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advice on anterior Thoracic spinal fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,002
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
I have had spinal surgeries going back to 1967: L5-S1 disc removal; L4-5 disc removal two years later; fusion to alleviate weakness and pain from the disc surgeries, but instead of doing L4-5,L5-S1 the surgeons fused L3-4, L4-5, leaving L5-S1 unstable. The pedicles wore away over time and in 1989 an orthopedic surgeon at MGH fused me from T-10 to the sacrum, which was wonderfully successful.
However, it started to weaken after 15 years and the same surgeon did two all-day procedures in 2005; the first was done through anterior area of the 10th rib and he fused as much as he could from the front, using one of my ribs (I have no more donor bone in my hips). Two days later he did a posterior fusion from T-4 to the sacrum, removing the old hardware and pulling me up into a standing position (I had become bent over). He used rods and pedicle screws.
I have been through much therapy and had injections for pain in my thoracic spine since the surgery. The major pain radiates from about my bra line and radiates around as spasms all the way to my sternum. Then I developed radiculopathy across my shoulders and down my arms.
Now in an attempt to alleviate my constant pain, he's suggesting an anterior fusion to be done by a chest surgeon and himself, using yet another rib to attempt to get a successful, strong thoracic fusion. The lover part of my fusion is fine, but the thoracic part never really "took".
Has anyone had a similar problem, at least the last years. I'm terrified of more surgery, but have a poor quality of life with this pain. I'm 69 now and not getting any younger. Any help would be a blessing. Thanks


  • I am so sorry to hear of your thoracic pain and your original thoracic surgery not taking.

    I sure wish I could offer you advise on the anterior fusion suggested, but my surgery was posterior. I can understand you feeling hesistant to have another surgery, but it may be just what you need.

    I will try to research a similar situation as yours and let you know my findings.

    In the meantime, please take it real easy. Are you taking any pain medications to help alleviate the constant pain? How soon is he suggesting the surgery be done?

  • Hi Tammy: Thank you so much for writing. I often feel so alone in this. Since my fusion, four years ago, I too have spasms--mine start where the weakness and pain are at about bra level in my spine and wrap around. It is completely normal to feel like a weather vane--I can tell you the weather even in a room with no windows. The barometric pressure really affects people with ortho injuries.
    Yes, I take meds:Hydrocodone 10 mg. twice a day, although it just takes the edge off the pain. I also take Clonazepam .5 twice a day; Valium 5mg once or twice a day, Soma, and an antidepressant.
    How is your aquatic therapy going? I think that might help me. I've had a lot of therapy over the years.
    I wore a shoulder to hips brace for a little over three months post-op.
    If I don't have the surgery I will end up taking more and more pain medication. I've had injections to C8 but they haven't helped much.
    My surgeon wants to see a thoracic surgeon because they would work together to do this fusion and I'm so reluctant to have this done from the front--sadly, the posterior fusion failed at the thoracic level, although it's great from about T-10 down. My doctor feels that trying to add more bone to an area that's already been worked on would be much less successful than doing a fusion on new, fresh bone.
    Do you live alone? I do and that scares me too about the post-surg. part since I've already done it and know how hard it is to be alone.
    All my best, Bonnie
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  • Just wanted to check in and see how your week went? I wasn't able to log on this week due to being down, but you have been on my mind.

    I am fortunate to have my hubby and family close-by. You will need to have help at home, when you get your surgery done. Do you have any family or friends that could help you for a few weeks? What about in-home care? I will worry about you, if you don't have help when you are released from the hospital. Learning to get out of bed is tough and just little walks to the bathroom are difficult. We don't want you to fall and it's best to have someone there to help you get up and down, fix meals, etc. Please let me know if you have anyone who can stay with you for a while.

    My aquatic therapy was going well, but was causing me too much pain after the sessions. I was doing the lowest impact water exercises and my tummy and back muscles were just screaming at me. I thought it was normal... was thinking "no pain, no gain", but my surgeon said that doesn't apply to my current situation. He wants me to stay off the PT for at least 3 weeks and when I feel ready to go (versus having to push myself to go), I can start up again. I felt great in the pool and loved the exercises... just afterwards it started my muscle spasms all over. I'll get back to PT soon and in the meantime... I do the exercises at home each day. I want to improve myself the best I can, so whatever it takes... I will do just that.

    Please let us know how your week went, when you get a chance.

    Sending warm hugs your way.


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