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Old 04-24-2010, 10:41 AM   #1
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Question L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

My husband has signed up for L4-S1 fusion on May 11th. He has been diagnosed with Bertolotti's Syndrome, where the L5 and S1 were by birth defect fused together, causing L4 to carry a load it was not meant to carry. This caused him to wind up with a stress fracture at L4 and a bulging disc. We have tried all conservative treatments, including chiropractics, cortisone injections, RF treatments, and even bought a tenz unit, heating pad, went to a pain management specialist (i.e. pill pusher) all with no relief. The PMS continuously upped his meds rather than trying to figure out the problem. Up until about a month ago he was on Soma, Percocet for break through pain, and 100mg Fentynal patches. He was waking in the morning with the beginnings of withdrawls from not having the percocet for 8-10 hours. This is when we said enough was enough. We went to our family dr. and with his and the help of a step down methadone Rx he was able to get off all meds! He was then given a referel to the Ortopedic Surgeon we a currently seeing and was given the real diagnosis stated above... His surgery is fast approaching and we are very interested in others experiences after they're surgery. Please respond!

 
Old 04-24-2010, 11:07 AM   #2
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

I would be glad to share my experiance.. I am a 33 year old male who dealt with lumbar back pain for over 15 years. Like your hubby I went through all non-envasive procedures in order to deal with this pain.
After a discogram my neuro and I decided that a fusion was my only option. I was getting to the permanant nerve damge state.
I am know 70 post op from a PLIF with hardware and since week 2 of my recovery, i have not taken any pain meds. My post-op pain was gone after surgery. I did deal with numbness and leg weakness for about a week post..it all settled down within 2 weeks.
Atm iam gradually weaning myself back into my work..i have been operating a loader arounfd 5h/day as well as various ranch related taskes..irrigation, fencing, etc.

That being said, i do feal like a different person...so very cautious about every little move i make. I am still early in my recovery and i am constantly fighting with myself when it comes to doing the same things i did prior to surgery..I simply can't or i risk screwing my back up.
My advice is to do what you are doing..research. Do realize that you are on a pain forum and don't expect much success stories as those people are out enjoying their new life.

Understand that this is a major surgery and expect a lengthy recovery. Also realize that once this is done, you may need further operations down the road.
I weighed the pros and cons and decided that if i could have at least 5 years of a pain free life ill take it.
Best of luck on your descision.

 
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Old 04-24-2010, 01:52 PM   #3
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

Killian was right on about the people on this board we may not have alot of sucess stories but you sure can find answers for many of your questions. Especail read the after recovery blog on what you need at home. All these little tips are helpful for a safe but speedy recovery everything from the raised toilet seat to the garbage bag to swivel in and out of the car. I am not a man but have been a single parent all my life and have done the work of one. If your husband is active the biggest problem you may have is the limitations keeping him down long enough or keeping him from overdoing it too soon. I am 8 months out from a L3-S1 360 fusion with not very good results. The last proceedure I had only a couple of days ago was an siatic epidural this may have been the answer to my prayers. So what ever his outcome we are all rooting for him and if he needs help or answers this is the best group for them. Again read some of the old boards I have found them very helpful.
good luck to both of you

 
Old 04-24-2010, 02:06 PM   #4
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

Killian, how was the first week post op? Since we will be living off my salary for awhile and we are barely comfortable with both of us working I have taken off for a week to stay with him in the hospital and the first few days at home. Will that be enough or will he be ok to kind of fend for himself that second week? We are talking over getting his dad to keep our boys (3 &4) for the summer, he lives out of state and rarely gets to see them but they are head over hills for him so they won't think anything about it but we think it will be better for them not wondering why daddy isn't taking them to do stuff. And Tyler won't feel guilty and push his recovery to quickly either. I have been doing alot of research, and I am convinced we are doing the right thing. At 27 his pain level is way to high, keeping him from sleeping and after a full days work he can barely move when he gets home. He has already quit his job as a Marine Electrician and went back to work at an old job he did in college, It is still pretty labor intensive, but has less hours, also less pay and no benifits, but his current boss is understanding of all the time he has to take off for various dr. visits or just because he simply can't get out of bed. We feel like if it gets only slightly better that is still a plus. His back pain controls everything we do and at this point anyway!

