the mountains, it's possible that storms will keep me from even getting to appointments, and the risk of slipping on ice or snow is too great. I did consider delaying it, but then a week ago everything got much worse and now I'm as ready for surgery as I might ever be.

I'm glad you're having good days right now, and good luck to both of us! Mine is on the 24th.

Paula

 
Old 06-14-2008, 04:20 PM   #6
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ms_west HB User
Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

I had one in 1982 with my first fusion that sounds exactly like yours Paula. It was challenging including using the ladies room (sorry). I highly recommend wearing a light cotton tshirt under the brace and sprinkling your skin with baby powder. It helped with the rubbing. Not a pleasant experience and unfortunately I had mine for 6 months. And do you believe I lived thru it to tell about it ??

Then I had a laminectomy in 2006 and I did not need a brackbrace.

With my fusion in Feb 2007, I had a much smaller brace that went from the bottom of my rib area to the mid hip region. Oh so much easier!! I wore this for 9 weeks.

Then I had a revision surgery in November 2007, I had to wear the smaller brace for 12 weeks.

 
Old 06-14-2008, 06:19 PM   #7
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Hi Diet. Yup, I've been instructed to get a supply of t shirts and powder. Also have cotton pads for those times the brace rubs and before the orthotic guy can fix it. I keep thinking the ladies room challenge will be no worse then what I live with now, as the facet joints in that area are pretty much frozen already. You'd think they'd keep me from needing a fusion

When they were making the cast for the brace it felt wonderful. For the first time in I don't know how long my back felt upright and supported. The heat as the plaster dried was also wonderful. By the time he took it off I felt the best I've felt in months. I think I'll start a new therapy - plaster therapy. LOL

I had a laminectomy 25 years ago, and had no restrictions and no brace. I healed 100% and had no back pain for 23 of those 25 years. Ah well, age catches up with us.

Last edited by paula456; 06-14-2008 at 06:21 PM.

 
Old 06-14-2008, 08:54 PM   #8
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Paula, that's funny. I felt the same way about the cast! Heat always makes me feel better, and to be completely supported without having to work at keeping myself upright was such a relief. Too bad it was temporary! I really didn't mind the brace. I had mine through the winter, so I wore big flannel shirts over it. No big deal. It was worth it for what I gained. It gave me confidence that I wasn't going to hurt myself being up and walking, since the brace kept me from shifting until I was fused.

I think you're going to do fine with this. You know what to expect, and you're ready!

(((hugs)))
Emily

 
Old 06-15-2008, 02:42 AM   #9
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Emily, you'll find this funny. Those of us in the east have been having this lovely heatwave, and the AC in my car isn't working. I'd limp my way out of work, lower myself into my steamy Neon, and drive the 40 miles home in the hot car, sweating up a storm. I'd get home, get out of the Neon, and say WOW, I feel GREAT! It took me 2 days to realize it was the hour of unrelenting heat in the car. Far better then a heating pad. I've been thinking of installing a sauna at home...

Thank you guys, I'm really glad I asked this question as I hadn't seen a mention of a brace on the board thus far, and was starting to feel alone. Research kept mentioning a brace and how it's worn, but I was a bit startled to see my doctor has me in it all the time with shower restrictions for 2 months because he doesn't want me upright with it off until then, or until he sees a callous start to form. If I had been seeing him longer I could have asked these questions, but I've only seen him once and although we spent 45 minutes chatting it was about my condition, his qualifications, how he does the procedure, etc. I had been seeing another doctor up until then - the one who wanted me to continue PT even though I am bone on bone between L5/S1 and was getting full body muscle spasms from any bending activities. You know, the one I just found out was a drinker...

Thankfully my current surgeon has the orthotics guy go over all this. The orthotics guy will be coming to the hospital the day after surgery, after they remove the drain, and will be placing the brace on me then, before they allow me out of bed.

It's also nudged my memory, of when I was a kid and a classmate might disappear for a year or so, and you'd hear they had surgery and were out of school and in a body cast. I realize now they were being treated for scoliosis, had a fusion, and in the days before good plastics, were actually kept in a cast the entire time. I decided being able to open it and sponge bath was far better then that and I shouldn't complain.


