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Laminectomy and L4-L5-S1 fusion

Posted by @crockett, Dec 31, 2016

Friends; I am looking at a combined laminectomy and fusion at L4-L5-S1. I’m a 68 year-old male relatively fit for my age and height-weight proportionate. Anyone out there who has been through this successfully who would be willing to give me a summary of what I am looking at in terms of relief and recovery? Time, PT, improvement, surprises you were not told about or did not expect, etc… –Crockett


Posted by @IndianaScott, Sun, Jan 1 7:42am

Hello @crockett Nice to e-meet you here. I had a similar fusion and laminectomy, plus my wife had far more extensive spinal surgery. I am basing my comments only on my personal experience as I am not any kind of medical professional.

First I would say spine surgery is unique to each individual. What mine entailed, while at the same location might well have been far different than what you will experience. My surgery was scheduled for out-patient, but they decided to keep me overnight as it went longer than scheduled. My immediate info was no lifting nor driving. I was given an Rx for two months of PT outpatient and then take home exercises.

After the post surgery pain, I did get wonderful relief from the sciatic pain in my legs, which had made laying down impossible. It remained that way for almost 10 years until the physical labors of caregiving caused the benefits of my surgery to fail.

Peace and courage

Liked by persist

Posted by @JustinMcClanahan, Tue, Jan 3 10:22am

Hello @crockett, thank you for sharing a bit about your concerns and what to expect regarding your back surgery.

You may want to read through some of the following discussion that took place early 2016 on spinal fusions. While the types of fusions vary, you may find some helpful information in the discussion:
– Spinal fusion of L1-4 and managing pain. What works for you?

Crockett, has the surgery been scheduled or has it just been recommended?


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Posted by @mote1, Mon, Mar 6 12:02am

I suggest you find out from an “expert” neurosurgeon , or your own, exactly why fusion is required. Find out exactly what pain or pains it will be relieving and how the surgery will accomplish that relief. If he or she has detailed replies, ask about your doctor’s experience and success rate with spinal fusion.
Also, inquire about PT as soon as you are able to keep your core strong. Too many doctors are operating under the add hardware system and keeping patients in the dark about their standard protocols for “curing all back pain.” Ask a lot of questions about what physical therapy you can do to avoid surgery – not steroid shots which can cause arachnoiditis. The best of luck!


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Posted by @bstephens, Tue, Mar 7 12:24pm

Have you had the surgery yet, or are you still interested in experiences?


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Posted by @gailb, Fri, Mar 17 5:35pm

I am not the person who asked the question, but i am interested in your experiences as I am probably looking at L4 fusion due to a badly slipped/herniated disk. I had a laminectomy on my L5-S1 in outpatient surgery December 22, 2016. I have been in Physical Therapy for 4 weeks for both the surgery and to avoid major surgery on my L4. I thought things were getting better until I had a minor fender bender in a parking lot. I do mean minor too. My back and right side began hurting the next day, and now 2 1/2 weeks later I am in incapacitated so that I can make it to the bathroom and back with great pain. I think this time they will be doing a fusion on my L4. I am scheduled for an MRI but not until April 7th! That seems far away especially since I feel like I should be in the hospital right now.

Constant pain is wearing. I’m normally a positive, happy person, even when I’ve been in constant low-mid level pain for almost exactly one year now. The level of pain I feel now is conscious, heavy, and constant. I am already tired of carrying it after only 4 days. I asked my pain doctor to add Hydrocodone to my medications, but 5 mg/325 acetaminophen; 4 times a day wasn’t working. I am also on Gabapentin 30 mg, 2 times a day; and Baclofen 10 mg, 3 times a day. I was taking Tramadol 40 mg, 4 times a day, but the doctor said to stop taking it when I started taking the Hydrocodone. However, none of these has masked the pain enough. I did take Tramadol along with the Hydrocodone for two doses before he said to take only one, not both, and was relieved of most of my pain. I had thought it was OK to take both because I read that they affect different parts of the brain. But, I’m not a doctor, so he knows best about these things.

I want to know how fusion of the L4 has worked for others and if it helped their pain levels. Thanks Gail B.


