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    Old 09-08-2009, 08:12 PM   #1
    jkssaphire
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    ALIF so not what I expected

    I found this site today and have learned more from it then from my own surgeon. I still have questions that hopfully someone can answer. I started having problems with my L-5/S-1 while I was pregnant 9 years ago. I have done everything to avoid surgery. I finally gave in, and was scheleduled for an ALIF exactly 1 month ago. They were doing both front and back. The back was supposed to be easiest least invasive part. Something about the way my spine was shaped when they went in to tighten the screws led to rods and turned a 2 hr surg into 6hrs. Now I get very little info about recovery and what to expect. I don't know all the questions to ask. My legs get achey and weak, I still can't urinate without pain, I have days when I feel really good, then all of a sudden can't get out of bed. My surgeon stopped the valium I was taking for back spasms and now they have come back. Is it better to start walking, or am I not supposed to be doing anything (not in my nature)? Am I supposed to wear the brace all the time even when sitting in a chair? How long do you wear the brace for? How can I pad the front of the brace, it falls right along my front scar and at time causes bleeding. I have been on an emotional roller coaster for the last week, which I will add is when I stopped the pain killers on a reg scheledule. Before my surgery my surgeon said I would be walking that night, driving after 2 weeks and back to work at least part time 2-3 weeks out. I know everyone is different but I feel like I should be so much further in my recovery, I can't wrap my mind around the fact that what I had was major surgery!

    Last edited by jkssaphire; 09-08-2009 at 08:17 PM.

     
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    Old 09-09-2009, 09:51 AM   #2
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    Hi JKSSAPHIRE, and welcome to the board!

    What you had was a 360 fusion. An ALIF is the anterior only approach, that is, through the stomach. PLIF is posterior only, through the back. I had what you had, through both the stomach and back. You're very early on in your recovery. Some of the surgeons have a bit of an unrealistic view of what your recovery will be like. Back to work in only a few weeks is unrealistic, unless you have a desk job and a cot beside it to lay down when you need to, and a boss who won't care if your pain meds make you too goofy to actually do any work! For most of us, driving permission was around 6 weeks. I didn't want to drive even then, and only did so when I had to, like to drs. appts. This was a major, major surgery. It is comparable to open heart surgery in difficulty of recovery. I'm not saying this to discourage you. Please, I've been there. It's so much easier if you know that where you are is normal! It can take a full year to completely recover from this surgery. You'll be up and functioning long before that, but you'll need to take it easy. If you need to get back to work, you might be doing nothing else for a while except working, then going home to lay down and gear up for the next day. If you're able to go back part-time at first, that would be great! But don't demand too much from yourself. Your job right now is to recover.

    Note: I had a long fusion, 8 segments for a total of 14 from two surgeries, 30 years apart. Your recovery will probably be a bit easier than mine was, but there will certainly be some similarities.

    I was told to wear my brace any time I was up, except in the shower. If I got up to use the bathroom and was going right back to bed, I was allowed to not put it on. Someone here had a great idea for padding the brace against that sore incision back when I had my surgery. She used feminine pads on it! Gotta like that creativity! I was allowed to switch to a soft brace at about 2 months post op, but I didn't want to. Long story. The hard brace was better for me. I was allowed to start weaning out of it at 5 months post op.

    Walking? Yes, absolutely! You need to walk to get bone growth going. Walking gets blood circulating around your spine, which is essential for bone growth. No treadmill, unless you're slow and it's not inclined. Natural walking is best. Even if you can only walk for a short distance, that's okay. Do what you can tolerate, try to increase it a bit each day, and then rest. Walk and rest, walk and rest, walk and rest. Don't over do it. Okay, you WILL over do it! We all have. You'll pay for it by having increased pain for a day or two. And you'll learn to listen to your body.

    Why did you stop your pain killers on a regular schedule? Did your doctor tell you to? If he's prescribing them, you're better off taking them, even if you have times when you feel you don't need them. You'll heal better if you're not using your energy to bear through your pain. Do you know not to take NSAID pain relievers, like ibuprofen? It can interfere with bone growth.

    It's very normal to have ups and downs for no apparent reasons with this surgery. Sometimes you can pinpoint why you may be having a more tired or painful day, but many times you can't. It's just your body trying to heal. If you have a harder day, that's okay. You just need to rest more that day.

    I hope I haven't made things worse for you. I do better when I know what to expect. It helps me to, as you said, "get my head wrapped around it". If you have other questions, please do post them. No question is too big or too small. We won't sugar coat and we won't make up answers. If we don't know, or if it's something that a doctor would be better answering, we'll say so. We're all back patients, too, and we understand.

    I wish you the best as you continue in your recovery. And by the way, I'd do it again in a heart beat! I still have pain, but nowhere near as bad as it was. My doctor is my hero!

    Blessings,
    Emily

     
    Old 09-09-2009, 10:44 AM   #3
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    I am writing on this thread to ask a favor.
    Does anyone who had an Anterior Lumbar Fusion Surgery have a good outcome. I would love to hear about your positive experience. I am probably going to have an L5-S1 Fusion in the next month or two and I want to hear about some positive outcomes. I already had a microdiscectomy with laminectomy on that same disc 8 years ago. I would prefer the surgery through the front. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.

