What are people's experiences with spinal fusion surgery?

Posted by heatherm @heatherm, Oct 27, 2020

After trying pretty much everything, with little pain relief, my surgeon has put me on his priorty elective list for fusion of my L3/4/5, and maybe S1. I’ve heard both positive and negative experiences with this surgery. What are people’s experiences, with this? ,

I hope this isn't too confusing as I'm still recovering! I had a fusion at L4-5 on Jan. 18th, at Mayo in Jacksonville. I too was very frightened but eventually the daily pain was too much to live with. I saw 3 different NS, before Mayo called to accept me for a consult. I believe no one wanted to risk operating on me, as I heard varying opinions on what was the main cause of my pain. None of the surgeons actually sat and went over my MRI with me, until the surgeon at Mayo, he showed me where the main issue was, he told me there was a 50% chance they could reduce my pain, but he felt he could help me. There was an entire team working on me; they also cleaned out my arthritis, did a bone graft on my facet joint, and told me no lifting over 10lbs, no bending or twisting, probably for life! What I had been told was peripheral neuropathy, was almost completely gone, as was the nerve pain shooting down my legs, the burning. The surgeon tested me for it among many other tests beforehand, and he believed it would disappear once the nerves were not pinched anymore. I'm not out of the woods yet, I'm still on meds, I have surgical pain down my back, and my main PT is walking as much as tolerated. I am so glad I did this. I hope this can help you decide.

REPLY

@ga29 It hasn't even been a month and you are doing so well .. My fusion of 3 … L4,L5, S1 was 25 years ago at Age 57 and very successful.. but I used a cane and crutches for a few weeks and even when I went back to work after a month.. but by 6 weeks I was walking with the best of them.. The surgical team worked on me for nearly 8 hours.. and now at 83 I have a little tingling in my legs and feet, but the operation gave me so much mobility that I am way ahead of my peers at this date .. Ken

REPLY
@ken82

@ga29 It hasn't even been a month and you are doing so well .. My fusion of 3 … L4,L5, S1 was 25 years ago at Age 57 and very successful.. but I used a cane and crutches for a few weeks and even when I went back to work after a month.. but by 6 weeks I was walking with the best of them.. The surgical team worked on me for nearly 8 hours.. and now at 83 I have a little tingling in my legs and feet, but the operation gave me so much mobility that I am way ahead of my peers at this date .. Ken

Jump to this post

Thanks Ken! I didn’t mention I have to wear my back brace for 4 months, and use my walker if up for too long, my back hurts more.
Make no mistake, the post-surgery pain for a few days is hard too. Be your own advocate and discuss with your surgeon beforehand. I was in hospital for 4 nights.
I’m starting to walk around outside, been doing laps in my house! I plan on trying to drive soon. I am 67 years old, if that helps anyone decide. Of course we all have different problems in our back, and heal differently.

REPLY

Wow, I barely remember my lumbar fusion…….all I know is that I have been pain free in my back for quite a few years. I do a couple of spinal exercises every day (almost). My therapist told me that if I did these every day (or almost) I would live without back pain. Guess what…..she was right. And so was the surgeon, Only issue…..I have some pain where they removed the bone from my hip,,,,,that’s it. I even played golf and went on walking trips. Enjoy the freedom from pain and discomfort.
Chris

REPLY

Thank you! Can you suggest what exercises they were? They told me to just walk for now.

REPLY

I have had major back surgery two years ago and I still see my Surgeon for help -Had three Fusions and two have healed back with new bone but one did not and I have a lot of pain still in the Lumbar area -Trying a set of three Epidurals now

REPLY

I’ve been thru 5 spinal surgeries in the last 4 years. I have no regrets. All of mine have been in the neck area. I am now fully fused between C2-T/1 and also have rods down the back of my neck for added stability. The first 4 were easy surgeries, the last one had more complications and is taking much longer to heal. I agree that having trust and confidence in your surgeon is key. I have spent so much time in the OR and hospital with my surgeon that we have developed a true bond. I trust him with my life. He takes time to answer all my questions, has never been in a hurry, and even provided me with his personal cell phone number so I can get in touch with him directly at any time.