 
Old 06-15-2008, 03:41 AM   #10
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

That was a nice chuckle! I'm in the east, too, and I'll take these 100 degree days over winter anytime!

I had those body casts 30 years ago or so when I had my first fusion. They actually put me in a series of casts before the surgery in an attempt to correct the curve. They were unsuccessful, but I'll never forget those horrid casts. No showering, no washing hair, and they were heavy! And after the surgery, they put a new one on you and then you weren't allowed out of bed for 3 months, not even to use the bathroom. My first weeks of PT were on a tilt table to get me used to being upright again. I almost passed out many times when they started raising me. They'd raise it just a few more degrees each day, as I slowly tolerated it more and more. Not the fondest memories of my youth, but that was how I found my career calling, so it was a valuable experience.

You might want to get some of those wet wipes to freshen yourself up, since you won't be able to shower. When I had days after this last fusion when I was too tired or weak to get in the shower, I at least wiped down my arms, neck, etc., whatever I could comfortably reach, so I didn't feel like I smelled bad.

Emily

 
Old 06-15-2008, 05:39 AM   #11
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Emily, excellent idea about the wipes! Hubby understand he'll be sponge bathing me but the wet wipes are a great idea as a supplement! My older daughter is an RN in training and has worked with orthopedic patients so she'll be helping too. I'm also coming up with all sorts of creative cleaning ideas for toilet times, trying to kill a few birds with one stone.

I'm in a snow belt even for this part of PA, since I'm at 2000 feet up here. I used to enjoy the snow but as I get older and the arthritis has taken hold the winters get tougher and tougher. Still don't like heat, and I've lived in both the Carolinas, but I'm beginning to learn there are advantages to heat when you need it.

I hadn't realized your earlier fusions were due to scoliosis. I can't imagine going through that as a kid. My best friend had severe scoliosis but her parents decided not to treat her. I heard from her fairly recently, and that decision has taken its toll. At this point she's so bad even surgery won't help. Ah well.

Gotta keep that jester hat on, it's the only thing getting me through these last few days.

 
Old 06-15-2008, 05:58 AM   #12
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

I wore one of those TLSO braces for about 3 months, but I only had to wear it any time I was out of bed or taking a shower (I was allowed to shower about the second week).

when youre wearing the brace make sure it is TIGHT. you may find you have to keep tightening every so often. mine had velcro closures and I found that it would loosen up slightly during the day.

for those t shirts you want cotton ones with no (or very well made) seams and a snug fit, if its loose and bunches up anywhere or you feel the seams you will be miserable.

I didnt use baby powder or anything, I just changed t shirts several times a day if it felt oogly.

while you may not be able to fully shower if you can stand in the shower or tub invest in one of those detachable shower heads with a long hose, then your hubby can power wash you below the brace. as long as the brace or incision doesnt get wet you should be able to do this.
__________________
back surgery in JUN 06 - two level ALIF (L3-4-5) with cages and BMP - SUCCESSFUL!

Last edited by zeroman; 06-15-2008 at 06:04 AM.

 
Old 06-15-2008, 06:04 AM   #13
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paula456 HB User
Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Thanks Zeroman! All of this suggestions are going to help me, I know that. Hmm, I'm wondering now if the t-shirts I bought might be too big. I bought men's t-shirts because, well, they'll be better quality then what you can find for women. However, I'm also sure they'll shrink. I have one of those shower heads and that idea never occurred to me. GREAT IDEA! Thank you!

Spent this weekend rearranging my drawers so my husband knows where everything is and so I can reach what I'll be needing for the first few months. Purchased new slippery sheets and getting them all ready too. Also taking care of some things around the house that need to be fixed that I usually handle. By the time the surgery date comes I'm going to really need it! May as well get my money's worth.


Last edited by paula456; 06-15-2008 at 06:07 AM.

 
Old 06-20-2008, 08:02 AM   #14
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Re: 2 Level Fusion and Brace

Hey Paula,

Just found your thread here. Good luck on your surgery and your recovery! I can relate to your concerns about the TLSO Brace as I am currently in a CTLSO (same as the one you will be in but with a metal neck brace attached to the top of the hard shell for cervical support and restriction!) so feel free to commiserate with me and swap stories, fashion tips , etc (ha, ha --lol)

Be well and good luck

Andrea

 
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