Fusion Surgery Updates

Tomorrow I will be going in to have T6/7 and T10/11 fused. I have had a hard time finding anything about this surgery anywhere so I thought I'd make a thread and update when I can on how it went and the recovery.

A little back story, 2017 I got rear ended 2 times. I have had a Cervical disc replacement, and SI joint fusion on both sides. My second car accident is what injured my thoracic spine. This has been the most painful of all my injuries. It has also been the hardest to find treatment. I saw 2 surgeons in my area that didnt want to do the surgery. Then went 3 hours away to a well known teaching hospital. I have been with the new Dr. for over a year preparing for tomorrow. This is a last resort for relief. I know that recovery will be hard and slow. I have done my best to prepare for the next few months. I have lined up for my husband to be off work, my mom to come help for a few weeks, and have 30 dinners all prepped and frozen to be made in the crock pot. 

I will update this thread as I am able to.



  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,161


    Thank you for starting this thread. What you said is true, there is not a lot on the forum about thoracic surgery. All of the information you give will help other members, which is greatly appreciated. And all of your prep work!! Good for you!!

    Take care and post when you can.

  • Hey Everyone!  

    Surgery went well they were able to do everything that they needed to do and keep my nerves, they thought that they may have to remove them but they were able to do it without it.  Typing and texting is really hard so I'm using talk to text. So I hope this comes out well :)  Pain after surgery was very very difficult to control, I am still in the hospital all but I will be going home today.  I had to really battle with the pain management team to get my medication to where it would control my pain. The 1st 5 and a 1/2 days there was not very many moments where my pain was controlled.  They told me at 1 point that giving me any additional medication might create dependency. They weren't as concerned with getting my pain under control as much as they were with creating dependency. Which was really sad because physically I could not handle the level of pain I was in and they weren't willing to work with me until yesterday when my husband finally talked with them. 

    I will be having a home nurse and physical therapist come out to my house to work with me. I don't have much else to report other than that but wanted to give an update as to how it has gone so far. 

     Thank you all and have a good day XO

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  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,161


    Sorry you had to go through so much pain but sometimes it does help when someone else steps in. At least the surgery went well and you are going home. Below are 3 articles you will find helpful in your recovery.

    Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: 1 to 4 Weeks After

    Postoperative Care for Spinal Fusion Surgery,

    Maximize the Ability to Heal After Spine Fusion Surgery

    Take care and keep us posted.

  • jbowerjbower wisconsin Posts: 161

    Hi leed2501,

    I'm assuming it wasn't minimal invasive surgery? I could understand what you mentioned about not being able to find a doctor to help. I've been dealing with my chronic thoracic pain for 3 years now. Pain management finally said they can't do anymore.  I have a pain pump which is useless, doesn't provide any relief anymore and they said they aren't willing to change dosages or medication.

    I've seen multiple doctors/surgeon's and no one says they can do anything to help me. I've lost all hope at this point. My only other option is to start looking in a different state.

    What made this third doctor want to help you?  Was it surgery right away or did he try a few things first? Let me know please. 

    I wish you the best on your recovery and hope it all turns out well when your back to yourself.

  • Jbower

    It was not minimally invasive. This 3rd Dr was at UCLA. I think his confidence in providing relief was greater. Neither of the first 2 surgeons felt like I would get at least 50% relief so they didnt want to preform it. 

    It was not surgery first. I had injuries to my SI joints as well. He wanted those taken care of first so I wasnt batteling both low back issues and upper back issue. So o had both SI joints fused. I started seeing him in May 2018. This was my 3rd surgery with him. 

    I had previously had epidural steroid injections, which were extremely painful btw. There was no other minimally invasive treatments for my thoracic spine done.

    Hope this helps!!!

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  • Today is day 11

    The pain is still at times unmanageable, but at times tolerable. Just today I found relief in laying down by using a lift chair with electric chair back and leg controls, along with 6 pillows all over lol. The swelling on my back has a large painful  hump preventing me from laying on my back. Laying on my side has very difficult because I cant have my back on uneven padding. Still having to be on a cocktail of pain medication every 2 hours however at this point mostly it is making it so I have tolerable moments. Hoping to be able to decrease some of it this coming week. I do have more tolerable moments than not, or at least about even. 

    I have to have help with almost every level of personal care. It is really hard to have to need help in certain areas. My husband has been such a huge help. My mom is coming out today to stay for 2 weeks and help❤❤ this is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. I have my first post OP appointment this Thursday. I'll report back then.

