OK guys, I went to see a surgeon today and he suggested a spinal fusion. I know what a spinal fusion is so I dont need that explained. What I want to know is if you have had one for your back pain and do you think it is worth it? They gave me about a 70% success rate. I am supposed to think about it over the next 6-8 weeks and get back to the surgeon. I'm just not sure if I want to go this route so I'd like some personal opinions from people who have had it done for low back pain. I have disc degenration and a herniation at L5-S1 with some facet arthritis (which will not be helped at all by a fusion) so I already know it will not releive ALL my pain. I sure think it would be nice to be able to live and function on no pain pills other than an occasional OTC or light pain pill. So if you have had a spinal fusion could you tell me if you think it is worth it and would you recommend someone to do it for low back pain?
17 Aug 2011
People are talking about further degeneration after the surgery, but nobody is considering inevitable degeneration without surgery. My son had a lower lumbar fusion about 20 years ago. I think part of it is how bad or serious was/is the spinal condition and type to assess the results. My son didn't have any feeling below his knees and lost feeling in his hands. The surgery returned the feeling into his upper body, and to his legs down into his heels, so he wasn't falling when he tried to walk on a deck. It also reduced the chance of complete paralysis from the disk changing position and putting pressure on his spinal nerve. His disc was setting at a right angle between his vertebrae. So, you have to consider possible nerve damage as a result if you don't do this. He was injured in a maritime accident-out at sea.
They didn't have a doctor on-board-and the the corpsman wrote my son up as a slacker-they had a feud, partly because my son was higher rate, with less time in the service. He was trying to walk, work, etc. on a rolling ship in the high seas. It took over a year before a physical therapist (who was the first one to use a rubber hammer) tested my son-did X-Rays, etc. The colonel said that my son was one of the worst cases of military medical neglect that he had ever seen, and he got immediate care for my son. If my son had received immediate care, he probably would have gone to officer training, as his name was on that list for consideration. It's highly probable that he could have stayed at sea. It did relieve lots of his pain and back spasms. He's able to go fishing. He used to go hunting too, but 20 years later-he's less nimble and it hurts to walk. He likes to go to baseball games with friends, he swims for about an hour at a time 3X/week, he likes to bake and Bar-B-Q. If you follow the post op instructions on physical activity-like avoiding sitting, etc. your back will heal better. My son doesn't want to re-do the surgery, because his heart stopped 3 times during the original surgery-he wishes that they never told him that. Probably a person's expectations for results are as much of a factor as the surgeon's skill. This is a hard decision-also my son was given a 30% chance of success, because of the neglect. Good luck in what ever you do-
16 Aug 2013
This response is too late for the above inquirer. I had a spinal fusion in 2006 and was permanently crippled from this and now have to use a cane. I also developed neuropathy in my left leg and have bouts of sciatica. I will always regret this surgery. My back problems before surgery were nothing compared to the pain I am in every day. I also developed high blood pressure after this surgery which I never had. I am a full-time caregiver to my mentally retarded daughter and this surgery ruined my life.
24 Aug 2011
Hi Dzoobaby... After having a lamenectomy, ten months later I was told that I needed a spinal fusion. I think it was the worst decision I ever made to go ahead with it. The problem is that when you are in pain, you will do anything at all to get out of pain. After the operation I was ok for about a year but after that all of my seemed to return. If I had to do it all over again, I would never go through the procedure. Now the doctors say that I have failed back syndrome. They also say that I have nerve damage and scar tissue which is causing all of the pain. If I didn't have the spinal fusion I wouldn't have so much scar tissue. I have gone through so many doctors that it isn't funny. Some doctors just give you a load of painkillers and they think that that solves everything. Luckily I have a great doctor now that is very concerned about the meds that I am on. At one point I was on Actiq for break pain and the drug caused me to loose all of my teeth.
So please stay away from Actiq. Now I have a spinal cord stimulator attached to my spine--- that does not work either. I guess if you like electrical shocks on top of your pain, then the spinal cord stimulator is a good choice.
Again, I would recommend NOT to have a fusion. If you can, wear a custom fitted corset instead, plus it's cheaper.