 
Old 04-24-2010, 02:20 PM   #5
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

I just had an L3-S1 fusion 2/3/10. My husband was in the hospital with me all day for the first two days , after that all I needed was the floor medical staff so my husband only came later in the day to visit. I was in the hospital for one week. My fusion involved an incision on my side and entry to the spine from that incision. Any spinal fusion that uses an anterior approach (stomach) or lateral (side) can result in the GI system slowing down. So you don't eat foods until about day 3. My fusion had a back incision and the side incision. So check to see what type of approach they'll be doing. Also check ahead of time to see if they will fit him for some type of brace. I was fitted for a rigid brace and had it with me at the hospital. Not all surgeons use post op bracing and it's not needed in all fusions.

The first few days at home were rough but I didn't need much assistance. We made sure the kitchen and bathroom were set up so everything was within easy reach (i.e. in the bathroom extra toilet paper was on top of the counter, not under the counter and in the fridge items I needed like cheese were not in the lower area we usually keep them in). We made sure I would not have to bend, reach, or strain to reach anything. I had all of my medications by my bedside and for the first few days I would write down the time I took the medication so when I woke up later I'd know if I could take another or had to wait.

The best two items I bought for recovery were a toilet seat riser (so I didn't have to lower myself all the way down to standard toilet height) and a grabber (both of these are available in the major nationwide pharmacies). The grabber is about 2.5 feet long and I use it to pick up items I dropped or needed to reach. I'm 12 weeks out and think the grabber is a GREAT invention. I still use it on many occasions.
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Rt&Lt thumb arthroplasty 2012 ; RT TKR & Bilat CTS 2011
Fusions: L5-S1 (87), L4-S1 (93), C5-C7 ('06), L3-S1 ('10)
C5-C7 foraminotomy 08

 
Old 04-24-2010, 06:49 PM   #6
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

Hello and welcome. I'm coming close to 8 weeks post op from L4-S1 fusion. Like your husband and most of us on this board, we have pretty tried all avenues before surgery. Surgery sounds very scary because of the unknown-meaning will it work and what quality of life will follow. Everybody's back is different and so forth but there is a pretty good chance that you guys will benefit from having this done. Yes, you will hear horror stories, just like I did but the more I talk to people it seems those are the minority.

Be prepared to come with a good attitude and be ready for a battle for some time. This is major surgery. In my case, the first few weeks were tough but pain meds took most of the pain away. Did'nt do a whole lot of activity until about week 6. Right now I am walking 45 min a day and each week that goes by seems like I'm getting better. My pain meds are about 1/3 of what I was on after surgery-now only taking 2-3 norco a day which I'm tapering each week. At this rate, I should be off them maybe in a month if things are going as they're going.

I experienced many up and downs like 2 steps forward one step back. The most important thing I'v learned is patience and I thank this board for that. Realize it takes time for everything to heal(months). You husband is very young which should aid in the healing process. Good luck and better health for you guys after the surgery.

 
Old 04-24-2010, 09:05 PM   #7
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Re: L4-S1 fusion...experiences?

2 weeks post op L5-S1 decompression and interbody fusion. 59 year old male.

Ditto on the seat riser and TWO grabbers if you have a two story.

My pain level was no better the first week and a half after coming home than it was in the hospital. I had a lot of bone removal and spur scraping to make room for a badly mangled nerve coming out of L5-S1. So a lot of pain in the left hip and leg and numbness. Dr says no permanent damage, I hope. But, 3 mos to recover. I still need assistance, especially when showering. If you can, I would have grab bars put in shower and a shower seat bought to sit on. Gold Violin on web has seats, but should be available elsewhere. Got 500lb rating to be extra safe. A long handled shower brush for lower legs and feet is nice.

With steps I rented a medical bed, electric, for 172.00 a month. Includes rails and mattress. You'll need extra long bottom sheet for the twin mattress, which was included in price. The bed is easier to get into and out of than my bed, hospital bed, and our couch.

For the first week and a half home, I could only stand, sit, and/or lay for 20min to an hour or so (bed) before wanting to do one of the other things. It is getting better. But as mentioned, be prepared for 4-6 weeks of recovery time. And that doesn't mean 100%. Yes, the horror stories are the minority if you have a GOOD spine surgeon. But, the 3 weeks and I am back to normal are also the minority. I hope I am on the down side and would do this again, since I like your husband has structural issues, I think you are doing right thing. Wait too long and there will be more serious consequences.


My prayers are with you both on the surgery,



Ken

 
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