  • I am glad thing's are starting to calm down a little, you are right, it is a marathon and takes time.

    Take care and keep us posted


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,161


    Thanks for the update! As we tell everyone from our own experience, time and patience. And you have found this out, thank goodness. Let other people help you for a change. I know being a woman we feel like we have to take care of everyone else. But when it's our turn it's hard to accept. You need te extra care Mom can give, so good for her!!

    Take care and keep us posted.

  • leed2501,

    I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to write this post to let others know about what is an unusual spine surgery.  Many spine surgeons won't attempt it.  Can I ask where you had your incision?  I have problems with my thoracic spine and have a surgery described to me by 3 neurosurgeons where they would go in through the side of my chest, deflate a lung and remove a rib to access the spine.  Is that what you had?  Have you just got one incision?  I ask because the levels you had done are a little distance away.  Perhaps you just have one long incision.  I have been told that this surgery is very tough on the pateint and that it is long and painful.

    I hope that you are over the worst of the recovery pain now, and that you will start to feel better from it.  I'm glad that you have help from your husband and Mum.  I know that you must need that.  I will look out for your further posts.

  • Sorry it has been so long since my last updat . 

    It has been a roller coaster of recovery. I am now 2.5 months post op. I am still on a significant amount of pain medication, but I am starting the slow process of weening off. I walk 2 times a day with a cane (about a half a block), I am able to shave my own legs!!! (This is AMAZING) I can not say I have gotten relief as I am on triple the pain medication I was on prior to surgery. I want off of it so badly, but have been directed to listen to my body. I made a plan with my dr to slowly lower every 2 weeks to a month. We dropped 30 morphine equivalent mgs 2 weeks ago and that was hard, but getting easier as it goes along.

    I go to physical therapy 2 times a week and try to do it at home 2 to 3 days a week as well (ends up being 1 more most weeks) I started driving small distances around town. I try and walk with the cart at the grocery store in place of a walk, but still need someone to go with me. I am only good for a quick trip to grab a few items. 

    I do not yet feel like I have relief, but y'all this is a marathon and not a sprint. My expectations are right sized. I was told 1 year recover . So I try to be gentle with myself, and listen to my body. 

    Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year ❤❤

  • leed2501lleed2501 Posts: 14
    edited 12/22/2019 - 2:07 PM


    Sorry I don't know how to tag you to respond and sorry I didnt see your message sooner! I have a 12 inch incision along my thoracic spine. My Dr went in through the back. I had previous Dr's tell me they would have to do the same as you were told, however my UCLA Dr said it would not be nessisary to deflate my lung. He said I would have 2 ribs chunks cut out, however he was able to do the whole thing without removing my ribs!!! 

    I had 2 Drs describe the surgery and then say they would not attempt it . Where I worked with my current Dr for a year and a half, doing 2 separate surgeries to fuse my SI joints. He wanted my other issues addressed before having the thoracic surgery because of how hard it is. He said I did not need to have other issues at the same time ❤❤ 

    I don't get notifications when people reply so I will try and check often to answer any more questions you may have.

    Edited to remove hospital name.

  • jbowerjbower wisconsin Posts: 161

    Hello Leed2501,

    It was really nice to see an update on how you have been doing.  The information you have been providing on here has been very helpful to myself with the thought of having to have thoracic surgery.  However, it sounds way too scary to want to have to go through!  Especially in my situation since only one doctor finally talked to me about it.  But he said it's a 50/50 chance it would provide relief.

    Where you said they were first going to have to take part of your ribs out really freaked me out.  Along with Jellyhall's comments about them having to go through the side of the chest, deflate a lung and remove a rib.  Come on now, just the thought of that would make me say nope not going to do it.

    Luckily you didn't have to go through any of that and thank God.  I would think either way any of that would make recovery even that much worse.

    I wanted to ask and I apologize if you've said this in the past or don't want to answer but were you working up to this surgery?  If so, how has your employer been during all of this? Is there a timeframe on when you would start working again?

    I am still working while going through all of my issues and was wondering on how that all would happen if someone went through thoracic surgery while still having a job.  Out of all my surgeries the longest I took off was 3 weeks.  I think it was my second L5-S1 surgery because the first time I went back to work within a week and it made recovery take that much longer to heal.

    Again, thank you for your posts and I am glad things are slowly getting better for you and I hope it continues to improve to a very successful outcome.

    Take care,  


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,161


    Great to hear from you and the update. I'm so glad you are doing so well. You've got a great attitude about your recovery and you know it will take time. You posting your progress will help others, as it already has.

