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Old 04-22-2009, 02:56 PM   #1
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Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Hi, I am new here but it seems like there are alot of knowledgeable people on this board. I have spondylolisthesis L4-L5 and had back pain for 16 years, becoming increasingly worse. After all conservative attempts to live a pain free life, my doctor has recommended minimally invasive fusion. Has anyone here had a fusion that was minimally invasive? If so, what is the recovery time like? thanks!

 
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Old 04-23-2009, 02:17 PM   #2
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Um, is there such a thing? I can't imagine. I fusion is a pretty major surgery. I just had it 2 weeks ago for spondy too. Recovery is rough, but over all I am gradually feeling better. There are a lot of ups and downs. I'm not going to lie, the first few days after surgery I would have rather been dead the pain was that bad. But I am young, 28, fit, and healthy, so I think I am recovering quite nicely. Just make sure you walk walk walk. It hurts but it is so necessary. My surgeon said "The more pain, the more gain.".

Get a few opinions before doing the surgery, there are different techniques to doing it. Your surgeon may be saying minimally invasive to not scare you. My surgeon made it sound like it would be a breeze (in my opinion not to scare me out of it), but it has been tough. I had one level fused, L5-S1. I have 3 screws and 2 rods. Bone was removed from my spine where the nerve compression was, and donor bone was used to replace the L5-S1 disc that was removed. He went through both the front and back. My stomach incision is about 3 inches, and my back incision is about 6.

I am not trying to scare you, but I really don't think fusions are minimally invasive. I don't see how. Get a few opinions and if there is such a thing than perfect!

 
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Old 04-23-2009, 03:03 PM   #3
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Thank you for sharing your experiencewith me! From what I understand, the minimally invasive part only refers to the incisions. There is a lot of information out there, but the benefits are: 2-3 day hospital stay on average, no need for a blood transfusion, smaller scars, and quicker recovery time. But I just can't seem to find any specific info on the average recovery time. Because of the technical nature of this type of surgery, there are a limited number of doctors who are qualified to do the surgery. Luckily I live right outside Philly where there are about 5 or so surgeons who can do this type of surgery, and I can go for multiple opinions. I also think that not everyone who gets fusion surgery qualifies for the minimally invasive technique, my doctor said I was a "candidate." I meet with the first surgeon on Tuesday so I will know a lot more then, just looking to see if anyone here has had any experience with this specific surgery.

 
Old 04-23-2009, 04:29 PM   #4
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Oh okay. That makes sense I guess. My incisions haven't bothered me that much though. But I also didn't have staples or stitches on the outside. There are stitches of course all over the place inside, but he glued the outside. The bone pain is what gets me down. Do you have any more info about what he would do once inside? Maybe the minimally invasive surgery uses smaller hardware or something too. And maybe recovery would be quicker. I had my 2 week post op appointment yesterday and OMG I can't believe how much metal is in there (they did an x-ray and I got to see it). And the screws are so big! I was surprised and a little horrified! LOL!

I gotta tell you though, I am 2 weeks out, and feeling pretty darn good today. I have had ups and downs today of course where I feel like crud, but the ups have been great. I didn't think I would have ups this good so soon.

You should find out what he means by "you are a candidate" for the surgery. I am curious.

I was hospitalized for 3 nights and 4 days, so it sounds like your stay would be a little shorter which is always good. Not only will your hospital bill be smaller LOL!, but it is much nicer to be at home.

I am glad you have several great surgeons in your area. Make sure you pick the best one because this is your spine we're talking about

 
Old 04-24-2009, 06:39 AM   #5
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Hello,

Thank you for sharing your experiences, it is helpful as I am finding little information available. I am scheduled for a l5 - s1 fusion the beginning of June and would appreciate any advice or insight you could offer to be better prepared. I also have spondy - it has been there forever! I am 37 and it was discovered when I was 18, but they think it occurred as early as 4-6 years old. In the last year L5 has moved forward another 25%, making it a grade 2+ or shifted 50%+ from where it should be. I am comfortable with my surgeon and understand that he will need to use his whole bag of tricks - screws, rods, and 2 cages. I just don't feel like I have a good handle on what to expect after, especially once I get home. I am also going to need to work from home as I am able and want to be realistic about what that means (computer work mostly) as far as when, how much time I can handle at one time. I am thinking that I can use a standing laptop table with a tall stool for support as needed - small increments of time at first- is this realistic?

Last edited by klm71; 05-01-2009 at 07:15 PM.

