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Back Problems board


Hey Bikerchic......

I feel compelled to write to your topic from the day before yesterday - to fuse or not to fuse. We all come here and read each other's stories and they are all so different. That is the key here. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT..... First of all don't get me wrong.... everyone here at this board has been very kind and supportive as I first came here in Nov. with acute back pain (not chronic). I was faced with physical therapy (for the 10th or so time in my life) or I knew deep down inside the other option would be a two level fusion. I was scared to death and everyone gave me support. But think about this for a moment...........

How many people are in the world? What is the percentage of people with back problems? (we know it is extremely high). How many people go to this board or a daily or say "bi-weekly" basis in comparison to how many people in the afore mentioned questions?

You can not base your decision on the experiences of a few. To have a one level L4-5 fusion would probably not be hard on you at all. They have came SO far in the procedure that it is NOT what it used to be AT ALL.

Let me outline my story and how it went for me.

#1. I am 48 yrs. old and have had 2 grown children.
#2. I live alone.

First surgery: 1988 - a simple L4-5 discectomy

Second surgery: 1995 - L4-5 and L3-4 "decompressions" (basically cut the heck out of the disks) with full fat graft stripped out of my upper buttock. (done by an expert low back specialist neuro surgeon). This was a horribly painful experience. Similar to Baxter’s in that I could not sleep, could not get comfortable, pain meds wouldn’t help and so on.

1999 - Three epidural blocks throughout the year for continued low back pain.

A MYRIAD of physical therapy sessions throughout all these 15 years.

Third surgery: 2000 - a laminectomy to repair L4-5 again.


Oct. 30, 2002, I felt something give or "go out" on my lower left while I rolled back in my chair at my desk job at work. I immediately had to stand up because I knew my back was clean "gone". I went home and down in bed. I KNEW the only option that would help me at this point would be a fusion. Do you think I should have had a fusion at some earlier point here, in my life?? My answer would be a big YES. I had lived with pain day to day from 1988 – Oct. 2002.

It took until Mid-November (after new MRI and a feeble attempt at therapy) for the last surgeon I had in 2000 to say that I needed a two level fusion.

I was petrified. Living alone. Three prior surgeries. Remembering the pain. Reading about Baxter, etc. so on and so on....

Here's how the surgery actually went:

Checked into the hospital. Surgery took only 2 hours and 15 minutes. Here is what he did:

Removed the lamina (bony structure at the very center and outer most portion of your spine and set it to the side.)

Entirely removed 4-5 and 3-4 disks and replaced them bone dowels (sized to fit my particular space).

Placed a total of 6 - 2 1/2" pedicle screws connected by short rods involving 3 vertebrae.

Added the ground lamina somewhere..not sure where?

Put a drain in, and stapled me shut. I was in my room by 6 p.m. that evening.

When I woke up I had a catheter, of course and a morphine feed/pump. I couldn't see the read out to see when I could push the button, so they put it on a continuous feed. I can honestly say I can't remember having pain during that night.

The next morning I felt nauseous after so much morphine so I didn’t want it anymore and they took it off me. I went to oral pain meds. They removed the drain the day after surgery as well. I was out of the bed and walked to the room door and back to my bed by noon that very next day. I climbed 4 stairs that same afternoon by 3 p.m. (Now this is 1st day after surgery).

Physical therapy released me to be able to get up by myself with a walker to use the restroom on Thursday, (2nd day after surgery).

Friday morning at 10:00 I went home.

Now what you are looking at is NOT as serious as what I just went through. Sure, I am still in pain, but it is manageable. I saw my surgeon yesterday which was 3 weeks post op. They took xrays and this was his comment as he put them up on the viewer: PERFECT, JUST PERFECT.

He told me that my 4-5 disk was nearly gone and 3-4 was a mess, herniated, totally pressing against the thecal sac. He told me when I got over this procedure I would be like a new person. Do I regret it? What do you think? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

So, my dear……..my advice to you would be this……..stop with the band-aid procedures. Make sure your surgeon is the right one. HE is the KEY. The longer you are open on the table, the more your pain will be and the longer your recovery will be. My second 2 level decompression with fat graft took 2 hours. This last 2 level fusion with hardware took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Which surgeon knew what he was doing, got in there, and got it done? Please remember this if you remember nothing else.

I would even recommend my surgeon to you, even though you are not in my state. You would probably be out in less time, recover faster and have a better chance at not ever having anymore problems.

I don’t mean to be a “know it all” here, but I speak the truth. I was released on Dec. 20 after my Dec. 17 surgery and I was walking around a Kmart on Christmas Eve day!

I am now on Celebrex and 5 mg. Percocet. Simple knee to chest legs pulls. NO back brace. And will see him again in 6 weeks. I will probably go back to work then and I am hoping I can drive by next week. This will be at 4 week post-op 2 level fusion.

IT’S ALL IN THE SURGEON, my dear. I have been there, done that and know it is true. I sincerely hope no one takes anything I said here wrong, I am simply telling the truth and MY story. Baxter’s fusions had two levels between them, hence the huge incision. Of course it would be much harder on her. She had the IC bone graft, of course it would be much harder on her. You should not have to have the IC graft, your incision should not be over 3 or 4 inches long. You should only be in the hospital 2 or 3 days. You may even get the new PLIF or BAK implants.

Again, hope no one thinks I am a pain in the a_s, but I am a professional back patient, believe me with a long, long history of DDD.

Remember, there are lots and lots of people that have successful fusions and other back procedures. Our family here at the boards are just the unlucky ones that have to suffer more than the majority.

Sending best wishes to you and good luck with whatever you decide to do.

P.S. All of my surgeons have been Neuro…….never Ortho.

Sincerely,

Mary