    Thank you may you all have a wonderful Christmas.


  • It’s been 12 months since my thoracic surgery

    I had the surgery many have been asking about.

    T 11 herniated disc that was calcified of the spinal cord. The cardiac surgeon made a 10 inch incision on my side, removed my lower rib and then deflated my left lung.

    My neurosurgeon then performed a corpectomy, Discectomy and fusion at the T11-T12

    The disc was calcified to my spinal cord so it took a total of eight hours for my surgery. 

    When I woke up from surgery I could not breathe so it took me over an hour to finally get to ICU. 

    With all the morphine I was on I never had any back pain BUT.... 

    The rib and lung pain was unbelievable!!!!

    I had a chest tube in, couldn’t breathe good, couldn’t cough, and I felt horrible for 7 days in the hospital. 

    I couldn’t sleep in a bed for 3 months. 

    It took over 4 months to get back to work. 

    Even after one year I still have lung, rib and stomach pain. 

  • leed2501lleed2501 Posts: 14
    edited 01/01/2020 - 1:28 PM


    I have not been able to work for a few months shy of 3 years. The pain I have lived in made it unbearable to work. I hope I will be able to return to work around 1 year post op. At the level of relief I have gotten I am still unable to return to work at this time. 

    I was told surgery was an option because most aspects of my life were affected. I had 2 Drs before my current surgeon tell me they did not feel surgery would would be greater than 50% relief. I do know if I was still able to work,  and didn't have any paralysis (I didn't have paralysis, this just something I was told) or other extream side effects, even my current surgeon would not have moved forward. Not trying to minimize what you are going through by any means. Thoracic back pain has been the absolute worst of any of my problems. I just hear your frustration and want you to know the information I was told. 

    Best of luck in this!!

  • jbowerjbower wisconsin Posts: 161

    Hi leed2501,

    Good to hear from you.  Happy New Year!  Have you been on FMLA since you stopped working?  I am so sorry to hear that you have not being able to work for that long.  I imagine all the trouble that has caused along with trying to heal and get things back on track.

    I don't know if I would even want to go through surgery if the outcome is a long road.  I would have to find a surgeon that would tell me this is my best and only option to obtain relief from the pain.  Even then it sounds so scary to go through all of that.  You would think with all the technology that's out there that they could do surgery without having to remove or deflate anything.

    My prayers go out to you and I hope things start turning around for you soon.  Do you have any children?  I have two boys 5 and 12 and one daughter that is 16.  That would be a rough time as well just thinking about not being able to do much with them for a long time.  When I had my useless pain pump surgery they all were very helpful during my recovery but that only took few weeks.  There also were a lot of close calls with my youngest about to jump on me.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I look forward to see how things progress for you.


  • Jerome001Jerome001 Cocoa Beach, FloridaPosts: 291

    Leed2501, I too appreciate you sharing your thoracic pain and surgery experiences. It sounds like your thoracic pain was a lot worse than mine but even so, it is aggravating, tiring, debilitating, etc. :) I have a great neurosurgeon but he cannot locate the source of the pain and offers that it emanates from my cervical spine but he already fused my C2-C6. I encourage you to continue to share your journey because it helps me believe there is an answer for me! Happy New Year and best wishes on your recovery. Jerome

  • philfromAZ,

    Your experience of thoracic surgery sounds awful!  :(

    It does sound very much like the surgery that has been described to me by 3 neurosurgeons.  They have said they would go through the side of my chest, remove a rib and deflate a lung to access my spine.  I have 4 herniated discs in a line, with the 2 lower ones the worst.  I don't know how many they would operate on.  They are at T7/8, T8/9, T9/10 and T10/11.  T8/9 herniated towards the right and the other three herniated towards the left, which is where my worst pain is.  My current neurosurgeon told me that he enjoys the challenge of this surgery but that it is an awful recovery for the patient and that it would be more than twice as bad as my lumbar fusion.  They keep checking how much compression I have on my spinal cord and I will find out the results of the latest MRI scan that was done in November at my next appointment at the beginning of February.

    I am wondering why they did a corpectomy.  Did they explain that to you?  Did the surgery help with your pre-oppain?  I hope you did get some relief after such an invasive surgery.  Did you go straight home after the surgery, or did you go to a rehab place?

    I have also been told that it doesn't look like my cervical fusion done 7 years ago has fused and I might need to have it done again to rectify that. 

    Thank you for sharing your story.  There is very little information about thoracic surgery.

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