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? ,

@harvey2007

Has anybody gotten different recommendations from spine surgeons?
What did you do? How did it work out?
Thanks for your thoughts.

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I went to see quite a few NS before finding one whose expertise convinced me he was the one I would trust with my fusion at L4-5, he is at Mayo Clinic.
The first doctor said I shouldn't read my MRI report, words are meant to scare us. The bone marrow lesion the report mentioned, he said it wasn't worth mentioning, means nothing. That's the area I had removed during my fusion, btw (L-4 facet joints). He thought my pain was age related OA, and maybe my SI joints. He wanted testing done there with Lanocaine injections.
The next surgeon consult said my pain was caused by a tarlov cyst I have on S1-2 area. He suggested a spinal cord stimulator, said surgery could not help me. The next, said it could be many things, thought it was my SI joints mainly, sent orders out for various tests to other doctors for fibroneuralgia, neuropathy testing.
None of these doctors gave me a physical exam, or went over the MRI CD with me, they just looked at the MRI I brought with me and talked; the last one didn't want me to talk or ask questions, only to answer his questions. I had to laugh at his arrogance.
The last surgeon I met was at Mayo.
He ordered many tests that were done that same day; he went over the tests with me, showed me where the worst damage was. He cautioned me, told me there were other areas that might need surgery later, told me this fusion may not work, but it had a 50/50 chance of reducing my pain. I took those odds, because the quality of life I had at that point was so low, I had to try. I'm very glad I did, my pain is much better.
Four months later, I am having trouble in the lower back in the hip area which I think may be my SI joints. I'm hopeful physical therapy can help, I'm going to see them the end of the month.
I wish you luck with your choices, as others say do your research and be your own advocate. Everyone's problem may be different, just make sure you are confident in your surgical team. This site has been very helpful to me these past months, so many people willing to give their advice. I am thankful!

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Having had L4 L5 surgery, and being told that a fusion is now necessary, I believe it is both a quality of life, and risk benefit analysis issue.
Having a PCP you trust will help. At the end of the day, your surgeon is in the best position to help you make your decision. Not likely an easy call. Some of your surgeons are not worth commenting on, but goods one are available.

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@spudmato

Having had L4 L5 surgery, and being told that a fusion is now necessary, I believe it is both a quality of life, and risk benefit analysis issue.
Having a PCP you trust will help. At the end of the day, your surgeon is in the best position to help you make your decision. Not likely an easy call. Some of your surgeons are not worth commenting on, but goods one are available.

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Good evening @spudmato, I don't know if my experience will help you because it was quite a long time ago. When I was much younger, I had spinal surgery from falling down the stone stairs at the movie theater, At the time, I was so uneducated that I blamed my legs for creating their own pain. Of course, it was lumbar vertebrae. At that time after surgery, we stayed in the hospital for 10 days so that we could have lots of PT before going home where there was none.

I felt pretty good and sauntered back out on the golf course. However, the spine began to hurt again. One of my golf partners was an orthopedic surgeon and he found that the surgery had not been done well. In fact, the first surgeon was given his walking papers. And the next thing I knew was that my golf partner wanted to fuse bone from my hip onto my spine. Risk/benefit? Driven by a sense of trust (he didn't cheat at golf even when I was winning), I agreed.

Cutting to the chase, I was home by Christmas and using every club but a driver in a few months. Another friend and Yoga teacher told me that she was going to show me two exercises to do every morning to keep that spine healthy. I still do them today and I have not had any back issues in "are you ready for this?"………45 years.

There is no magic…….we are the ones who are responsible for doing what the surgeon and PT requested. We are the ones who must make sure we are ready for physical activity whether that be months or longer. Until fully recovered, we must look at every golf invitation or tennis match as another risk/benefit decision.

Here is another golden truth……if we learn to sit up very straight when we slide into a chair, that alone will strengthen our supporting muscles.

If you were waiting for the bad news…..yes there is some. The place on my hip where they "borrowed" the bone………I now get injections to keep it happy.

May you be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.
Chris

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Has anyone heard of or had the Coflex procedure? It looks encouraging for stenosis decompression.

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@jeffkboyce

Has anyone heard of or had the Coflex procedure? It looks encouraging for stenosis decompression.

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@jeffkboyce you will notice that I moved your post back into this discussion you were previously participating in so you can ask members like @artscaping @spudmato @jenniferhunter and @ga29 all who have varying experiences but who may have come across the procedure and can share more with you or you with them.

What about this procedure is most appealing to you and have you spoke to your NS about it?

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@amandajro

@jeffkboyce you will notice that I moved your post back into this discussion you were previously participating in so you can ask members like @artscaping @spudmato @jenniferhunter and @ga29 all who have varying experiences but who may have come across the procedure and can share more with you or you with them.

What about this procedure is most appealing to you and have you spoke to your NS about it?

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Thank you – I have not yet I meet with one in June 14th so I intend on asking. The procedure restores disc height and creates room in the canal and is significantly less invasive with faster recovery than fusion. Additionally since the discs aren’t fused you don’t have the risk of adjacent acceleration of discs above and below the fusion.

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