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?
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)
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
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...
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
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-
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.
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.
ill give you what i think, i had one within the year,, hurt my back in 1989, hernated disk, therapy for 2 years, off and on, no surgery, pain mangagement, dr, and seem to get better, but limits, on lifting, sitting, even at the computer, bending, and its 2011 now, since the infusion, when i bend more, and more, sore as can be, so yard work, over worked maybe, but it put me in bed, a whole, day, and i still feel like where they did it, that the needle is still in my back, it hurts, in the same place, they wanted to test me for ms, and of course, it scares you, but i cant reconmend,it, the doc, did or does, its up to you for the reason, i deal with it, now i know i cant do as much as i used to do, so just if you have back problems, and are older, dont over do it, i have to rem im not a spring chicken any more, .\
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.
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.
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
I am 5 months post op from a C-5/C-6 anterior cervical fusion and a little over 1 month post op from an L-5/S-1 anterior lumbar fusion. I am 33 years old and for me, there was no way I could continue life without having the surgeries. I highly recommend doing the anterior approach if the fusion surgery you need is for your low back, and if you can be a candidate for that route of surgery. The anterior approach saves your back muscles from being cut and destroyed and you will have a much faster recovery with an anterior approach. I was up and walking the day of surgery if that tells you anything. They go through your abdomen instead, and you will have a C-section like scar. You can find animated You Tube videos on this approach, if your Dr. has not already discussed this option for you.
I can say that there are days that I do notice a difference, but it is a slow recovery process for sure. It is very hard to not "lift, bend, or twist", or limit what you lift to only 10lbs, especially if your female and are the sole care taker of the daily house hold chores. Dishes still need to be done, laundry still needs to be cleaned, trash needs to be taken out, carpets still need to be vacuumed, and my cat weighs 14lbs! So, with that said, there are days I feel better and I am quick to go back into my regular routine prior to my injuries, but I am reminded by the pain that I am still very limited. These simple house hold activities can set me back 3 days to where I am unable to function at all, and just taking a shower is a task in itself. I am still far from being able to return to work full time in combination with just maintaining the basic tasks of living.
While this may sound discouraging, I guess the positive message in this is that THERE ARE days that i feel good and readily go back into my daily routine as i did prior to my injuries. Prior to my surgeries, there wasn't a day I didn't drop the "F" bomb for every task I had to do, even the simple ones like just putting on my shoes. Life was miserable and it has been a long time since the little things haven't been so difficult for me to do. While I'm not there yet, I do have hope that I will get my life back because of those days that I do feel good.
It's a long recovery and patience is key. Make arrangements for people to help you when you return home from the surgery. Make sure your family/friends understands your injury, the surgery, and the recovery.
This surgery is not a festival for sure, and recovery is difficult not only physically, but mentally too. Being off work and staying at home to recover is tough to go through as life continues to go on for everybody else. It's hard to be dependent on others to get you what you need. People have a hard time understanding pain they cannot see, so that in itself can be a lonely feeling. For me the depression got so bad that I discontinued the cable because the media annoyed me so much. You definitely get a new perspective on things when you have mounts of hours to do nothing but think, and see, and process everything that is going on that easily is overlooked when your caught up in normal life with work, family, ect.
Anyhoo... I'm not sure if any of this helps you or not, but I thought you might like to hear from someone who is in the middle of recovery so you get a idea of what lies ahead, physically and emotionally. Overall I would say that the fusion surgery was necessary if I wanted to get my life back, and return to work so that I can continue to reach for my dreams. There are days when I feel that hope again... and I lost that a long time ago. It's a very welcoming feeling to have again.
As far as pain management goes from this point forward is still a question for me. I have no idea if I'll ever be free from medications because of the spinal cord damage. The Dr.'s cannot say how long it will take for the spinal cord to heal and the nerves to re-grow, if it will at all. My situation may be a little different in that the C-5/C-6 fusion was necessary to maintain stability, and not so much to relieve the pain. If I didn't have the surgery, I would be left walking around, an accident away from becoming a paraplegic. Pain management will be different for everyone as each injury is unique in the degree of damage, deterioration, ect. Only a fool would promise that you can be 100% free from pain if you have this surgery, as no one can really say for sure how your body will react and adjust to the invasion of this surgery.
Good luck to you in what ever you chose to do. Everyone deserves quality of life and I hope you can find your way back to living with quality again soon.
Hugs and High Fives,
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!
Hi DzooB, I know you want to hear from some one that has had it done, I am bending the rules a bit. Do you have a foot drop or bladder or bowel problems? Different doctors have different success rates as you know. I am sure you are going to use a neurosurgeon to do this procedure. I Had a "Pars" fracture L5-S1 with a foot drop of my right foot. Two different neuro doctors wanted to operate asap. an old radiologist I know looked at my CT and told me to just wait it out, just had spinal fluid pressing on those nerves. (Again this is off subject Sorry).. Is there any way to check this doctors results? I know it will vary from PT to PT. I used to assist a neuro surgeon @ A hospital here in Austin from time to time, on a private basis. It seemed to me that people with multiple levels being done, had the poorest outcome. As you know people with degenerative bone disease don't get better.
If he is able to remove a big portion of that herniated disc, and fuse with your own bone you may be surprised. ((I feel guilty answering your question)) Because I cannot say anything of great importance to you, that you don't already know. I just wanted to show my support for you? That's a tough decision to make,I will be praying for you! Lv Dave
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