So glad to see there is an online community of support for fellow sufferers. Hopefully I can gain some insight from those of you that have already had a fusion surgery. Mainly, I am needing tips, advice for mental preparation, how to cope, etc...
I had a discogram done on Nov 14th which showed a grade 5 annular tear with significant leakage between l3 l4. I am only 25 years old, and have been battling back/leg pain for 2 years post car accident. I've done injections, therapy, lots of meds, and although they helped slightly, the relief didn't seem to last very long.
I am seriously considering a lumbar fusion because the doctor seems to think he can take out the painful disc and repair me, but I am terrified of being under anesthesia, let alone a knife! Like most of you, I'm sure, I have good days, and I have bad days, lately the bad days are more recurrent than the good. I'm taking Nebutome, prozac, and Norco for pain/depression. Sometimes I don't even leave my house for days on end. I'm a mother to 2 little girls ages 4, and 9 and am worried about how this wil affect my relationship with them.
To add another wrench in this whole equation I have been a smoker for 10 years, and have heard that smokers don't heal the same way after a fusion as non smokers, have you tried to quit pre-op? what helped? Desperate for advice.
I gave some recent post-op advice in a thread titled Questions so will be a little lazy and direct you there.
I am a non-smoker but my doc said he hesitates to even do a fusion on a smoker b/c it really impacts bone growth. I have never had to go through quitting cigs, but I think it would be worth the fight....obv it is always good for your health, but that's even more true here. Plus, you'll have a few days in the hospital and I imagine it would be horrid to add w/d to the work of recovery.
Don't just take your surgeon's word for the fact that he does a great job. Some surgeons make really outrageous "guarantees." Someone on the board was guaranteed that absolutely he would come out of surgery 100% better, and there was nothing that could happen. Of course, luck of the draw, that turned out not to be true.
The most important decision you will make, other than the decision to have fusion surgery in the first place, is the choice of your surgeon. Take your time. Check out the doctor's credentials, whether any lawsuits have been filed against him, complaints against him, try to talk to other patients, check out his education, training and fellowship training, etc. I realize not everyone lives where there may be a choice of spine specialists...but it is always a good idea to get more than one opinion, even if you have to travel a bit to get it.
To give yourself the best chance of having a successful fusion, you really must do what you can to stop smoking. Many surgeons will not operate on a smoker...as statistics prove beyond a doubt that it affects their results. Also it is more difficult to properly anesthetize the smoker and keep him or her stable during the surgery. So, please do yourself a big favor and make up your mind to quit, for your sake and the health of your girls, too.
It is normal to be fearful of the surgery. I had never had a general anesthetic before either and I am considerably older than you. But it is very safe today...and now I don't worry about it. They can pick up a lot of potential issues during the pre-surgery screening, and the monitoring equipment is much better than it used to be.