     
    Old 09-09-2009, 11:00 AM   #4
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    [COLOR="Navy"]I too had the 360 fusion. It was no walk in the park! I was told that I would be back to work in 3-5 weeks. Right...5 months later. But that being told you have to learn to listen to you back. Listen to your doctor and divide it between the two.

    I too had to wear the clam shell brace. I even had the flu while I was healing and had vomiting and the runs at the same time. I have never been so thankful for something as I was for that brace as I was then. Golly. It really helps you with the no BLT. Of course I thought that was no sandwiches, not the bending lifting twisting-duh! You don't want to do anything to endanger the work that your doctor has done.

    I'm with Emily, why are you off your meds? If you are you but one month post surgery, you are still having nerves that are settling and muscles that are calming down. It's hardly time to go off of all pain meds. Unless you are just not having any pain at all that is..which I doubt is the case.

    It will take 6 months for you to see fusion on the average so don't be surprised at your healing. This is major surgery. It isn't a walk in the park.And it hurts too! You may find that you have pain in areas that you didn't have before. But give it time to subside. Alot of it comes from the surgery itself. Nerves and muscles don't like being moved around and they protest as a result.

    Try to get up and move some every day. It keeps everything moving. It's good not only for the healing. but it helps with consipation also. make sure you drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruit and veggies. You don't need to be constopated on to of everything else.....

    Good luck and welcome...we have all suffered here one way or another. I am fused from T9 to my sacrum so I've been there also.[/COLOR]

     
    Old 09-09-2009, 06:46 PM   #5
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    thank you thank you thank you

    I have actually called the Dr. about the pain medication since posting. I am still waiting to hear from him and now am glad I made the call. The way he was prescribing the medicine was confusing to me. I have some medical back ground and knew the way he was prescribing it, it wouldn't last between appts. So I figured it wasn't supposed to and would be easier to stop slowly then to just run out. I feel like if I am calling for refills it looks like "addiction". I did not know about NSAIDS and have been taking them. Thank you so much for that info.

    I am on my feet for 8 hours a day at work. Before the surgery I had made arrangments that I would only do desk work when I came back to work. That was approved based on what the surgeon was telling me about recovery time. I am going in next week to renegotiate. Hopefully just a few hrs a week.

    It feels good to know somthing, like you BlueAtlas the more I know the better I do. I would rather know what to expect then be surprised.

    Last edited by jkssaphire; 09-09-2009 at 06:48 PM.

     
    Old 09-09-2009, 07:22 PM   #6
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    I had nine back surgeries and 1 neck surgery since 1987 and still have pain. Please listen to you body, if you feel weak or tired, lie down. I used to feel so quilty because I was super mom and wouldn't allow myself to do that. I go to a pain clinic once a month for meds. at this time I am on fentanyl patch and a stimulator for my nerve damage. It will take awhile to feel like yourself again, but you will have days of pain. Like I said "listen to you body". you will soon learn to know how to take care of the pain, to use ice or heat, whichever feels better and gives you relief. It usually does take a year for you to be more active. I walked and started gardening and that was my way to get out of the house and enjoy life again and soon I didn't feel the pain as much, because my mind was occupied with the things I love to do. I hope this helps you during and after recovery and I wish the the best of luck for recovery.

    Last edited by pjschubert; 09-09-2009 at 07:24 PM.

     
    Old 09-10-2009, 03:18 PM   #7
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    The doctors have pretty strict rules about how they can prescribe those heavy hitting pain meds. They DO expect you to call for refills. Some of the surgeons don't like to keep prescribing them, so if your doctor is one of them, go to a pain management specialist for them. One more doc you gotta see, but it will be worth it to not hurt!

    One day at a time...

    Emily

     
    Old 09-10-2009, 06:46 PM   #8
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    Emily

    I was reading someone else's post about going to a PM after surgery. They were setting up appt before having surgery. I was wondering if I should have done that? I have a PM doc. He referred me to surg., and said to let him know if I needed anything after surg. I am trying to figure out the system.

    Female products gotta love them, size and shape is perfect

    Also I started walking today!! Yeahh for cul de sacs

    Thanks for all your help
    Paddy

     
    Old 09-11-2009, 03:51 PM   #9
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    Yes, absolutely call your PM. That's what he's there for, and it sounds like he's ready and waiting to help you. If your surgeon knows you have a PM, that may be why he's not prescribing more for you. Most PM's require that you only get your pain meds from them, no one else.

    Walk as much as you can, but don't think you've become Superwoman! You need to rest, too. Have a happy weekend!

    Emily

     
    Old 09-15-2009, 08:03 AM   #10
    jkssaphire
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    Hello all,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all your help! I had a great weekend and each day am feeling better and better. I am taking it easier and understand why now thanks to ya'll. I also walk several times a day now. I really was heading towards depression when I found this site. Nothing the Dr. had told me about recovery was happening, and when asking questions I wasn't getting complete answers. This board gave me the answers and encouragement I needed. Again thank you so much!

    Last edited by jkssaphire; 09-15-2009 at 08:05 AM.

     
    Old 09-15-2009, 03:37 PM   #11
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    Re: ALIF so not what I expected

    I'm so glad we were a help! That's our goal!

    Blessings,
    Emily

     
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