 
Old 04-30-2009, 04:28 PM   #6
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

I met with my first surgeon on Tuesday and he confirmed that I should have a double fusion surgery. The discs between my L4-L5 and L5-S1 are gone and the L5 is sliding forward. He is able to do the fusion using the minimally invasive technique, meaning that he and another surgeon (double fusion, two surgeons) are going to get the cages, screws, instruments, etc. through two 1.5 inch slits on my back. It's truly amazing, as is the recovery time. He has had some patients return to work in 2-3 weeks (assuming it's a desk job). I am meeting with another surgeon who is also known for this minimally invasive technique on Tuesday to get another opinion. The first surgeon is booked until September so hopefully this second surgeon can get me in sooner. I can't live on Vicodin for the next four months!!

If you need fusion surgery, I would strongly suggest you try to get an opinion from a surgeon who can do the minimally invasive technique. The method has been around for the past five years, so it is relatively new. But my first sugeon said 98% of the fusions he does are minimally invasive.
It takes significant extra training for the surgeon, but based on the experiences that I have read about on this board, it truly seems like it the recovery time is drastically minimized. Many of us here have been living for years in debilitating pain, so to have the pain of recovery reduced sounds like a wonderful thing!!!!

 
Old 04-30-2009, 06:51 PM   #7
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Are you perhaps talking about a Kyphoplasty? That's a minimaly invasive surgery that only requires a 1 1/2 or so inch incision. The surgeon places an instrument in your incision, inflates a baloon to relieve pressure from fractures and then inserts bone, glue and other substances to fill in the space. Then the baloon is deflated and the instrument is removed from your incision. I had this done a few times after breaking bones. I have severe osteoporosis and have had 12 spinal surgeries - mostly fusions and re-fusions. I've been in so much pain the last few months and found out Monday that one of my fusions at L5-S1 has failed. I will have to have another surgery in June to fix this. Ugh!

 
Old 05-01-2009, 06:14 AM   #8
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

Tara, it sounds like you and I are in a similar situation currently. In the last week I have found the information contained within everyones posts exceptionally helpful - thank you all!!

I do think that my surgery is considered minimally invasive, at least as much as it can be and still remove the bone, clean out the disc put in screws rods and cages, pack with bone, etc. At my last appointment with my surgeon, he was on the fence as to whether or not I would need a two level fusion considering how unstable L5 is and the added concern of my EDS prompting other vertebrae to start acting up post fusion. I have spent the last 6 months back and forth with doctors, specialists, surgeons making sure I have my bases covered. I have a bit more complicated overall health situation, as I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome also, mandating more extensive investigation with doctors on my end before doing something like this. My back pain and problems have been present since childhood, with varying degrees of pain over time and co-exist with pain in many other joints, neck, etc. The spondololysthesis was not discovered until I was 18, but thought to have occured as early as 4-6. It had been a grade 1 and relatively stable for the last 19 years, but in the last year has made an unexplicable shift forward and down another 25%+.

I have wrapped my head around the surgery and am once again comforted by the benefit of living in a community with a strong constantly inquisitive and progressing medical presence. I got a 3rd opinion with a surgeon at the Univ. of WI Spine Clinic who pioneered both the methods and instruments for less invasive laproscopic spine surgery (Dr. Zdeblick). He is not able to do my surgery, but I am equally as confident with my surgeon and his abilities and use of these techniques. I have a good handle on everything up to the point of what happens when the surgery is over. I am probably more scared that my EDS will complicate the recovery process, but am also stubborn and strong willed and have prevailed over my pain before, so I should probably stop worrying sooo much.

I have made my list of supplies to have at home waiting and ready for my return from the hospital and started to cross them off slowly but surely (thanks again to everyone here). I had a bit of difficulty finding the satin sheets, but finally found them on line.

Tara I hope that you are able to schedule surgery sooner rather than later to speed your path to recovery.

Brittle Bones, I hope for a sucessful surgery and speedy recovery for your June procedure as well.

Megss and everyone else in their post surgery recovery process, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Your positive attitude and progress are encouraging! I have aslo warned my significant other not to be mean to me as he tires of having to take care of me, the dogs, the house - or he is in for it in the long run! lol! I am afraid he is in for a bit of a rude awakening when he discovers all of the things that don't just happen "magically"!!

 
Old 05-01-2009, 03:02 PM   #9
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Re: Recovery Time for Minimally Invasive Fusion?

I have had an "invasive" fusion in the past (1990) and now need another one at L3-L4. The first one took months to recover from.

My doc is trained in minimally invasive techniques. Is it as good as the post sounds? Is it really way better than the traditionally method? I have never heard of anyone going back to a desk job after 3 weeks from a fusion???

 
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