9 Sep 2011
i have had 1 fusion-bone from my hip used and later i had a plate put in. these were in the C area of my neck. i do need work done on my L3-4-5; but i am not ready to go thru all this again. the fusion was done thru the front and the plate thru the back. IMHO other than saving me from the possiblilty of becoming a quad; this was all for nothing. both times i got cut on my pain levels increased and i started getting pain in areas that i never had before. i get my medical thru the V.A. and my pain management is horrible. I do have friends that have had these operations right away and ive seen immediate success; i imagine the length of time for these injuries (age) is a big factor on any operation such as these as far as the ACTUAL success rate. it used to be that when you had a lower back or whatever they had to be done again in 5-6 years or so. i believe that is no longer the case. since i am a male i would give up both of my jewels to go a day with out pain or headaches.
its not in the cards i guess ; my problem is only certain pain meds work for me with out having to overdose.i have been on them all to include muscle relaxers, relaxers dont help my spasms and the best pain pill for my headaches seems to be tylonal -4. but i am only allowed 4 a day and when your pain scale is 10 or higher that does you no good. i have been on morphine and the t-4 but after 21/2 years i took myself off the morphine because off the dangers. my actual advise to you is a 2nd opinion, have a GOOD surgeon do the work butbefor ethe op insure they will take care of your pain instead of playing the VA game. ONE more thing remember pain causes depression and the longer your in pain the harder depression hits. my best to you and may God guide the blade. merc
7 Sep 2011
It sounds like your fusion would involve only the lowest section of your spine L5-S1 and perhaps some work needed on the facet joints. This, as I know, is not a very extensive surgery, but does take 1-2 months to recover. I'm sure you would get good relief. I had scoliosis so my fusion required that 15 levels of my spine be fused (T4-pelvis), which is a whole different story. If you have scoliosis it would be advisable to see a scoliosis specialist before you consider any surgery.
16 Aug 2011
Hi there DozoBaby. Well, in a nutshell, ansering on behalf of a late aunt of mine if thats ok with you. She had it done, the fusion. I believe at the time she was in her early fifties. And she was glad that she ended up having it done. She was an avid gardener, lots of bending over, in her flower beds etc. So, I know if she were here, she'd give you a thumbs up. :-0)
22 Jul 2013
Hi, I had the fusion on L3,4,5. I'm in so much pain because the disks above and below have been compromised as a result of the fusion. I wish I had not done it. Do some searching before you do this, I was 5 months in therapy, the healing was long and very painful. The result was not what I truly expected. Good luck everyone.
25 May 2013
I personally would think long and hard about it. I had a spinal fusion from T10 thru S1... a year ago in June. I have 46 screws and anchors in pelvis and hips. I am in more pain than one can imagine.. they now have to put a morphine pain pump in - if they can reach the spinal cord. Mine was a bit more extensive than what they need to do to you. but I would still think about it. I have taken ever pain medication possible yet I am in pain 24/7.
If you have anymore questions, please feel free to ask. I hope this helps some!
16 Aug 2011
I haven't had back surgery so I am relying on a couple of good friends two of which had positive results the other one had a procedure after that and I think the word back and surgery together are not in her vocabulary. The thing of it is I hear 70% success rate how does that equate in terms of you being able to drastically drop your pain medications, I don't want it to seem like I am against this I just want to know how much relief are you going to get and I understand it won't totally rid you of the pain but to what degree? I just really care about the outcome! Billy
16 Aug 2011
Ok DzooBaby, I personally haven't had the fusion which I need, but my hubby has had 2 on L3 thru S1, later L 1&2, & 2 on his neck. He thinks it has helped him, but he will never be pain free. He says the sites they did are better, but you have to be so careful of the next level, in your case L4 going next because when they fuse it puts so much pressure on the next level it may eventually done also. A lot to think about I know. Good luck in your decision...
