Hoping to connect with people having similar surgery

I've dealt with back issues going on 7 years now. I've had countless epidural injections, pain meds, steroids, a previous laminectomy, and physical therapy. I'm now a few weeks away from lumbar spinal fusion surgery on L4-L5, L5-S1. I guess by posting this I'm hoping to talk to others who have gone through this to ask questions about their experiences through surgery and recovery. I'm also hoping I may come across a few people having similar operations around they same time so we can share our experiences during the process. 


  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809
    edited 08/08/2016 - 3:45 AM


    I've been through the same lower lumbar fusion surgery twice... as the first one failed at the L5-S1 level.  I think you will find that the fusion surgery is a LOT more invasive than the previous laminectomy you had and that the recovery will be tougher and longer.  The first 1-2 weeks will be the worst and you should arrange that a family member or close friend can be with you 24/7 as you will need their help a lot during that time period.   Overall the recovery will likely take 3-6 months with lots of physical and emotional ups and downs.  Some lucky types recover in 5-6 weeks... but very few.  But with a good attitude, lots of patience, a good PT program, and strict adherence to your doctor's instructions... the surgery can get your life back.  What kind of fusion procedure is your doctor planning to do?

  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,340
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    i'd like to welcome you to the forums, redss58. 

    we have a lot of members who have had similar surgery.  harry being one, and you are in good hands with harry.  but others will probably jump in also.  mine was similar, but cervical which is probably quite a bit different in terms of surgery and recovery.

    do you have any specific concerns?

    please click on the following link for some helpful information to get you started Welcome to Veritas Health Forum
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  • RedSS58RRedSS58 IndianaPosts: 57
    Hello Harry, 

    Thank you for responding. After doing a lot of research on my own trying to educate myself about this particular surgery, I'm learning there are many different approaches to fusion. I'm not sure yet what my particular surgery is officially called, but my surgeon is making a 5-6 inch incision on my back and is putting in 6 screws and 2 rods. He's also attaching bone to either side of the vertebrae and using some sort of solution to accelerate bone growth that I had to sign a waiver for. 

    I've already been informed of how this surgery is much more invasive by my surgeon, and that I should expect a significantly more difficult recovery. And from what I gather from reading about it, and other people's experiences the first 1-2 weeks post op are going to be extremely painful. 

    For me, I'm just tired of the same routine of pain management, the pills, the drug tests, being looked at like a drug addict by those who have no clue how debilitating back pain is, injections that only help a little, and only last a few weeks... I'm tired of only being able to work, and then spending almost every waking hour at home laying down trying to recover only to go back to work and hurt.

    I have 6 children, and I feel like I'm missing out on so much of their lives by not being able to actively participate in activities with them. My wife is constantly stressed out over my back issues limiting my ability to help out on any consistent basis. If this surgery can grant me any sort of increase in quality of life, than it is definitely worth it. Hoping and praying that at the end of this I can be a better husband and father. 

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809
    edited 08/09/2016 - 4:19 AM


    From your description it sounds like you are having a TLIF procedure... and your surgeon will be using BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Proteins) to help promote the bone growth... both the TLIF and BMP are common practices today.  There are animated videos here on this site on the different fusion procedures (ALIF, PLIF, TLIF,  etc....) and you can also go to Wikipedia and check out "Spinal Fusion" which gives good practical descriptions of the different fusion procedures.  Some doctors will discuss with their patients the various options others will not.... every doctor is different.  Both of my fusion surgeries were PLIF's.. but if I had to do it again for sure I would want to discuss the pros and cons of each procedure with my doctor.

    Besides the struggle of the first couple of weeks... people tend to fall into 2 post surgery categories.  Category 1 is where they wake up from surgery with all of the pre-op nerve pain virtually gone... and the category 2 is where they wake up with all of the pre-op nerve pain and worse.  There is really no predicting it and sometimes for the category 2 it takes several months for the nerves to calm down.  If you wake up like this... don't panic... just take your pain meds and grind through it... there's not much else you can do.   It's not that the surgeon did anything wrong... it's just your bad luck... or better said your angry nerves trying to heal.   In my case on my first fusion surgery I woke up pain free and on my second surgery (with the same doctor) I woke up with my nerve roots  screaming and it took 4 long months for the nerve pain to go away. 

    If you're on pain meds now the recovery will be even worse as your body has become used to the drugs... so the effectiveness will be diminished.  Some doctors try to wean their patients off the meds some weeks before surgery so the post surgery effectiveness can be improved.  I'm not sure where you fall on this... but it's certainly something you should discuss with your doctor well before the actual surgery. 

    Fusion recovery is a marathon not a sprint... let me repeat that... fusion recovery is a marathon. Getting the right might set is VERY key for a good recovery.  Nothing happens fast in fusion recovery... nor is it easy.  Even with a strong and positive mind set and good discipline to your doctors orders you will almost certainly experience various physical and emotional ups and downs over the course of the long recovery.  Try to roll with it... just like a marathon runner would... otherwise you will be bouncing off the ceiling.  In the end however fusion does work... and you can and will get your life back both for yourself and your wonderful family.

    Finally if it fits you... use this forum to help with your recovery and questions.  There are lots of people here who have "been there and done that" and they can certainly relate to your issues far better than say your family members or friends... who typically don't understand.  It's kinda like AA for busted backs... for some it works... for others not.

