Long vs short fusion surgery

This is my 1st time on this site and was hoping for some advise. I have had progressive back pain for the last year to where I can’t even cook dinner without extreme pain. I have scoliosis with a lumbar curve of 31 and with Disc degeneration up to L2 along with spondylolisthesis L4 on L5 And stenosis. Anyway I have done everything for the last several years to elevate the pain with no relief. I have now been referred to a spine surgeon and have gotten a second opinion. Both drs agree that because of my scoliosis Surgery is recommended. Where they differ is one surgeon wants to fuse from T10-S1 Which will encompass the whole Lumbar curve and the Second dr suggest fusing L3-S1 which is in the middle of my curve. 1st surgeon says he definitely would not fuse only to L3 because there is a high probability of more surgery needed later. Second surgeon says that there are advantages and disadvantages to both long or a short fusion. How does one decide which is the best option? 



  • Welcome fishinmama we’re glad you’re here!

    Personally, I would get a third opinion just to see if 2 doctors agree.

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    Have you read the Scoliosis Surgery article on Spine-health? It has some really good information about the goals of surgery for scoliosis. You may also want to take a look at the article, Scoliosis Surgery: Postoperative Care, which outlines what to expect after surgery and provides tips for planning for scoliosis surgery recovery.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

  • fishinmama - welcome! How old are you? I had a 51 degree lumbar curve discovered at age 58. Had a T9 - S1 fusion that corrected the curve to only a 1 degree curve. No regrets, I feel great

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  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,169


    I agree with Chip, get another opinion. I also have the same issues, including scoliosis and spinal stenosis. My doctor suggested surgery from T10-S1. I got a total of 4 opinions and did not have the surgery. But mainly because of my age and I have other health issues. 

    More opinions will ease your mind on whether you are making the right decision. Good luck and keep us posted.

    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

  • Urbmshr I am 60. I use to be a very active person but the pain has now narrowed down what I can do for short bursts. Both surgeries scares the snot out of me. It’s a good recommendation on getting another opinion though there are not many drs here that specialize in scoliosis surgeries. But will persevere. 

  • fishinmama - I wasn't offered the option of a shorter fusion but I don't think it would have been applicable to me anyways. My surgeon just advised me to not wait too long because by the time I would finally decide to do something I may be too old for a good outcome. I basically was saying to myself daily "if I had to live with this pain for the rest of my life, could I?" One day the answer was "No" and I made an appointment

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  • urbmshr How was your recovery for that long of a fusion and what type of mobility do you have now?
  • fishinmama - I had an excellent recovery. I was very careful to follow the no BLT's and I walked as much as possible which was really the only instructions I was given upon discharge. My mobility today and actually from about 6 months post op, is very good. Most people watching me move around probably wouldn't even know I have 10 levels of my spine fused. You just figure out new ways to do things. You don't bend from the waist anymore, you bend from your hips, you don't twist to reach across your body, you actually turn your whole body, you squat down to pick things up that you seem to drop more than ever (haha), you make more trips in with the grocery bags rather than bringing in the whole order in one trip - you get the picture. After awhile you don't even think about this stuff. It just becomes your new way of doing things. I had a very positive attitude going into this. It had to be done so I just focused on getting it done, being mindful of the new way my body moves and works and didn't dwell on things that I couldn't change. I walk my dogs 2 miles every morning, ride my bike 2 or 3 times a week for 10 -15 miles each ride, clean my house, grocery shop, help out with my 94 year old mom, just living my life happy as a clam.

  • urbmshr it is so good to hear what are your limitation and what to expect. I am usually a very active person and want to get back to doing the things I use to do with modifications. Mainly hiking with my friends. I haven't been able to do that in 2 years and it so bums me out. My sister has had 5 back surgeries and she scared me so bad the last time I was back in Dallas (3/10) I was ready to not even consider surgery. (Her surgeries haven't gone well) She gave me the impression that all back surgery was doomed to fail. When I told her that I have heard of some great success stories she seemed shocked. Hahaha So it is very encouraging to hear how someone who has had basically what I will be faced with, doing well. There are days when I do more sitting and my back is not bothering me to much I think maybe I really don't need to do this and then the next day when I am up doing my normal things and after 15-30 min on my feet my back starts up and I have to go sit on a heating pad to recover before I can finish whatever it was I was doing. These days are the days when I say I can't keep doing this. I know that eventually I will have to have something done as the curvature is progressing and both surgeons that I have spoken to have both said that within the next 5-10 years with the rate of progression I will have to have something done to stabilize my spine. So with all this said I am definitely not getting younger and if I have a chance to feel better for longer I need to get this done. That is when this crazy virus runs its course. Thanks again for the encouraging story.


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