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? ,

@jeffkboyce

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.

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@jeffkboyce 25 yrs ago in 1995 they didn't call the fusion surgery FLIF but my L4,L5,S1 were fused using 2 plates and 6 screws and a lot of soft bone from my hip.. During the 8 hour surgery (including recovery room) the surgical team cleaned up the arthritis problems too.. so now I am 83 and I sure get around a whole lot better than my cohort group.. It took me about 3 weeks to go back to work..and I didn't have to use crutches then at all.. just a cane.. The spine surgeon told me that I would know when I needed the surgery.. as the pain level would increase to the point where it was limiting…. I had the epidurals before surgery as that helped locate the problem areas.. I was in ICU for 4 days.. regular room and working with Physical Terrorist for a day prior to going home.. but they had me up the day after surgery..
I did not take many pain meds after leaving the hospital as they made me so constipated. At the time of surgery I was married and my wife was so very helpful.. we would go to the movies.. and for walks.. I received opinions from the spine surgeon and a neurologist.. Evaluate the entire surgical team… not just the leader.. What hardware will be put in.. and who will actually do that? Ken

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@jeffkboyce

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.

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Like Ken82 I had similar surgery in 1992 with fair results. I'm now 69 with severe OA of entire spine with leg pain, numbness, etc. The current procedure for lumbar fusion typically involves titanium cages placed around your bad disc's and vertebrae with bone from your hip or bone bank bone or both packed around the cages. Many patients have great success with this procedure. I know the more active I remain the better off I am. I have a home exercise program I developed with PT that I live by and I walk minimum 2 miles daily. Good luck with your surgery. On a personal note I would never get back shots due to the bad effect of cortisone on bones, joints, kidneys and renal vessels.

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I've had three back surgeries. The first one was a herniated disc at L-5/S-1. The second one was rods and 6 screws from L3 down. The last surgery was a cage at L3. I was scheduled to have a 4th surgery to have my SI joint screwed to my pelvic bone. This was 7 years ago. I went in for the pre-op and after that, I canceled the surgery and told the neurologist that I didn't want to do it until I can no longer walk. Well I'm now at a point that I can't walk for more than a block without having pain. I can also no longer stand for more than a few minutes without pain. I don't use walkers & canes and must lean on the cart when grocery shopping. I'm 72 and have finally decided to get a current MRI and do something. This is no way to live. I love gardening and attending our grandsons baseball games. I'm not going to start the injections again either. I did that for years prior to my surgeries. I would be good for a month and they would only do three injections a year.

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@jeffkboyce since you found your way to this discussion, you will notice I have deleted your other new post from a bit earlier. I'm glad you've been able to connect with members who can share their experience with you!

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@jeffkboyce

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.

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I am 8 weeks out from fusion of L4-5, at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I had back pain from OA, bulging discs, stenosis, a few other issues and some I still have. I decided it was time due to quality of life, only went to work appointments (real estate) and back to bed.
Everyone must decide what they can withstand. I went back to work at 3 weeks, but limited. My pain was pretty severe. The pain after surgery for me was bad, but I am
glad I did it. I won’t do any more steroid injections or ablations, if I can help it! Good luck with your decision! I went to 3 other NS before choosing Mayo.

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@ga29

I am 8 weeks out from fusion of L4-5, at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I had back pain from OA, bulging discs, stenosis, a few other issues and some I still have. I decided it was time due to quality of life, only went to work appointments (real estate) and back to bed.
Everyone must decide what they can withstand. I went back to work at 3 weeks, but limited. My pain was pretty severe. The pain after surgery for me was bad, but I am
glad I did it. I won’t do any more steroid injections or ablations, if I can help it! Good luck with your decision! I went to 3 other NS before choosing Mayo.

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Thanks !

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@jeffkboyce

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.

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I had a TLIF at several lumbar levels in 2011. My course was “complicated” because I had a neck fusion at two levels 6 weeks later. I took a total of 5 months off work. However, I was a Recovery Room RN, so I was going back to a very physically demanding job. It’s really going to depend on your job and what it entails. Things went well until a few years ago. Partially my fault for being stupid at the gym. Partially because when one has a fusion, it puts more strain and pressure immediately above and below the fusion. So now I have more degenerative disease above my neck fusion and below my back fusion. I began having significant leg pain/lower back pain. Began having probable sciatic pain, trouble walking, etc. Long story short have been offered more neurosurgery/another fusion in my L5/S1 area. I refused. I now have a spinal cord stimulator installed. It works well for me. Not everyone has that kind of luck, I understand.

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@wisco50

I had a TLIF at several lumbar levels in 2011. My course was “complicated” because I had a neck fusion at two levels 6 weeks later. I took a total of 5 months off work. However, I was a Recovery Room RN, so I was going back to a very physically demanding job. It’s really going to depend on your job and what it entails. Things went well until a few years ago. Partially my fault for being stupid at the gym. Partially because when one has a fusion, it puts more strain and pressure immediately above and below the fusion. So now I have more degenerative disease above my neck fusion and below my back fusion. I began having significant leg pain/lower back pain. Began having probable sciatic pain, trouble walking, etc. Long story short have been offered more neurosurgery/another fusion in my L5/S1 area. I refused. I now have a spinal cord stimulator installed. It works well for me. Not everyone has that kind of luck, I understand.

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Oh boy.

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@pines

I've had three back surgeries. The first one was a herniated disc at L-5/S-1. The second one was rods and 6 screws from L3 down. The last surgery was a cage at L3. I was scheduled to have a 4th surgery to have my SI joint screwed to my pelvic bone. This was 7 years ago. I went in for the pre-op and after that, I canceled the surgery and told the neurologist that I didn't want to do it until I can no longer walk. Well I'm now at a point that I can't walk for more than a block without having pain. I can also no longer stand for more than a few minutes without pain. I don't use walkers & canes and must lean on the cart when grocery shopping. I'm 72 and have finally decided to get a current MRI and do something. This is no way to live. I love gardening and attending our grandsons baseball games. I'm not going to start the injections again either. I did that for years prior to my surgeries. I would be good for a month and they would only do three injections a year.

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Bless you

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@jeffkboyce

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.

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I just saw this. I tried one or two of those injections and only got a few days of relief. If I had gotten 5 months of great relief, I would have tried delaying surgery in exchange for those. Just my 2 cents.

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@wisco50

I just saw this. I tried one or two of those injections and only got a few days of relief. If I had gotten 5 months of great relief, I would have tried delaying surgery in exchange for those. Just my 2 cents.

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Thanks! I started P/T today and am not in much pain just mostly tingling and fascitations. A dull ache in my right buttocks. I think I just went back to my old routine too aggressively vs being mindful and perhaps the shot would have lasted longer.

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@wisco50

I had a TLIF at several lumbar levels in 2011. My course was “complicated” because I had a neck fusion at two levels 6 weeks later. I took a total of 5 months off work. However, I was a Recovery Room RN, so I was going back to a very physically demanding job. It’s really going to depend on your job and what it entails. Things went well until a few years ago. Partially my fault for being stupid at the gym. Partially because when one has a fusion, it puts more strain and pressure immediately above and below the fusion. So now I have more degenerative disease above my neck fusion and below my back fusion. I began having significant leg pain/lower back pain. Began having probable sciatic pain, trouble walking, etc. Long story short have been offered more neurosurgery/another fusion in my L5/S1 area. I refused. I now have a spinal cord stimulator installed. It works well for me. Not everyone has that kind of luck, I understand.

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Thank you – I am so sorry you went through all of that! What may I ask is a spinal stimulator?

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