16 Aug 2011
dzooBaby, I had a fusion in 1982 and did very well for several years, but it sure didn't last very long. Of course, I do have to say that this surgery was a long time ago and I know they do things different then back then. I would say if your pain is at the level, you feel you just can't handle it anymore, then go for the surgery. I just dragged my leg along before the surgery and the pain was so intense before surgery, and was much improved afterward. I have years of much improved pain relief, and better mobility, but many more things have happened to my back since then. Your problem is at the same place mine started at. With much improved techniques, I would say yes, but think about it for awhile. Best wishes, LeaBlue
21 Aug 2011
I had spinal fusion and a rod placed in my L-4, L-5 levels. The surgery was successful for about 5 years and I was walking and enjoyed a reasonably pain free life style. I have DJD/DDD and the rod replaced deteriorated bone. Since then I have had pain flare ups with my right leg and hip and already I have heard from 2 doctors (not surgeons) that I will need surgery again. It appears the rod or the screw may be lose and adjustments will be needed. I have had the radio frequency to the S-1 area which gives me constant pain and the procedure was successful for about 2 years but the second procedure with the radio frequency did not take. My surgeon and hip specialist say my DJD/DDD has not shown any progressive signs as yet but the pain is intense and now I am going for another surgical consultation. The first surgeons ego is in the way and he sees nothing wrong on the x-ray but two doctors suggest the rod or the screw may have shifted cause pain on the nerve.
I am happy with the surgeries I have had but getting a doctor to listen is the key. The orthopedic surgeon that did the surgery sees nothing on the x-ray and after that consultation, I have lost faith in his judgement, so on to the next doctor until they get it right. Get second and third opinions if necessary, talk to an orthopedic doctor, then talk to a surgeon and see if their opinions make sense. I have been advise to 'watch the stretching' because I may do damage to a fused area where the nerves are sensitive and after 11 physical therapy sessions, I think that is what has happened over time. Get proper advise from a physical therapist of which I did not. Pain medication doesn't help an active nerve when it is being pinched and currently I am on a Fentanyl patch to help but pain is still pain. Ask around and don't take the advise of the first doctor that says yes 70% is good odds.
6 Sep 2011
My wife had a spinal fusion and a lamenectomy. It was horrible before she had the surgery and is already up and walking around. She had a nuvasive device put in. She went through the MRIs, Xray and even a discogram. None of this has been fun but the level of pain she is at now has come from a pain at a constant 9 down a 4 while recovering from surgery. The recovery from surgery is far less pain than what her daily pain was. The disc at L4-L5 was gone, L3-L4 was a grade 5 and the L5-S1 was also a grade 5. She suffers from arthritis on her hips and in the spine. They managed to remove some of this from the spine with the surgery, not every doctor can handle this.
Here's some of the background, she has had back problems for the past 10 years and after seeing no less than 10 surgeons, she finally found someone who seem to address and understand everything she was experiencing. She is having to wear a back brace right now but this will be coming off in about two months. The surgeon said if this had not been addressed, based on the amount of compression and nerve issues, nerve damage could be permanent and she may not have been able to walk by the end of the year. The scary part of this is that she is only 31 years old.
22 Sep 2011
I'm sorry to rain on your parade, but my experience with spinal fusion was absolutely NOT a successful one. My Oma (Grandma in German, she raised us while my Mom taught elementary school & we called her Oma), had spinal fusion after years of unrelenting back pain. She used to sleep on a board, the floor, not at all. She would cry out from all the pain she was experiencing. I don't know if she was taking medication, I never asked. She had the surgery done & was a practically a cripple afterwards. Her pain was not helped, in fact she believed that it made it all the worse.
Now here I am, with chronic back problems & more herniated disks than I can count. I've had every procedure they wanted to try, including those surgical implants (which did NOTHING for me & I had them removed). However, after seeing Oma's experience & hearing of others, I would rather take pain medication than EVER take a chance on going through a worse hell than I already am.
I'm sorry, I didn't notice your age. Mine is 48, so I have way too many years left to risk having a surgery that could practically cripple me. I think you'll have to take into account your age, your pain level, how well your medications help & whether you need to have them adjusted or changed. You might also want to get a second/third opinion about this procedure in your situation, as well as the treatment that you are receiving from your current doctor.
Everyone is different, but in my life experience (including 4 surgeries on my left arm & shoulder-of which I had no choice) in addition to my chronic back problems, I am very wary of serious and IRREVERSIBLE surgeries. Surgeries that are really no more than the flipping of a coin-some feel better afterwards & others are crippled by them.
Take a good look at your symptoms & how much you can handle. Take a good look at other remedies, including acupunture, physical therapies, massage, injections, etc.
Talk to as many people as you can, like me & others both on & off line. Talk to as many doctors as you can who will SIT DOWN with you & go over your MRI's & other test results.
THEN, sit down & talk with your family to discuss the pros & cons, before you make what could be a life-changing decision.
Good luck with whatever you decide & feel free to let us know how everything is going!
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