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Posted by @bstephens, Fri, Mar 17 9:34pm

gailb, I read your history and our stories sound very similar, neck to low back and in between. Throughout my adult life i have carried the attitude that I can (and will) do anything, especially if I have to ask or if it’s not being done as I would! Wrong, bad attitude first and foremost! I was the one who did above and beyond for all..just took care of everyone and got ‘er done, at any cost.
I felt like Humpty Dumpty in that each time I had a migraine from the neck or low back go out, I went to the chiro to have it put together again. Helped for many years. Please understand, I am a trained xray tech and have seen too many surgeries ‘gone wrong’, and always said “they’ll never cut on my spine”. Never say never because it will come back to bite you!
I have seen a neurologist for at least 15 years with all the same treatments that you mentioned. All those treatments, as well as exercise and nerve blocks, are only band aids if you have real problems.
First week of May, 2016 I saw an orthopedic surgeon (MRI, blocks, pills). I was told they would have to fuse L4-5. No sir! Got 2nd opinion from a neurosurgeon and a new neurologist. In Sept. we chose the laminectomy along with opening the space for the nerve. Good for about 4 weeks, till vacation which made everything worse than prev. Sent me to another neurosurgeon (same office). By this time in Nov. I was in unbearable pain and slipping and grinding in the spine. Bingo, fusion! Didn’t take place until Jan 18, 2017. The vertebra had been slipping back and forth on the sciatic nerve and abusing it so badly that it will take many months for it to heal. Surgeon was great, back is fine w/care, but that nerve! Ugh! I’ve had many surgeries and this was the worst but age could be a factor, and I also have fibro.
By the time I had surgery, I couldn’t walk w/out help, my leg would give way, and I couldn’t hold my torso erect.
My advice to you would be: Have someone prescribe a medical back brace, get a second opinion (all drs. are not created equal, do your homework on your doctors).and ask questions. If you have a good doctor he normally won’t do the fusion until you can’t walk. Lighten up on your activities while you can still function. If you have the fusion you will be forced to stop normal activity and it will nearly kill a strong willed person. It has taken many tears to break my independent spirit.
I have been taking Percocet 5 or 10 since May and am down to 1 or 2 per day. I had no problem with heavy meds in hospital, although all bodies are different. I still take Gabapentin for fibro and sleep, and as far as I’m aware, it’s not addicting. I take Tizanidine for muscle relaxer.
Ok now, I have written my book, but if there is anything I have left out or anything else, just let me know. Please take care and may God bless you on this journey.


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Posted by @mickaela, Tue, Apr 25 4:15pm

hello, I had the procedure you are talking about starting from the time I was 24 and last surgery 36. It was like a domino, you alter one and here I am at age 59 with the back of an 80 year old. Following L4-5 S1, they all ended up herniated. I just found out there is a bulge in the only remaining disc. L1. Would I do it i over? NO. I always thought when the pain gets bad enough what else could I do. No, the fusion was a disaster. I was told there was a non union, I was told it looked great, and told it wasn’t there. At my 6 week check up for my first surgery, I told the doctor it doesn’t feel like you did anything, he said it was surgery pain. I asked him to humor me and do an MRI, the part of the disc they left because they only take what is bulged, was bulged, just this time it was the part they left. I lost my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, now my 50’s. I was in good shape, I loved life. I have spent all those years in pain and given an 8 pound weight restriction. I could not have a pregnancy because my back couldn’t take it, which wasn’t a problem since it couldn’t take a sex life either. Ask yourself how bad is it. If your life sucks now, I would risk it, otherwise, run and don’t look back. Good Luck, From Michaela Just one thing, once the get you on the narcotics, when they are finished with you, you are on own. In pain. Most likely wind up in a Pain Clinic.


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Posted by @bstephens, Tue, Apr 25 6:18pm

Mickaela, it breaks my heart to read your story. I have seen so many people who have a story as yours, botched by doctors who don’t have what is needed. This is exactly why I swore for a lifetime that no one would touch mine. I was finally forced to have the whole disc removed, a cage w/donor bone and fusion. I am still healing since it has only been 3 months and doing great. I have a bone stimulator to help the graft and take very good care of myself(something I have never done).
I don’t know if it would help any but you might consider getting an opinion from a well respected neurosurgeon with good references. I do hope the best for you and pray that you will find some portion of relief. Don’t give up!


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Posted by @mickaela, Wed, Apr 26 7:17am

Thank you for responding. I am in the process of getting the nerve stimulater implant, quite a long process. After two medial branch blocks and a Radio Frequency Ablation, I am trying to find people who had had the implant device. I have three doctors that I work with, all with a different opinion. I was told most people have them removed aft a couple of months due to all kinds of problems. After having this for 25 years, I am not very trusting of the medical community. Good luck to you as well, thank you for sharing, Michaela

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