The reduction in pain has made 5 surgeries worthwhile. I am 49 years old and have lost a fair amount of neck mobility, but I feel so much better. Still, there is a good chance I will remain on pain meds for the rest of my life. A recent MRI showed increasing arthritis below the fused area in the thoracic region, so there may be more surgery in my future, but for now things are good.

Ask your surgeon to address all your concerns. Ask questions. Be as involved in the process and discussion as much as possible. Yes, the surgery recovery stinks, but I found recovery much easier than being in significant pain each day.

REPLY
@faithgirl30

I’ve been thru 5 spinal surgeries in the last 4 years. I have no regrets. All of mine have been in the neck area. I am now fully fused between C2-T/1 and also have rods down the back of my neck for added stability. The first 4 were easy surgeries, the last one had more complications and is taking much longer to heal. I agree that having trust and confidence in your surgeon is key. I have spent so much time in the OR and hospital with my surgeon that we have developed a true bond. I trust him with my life. He takes time to answer all my questions, has never been in a hurry, and even provided me with his personal cell phone number so I can get in touch with him directly at any time.

The reduction in pain has made 5 surgeries worthwhile. I am 49 years old and have lost a fair amount of neck mobility, but I feel so much better. Still, there is a good chance I will remain on pain meds for the rest of my life. A recent MRI showed increasing arthritis below the fused area in the thoracic region, so there may be more surgery in my future, but for now things are good.

Ask your surgeon to address all your concerns. Ask questions. Be as involved in the process and discussion as much as possible. Yes, the surgery recovery stinks, but I found recovery much easier than being in significant pain each day.

Jump to this post

@faithgirl30 It is very good that you have a very good patient-surgeon trust and relationship.. It is very important.. but advice to others would be to always get a second opinion, investigate the track-record of the surgeon and follow the surgeon's and physical therapist's advice. Good Luck .. K

REPLY

Thanks for your words of wisdom, @ken82. I was merely sharing my personal experience – and for me, trusting the person who is opening me up on the table and recommending I have surgery in the first place – is vital to healing. If I can’t trust a surgeon, I won’t let them operate. So I stand by my recommendation to find someone who will answer all your question, doesn’t rush you out the door and is someone you respect and who respects you as a patient. In addition, a good surgeon is usually one who will themselves send you for a second opinion, because they know they are fallible – and they want you to know that what they are recommending is indeed the best next option.

REPLY

Hello @fla77 and welcome to both this conversation and Mayo Clinic Connect. You mentioned having had three fusions and one that did not heal. I am sorry to hear of the ongoing lumbar pain but also glad to hear you have a plan with the epidurals.

Will you share how that goes for you with our members?

REPLY
@faithgirl30

Thanks for your words of wisdom, @ken82. I was merely sharing my personal experience – and for me, trusting the person who is opening me up on the table and recommending I have surgery in the first place – is vital to healing. If I can’t trust a surgeon, I won’t let them operate. So I stand by my recommendation to find someone who will answer all your question, doesn’t rush you out the door and is someone you respect and who respects you as a patient. In addition, a good surgeon is usually one who will themselves send you for a second opinion, because they know they are fallible – and they want you to know that what they are recommending is indeed the best next option.

Jump to this post

all good info and suggestions thank you for your input

REPLY

I am considering this surgery. From the MRI I have disc collapse (L4/L5) that is resulting in stenosis. This was a result I think from a herniation in my 30s (I am 61) from heavy weightlifting and lots of weight lifting from that point forward and age. I do not have very much pain more frustration from the nerve fascitations in my legs and tingling in my feet. I did an injection (the injection was great and resulted in 0 pain for 5 months) I am starting P/T and the Dr proposed a follow up injection since it had good results. He also stated I am a candidate for a minimally invasive TLIF. The Dr is suggesting a conservative approach which I am following. I am thinking the TLF is probably where I am going to land at some point in the future so instead of stopping / minimizing activities due to a weak point in my spine. So – do I bite bullet while I am healthy and the issue isn't severe? However – it is a huge step question(s) for anyone who has had this type of surgery – at what point did you decide surgery was a go? How painful post op and what was the overall recovery like? Would three weeks off of work be sufficient? . Last – did you seek several opinions and consult with different Doctors or just stick with one? Thank you.

REPLY
Please sign in or register to post a reply.
  Request Appointment