  • chrisajensencchrisajensen Posts: 8
    edited 08/09/2016 - 6:45 AM
    Red:  I had C5/C6 ACDF in 2010 and woke up pain free from the arm and neck pain I had for years, but the recovery took a while, about 3 months for me.  I had weird pains here and there but overall was off meds and doing well by week 8.  I am also scheduled for a fusion surgery on L3/L4 next Tuesday and I know it is going to be much different than cervical surgery because of more movement in the lumbar area.  I understand what you are feeling right now in terms of work and only being able to work then come home with no energy, pain, and depression because you can't enjoy your life outside of work.  My goal is to get back to that life after surgery and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there.  6 kids is a lot of time and energy as it is so I am sending you positive thoughts!  I will post for others after my surgery so I can give some feedback for others on how mine went.  Hopefully it will help you as well.  Take care!
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  • RedSS58RRedSS58 IndianaPosts: 57
    Today I found out my surgery date. I get to spend a 3 day weekend with my family over Labor Day weekend, then surgery is on Tuesday September 6th. It's scheduled at 12:30, expected to last around 2 hours, and then a 2 day hospital stay before returning home. It's really settling in that this is happening. I'm definitely starting to feel nervous and a little anxiety. But, knowing that at the end of this I could be pain free, or close to it makes me feel like I made the right decision. I think through this forum I am going to try and journal my experience from start to finish so others facing this surgery can read how things go for me. Looking forward to sharing and reading with those I come into contact with. 
  • Red - good luck!  Whoowee, had my
    surgery on 8/16/16 as planned.  I woke up and had less pain than I had
    with my laminectomy/discectomy three years ago, it was weird.  But they
    hooked me up to a morphine pump and I stayed the full three days.  I did
    not know that they put a drain tube with a bulb in your spine to drain off
    the extra fluid and blood after the procedure to prevent hematomas, but they do
    - mine was emptied four times a day, lots of bleeding in that area.  Let's
    see, the second day I developed an area to the left of my 6 inch incision that
    was 3x4 inches and looked like I had a burn from an iron.  The
    "burn" developed a large yellow blister, has this happened to anyone
    else?  The nurses stated it was an ice burn and a nurse practitioner said
    it was a allergic reaction to the prep they used. I don’t agree with
    either of them – I think it is from the swelling around my surgical area and
    the fact that I could not have a bowel movement for 5 DAYS – I looked 9 onths
    pregnant LOL!   As far as pain goes, oh yeah, it was NOT a fun
    first two days but I was up and walking the second day.  I felt the best with my walker and brace so I
    was up walking all the time since then, even in the middle of the night.  I got NO sleep in the hospital even when they
    gave me valium.  However, I have NO hip
    pain now and my leg is not hurting like it was  - immediately after surgery I felt a
    difference.  Three hours off the pain pump and I went downhill quick just
    with the hydros so they had to add the extended release morphine of 15 mgs
    every 12 hours.  Weird part is I did not use much pump morphine so doc
    figured I would be fine just on the hydros every 4 hours.  I am on 2 hydrocodone 10/325 every 4-6 hours
    and MScontin 1 every 12 hours for now and am on day 8.  Pain has gone from 10 to 6 in last 8 days because
    I refuse to sit or stand in one position for more than 20 minutes and I walk a
    block daily for the last 4 days.  I can’t
    use a lot of ice right now because the blister did go down to smaller blisters
    but my skin tore off with the tagaderm they had me put over it – the ice makes
    it very painful, but I do use it over my incision which is glued shut.  The blister area is about 3 inches wide and 4
    inches long – is healing but is going to be one heck of a scar.  I use my walker outside of the house, always
    careful getting up and down from a sitting position, watch the stairs closely –
    they had me climb and descend stairs the second day – no problem there if you
    do it right.  The only two things that
    get on my nerves is waking up from sleeping and the pain that goes with that
    AND my walker wheels getting caught on a piece of gravel as I hobble down the
    street.  I take my medication
    religiously, watch my temperature four times a day, do minor chores that don’t
    include lifting or cleaning floors, and impatiently wait to get fully better so
    my  mother stops calling every 30 minutes
    LOL!  I will be honest, I thought this
    was the most awful surgery I had after the first day but today I can honestly
    say I would do it again and with a smile on my face because I KNOW my body and
    I am getting better daily – that is what matters!  Fingers crossed and I hope this helps you
    guys……also exlax is my best friend, plus a girl cannot complain about
    chocolate, even if it is exlax….hahahaha!

  • dboreanddborean Metro Washington DCPosts: 1
    I had L4-5 XLIF diskectomy and fusion 5 years ago and it was worth the pain.  Recovery from the surgery itself was good and speedy.  I wnet back to work in two weeks ( in pain but I was in pain at home too) But what the doc did not tell me was that the muscle trauma to my core would be equivalent to being in a major automobile crash.  I found out later, that for the XLIF procedure you are on a table that bends your body at 50-60 degrees in two directions at once. The best advice i have is post-op get into a Pilates  class and re-strengthen your core, and take stool softeners the minute you can start to eat and drink because the opioids are very constipating.  Surgery is the very last choice.  I am now looking for an alternative to the above for L5-S1 and have begun to investigate the Coflex implant to relieve stenosis
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    hello dborean !
    Welcome to Veritas Health Forumplease click on link for helpful information!
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