Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

bevj7December 5, 2006

I had one just 6 weeks ago. The doctor that operated is a neurosurgeon. I still have aching in my lower back and upper leg as I did prior to surgery. I have followed the post- op instructions faithfully. Am I expecting some results too

fast or is pain normal for awhile?

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This is a question that you should be asking your doctor. Call or see him and let him advise you.

The posters here do not know anything about how or what he did or what your condition was before surgery.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 4:17PM
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Hi bevj7. On December 4th I had a laminectomy and spinal fusion with bone taken from my iliac crest. This was done by an orthopedic surgeon. The doctor's office gave me a pamphlet written by their nurse (who had also undergone some kind of back operation). Anyhow, it states that in addition to the pain from the incision, you may continue to feel the same pains or different pains for quite a while while recovering. Just this morning I felt some kind of sciatica pain and numbness in my left foot (this was the same leg I was having problems with all along). I called the doctor's office just for some reassurance - they said it's perfectly normal. I have to say though, that although there are some mild aches and pains, I feel much, much better now than before the operation. I wasn't able to stand for any great length of time and now that's not a problem.
I wish you a speedy recovery!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 11:01AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

I too wish you a speedy recovery.

I too had back surgery years ago (great success), had immediate pain relief, and there was damage to a nerve that my surgeon repaired. It left a numbness down my leg, but no pain.

Yes, call your Dr. but my 'guess' is that you may have nerve damage as well, which will heal in time.

Keep us posted. I hope in time you too are pain free.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 10:10AM
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Thank you both so much for responding to my question. I called the surgeons office and I could only speak with the nurse. She told me it is normal to still have pain. She also said the nerves will heal in time and that is part of the pain. It is not uncommon for it to take a full year for total healing. Some bones take longer to fuse than others.
I am glad to hear your surgery was a success, chemocurl and I hope once your surgery heals that you are pain free, pugluvrnj.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 6:58PM
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Thank you, bevj7!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 9:22PM
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I have problems with my low back and fusion surgery was recommended after I was off work for 6 months. My mother is into herbs so I borrowed one of her book on Pain Management with Herbs. I found that Turmeric is a natural anti-inflamatory. I've been taking 450 mg turmeric capsule along with fish oil capsule daily for about 3 months. I haven't had to take any of my pain meds and I don't feel that pressure in my low back. I also had arthritis and I don't have any swelling or pain in my hands or feet anymore.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 11:58PM
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Pam, is it the combination of turmeric and fish oil that helps your back or just the turmeric?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 11:22AM
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Hi bevj7. I was just wondering how you're feeling now that you're about 13 weeks post-up. It's 7 weeks for me. Have you gone to physical therapy yet?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 1:13PM
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Hello again...My upper leg still aches whenever I walk more than 2 or 3 blocks. My lower back used to ache when I first stood up in the morning until I took a few steps, but no more. That is an improvement. Also the surgeon said I do have some arthrits of the spine so I assume that is causing some of the pain. As for physical therapy, the surgeon never said anything about it. I find that very strange. He has already released me. I am going to see my PCP next week and I will ask him what he thinks about sending me to PT. I sure don't think it would hurt me. How are you feeling now, Puglver?? I hope you are feeling
good and able to do things that you coludn't do a short while ago. :) Bev

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 9:59PM
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It was good to hear from you, Bev. I'm feeling great - it's going on 9 weeks this coming Monday. My legs are fine and I'm able to walk over 2 miles just about daily. It was my left leg that had excruciating pain before the operation, so I'm very thankful right now. I'm able to go shopping and not worry about how I'm going to stand in a line for any length of time now. My lower back does sometimes ache a little before I get out of bed in the morning, but it's nothing debilitating. I am taking extra calcium because I'm in my mid fifties and I want to make sure my bone fusion takes and does actually fuse together. It was a two-level fusion.
My doctor automatically prescribes a course of physical therapy after spinal fusion. They work on the core muscles - the stomach - so that also helps to strengthen the spine. I'm not overweight, but I like going because it's a form of exercise. You're under supervision so you're not likely to do something to harm the fusion. You may want to ask your doctor about it and see if your insurance covers it.
I'll go back to the doctor in about three weeks -he'll take x-rays then to see how the fusion is going.
Let me know how you're doing, Bev. You're several weeks ahead of me, so you're probably more fused. Take care!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 2:41PM
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Puglvrnj, did you have your xrays yet? If so, is the healing progressing as it should? I hope you are continuing to do well. As for me, not much change. My
doctors don't think I need PT. My insurance would pay for it, if I have a referral. I am going to have a consultation with another doctor and find out if there is anything he can do. Keep well, Bev

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 12:49PM
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Bevj7, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you - I didn't see your post until now. I'm doing well- I had the xrays and they show some bone growth, which is good. Physical therapy is finished. I can bend and even touch my toes, so everything's good. Hope all is well with you.
If there is anyone else out there who had lumbar spinal fusion in the past I would love to hear about it. Mine was almost 4 months ago, but I would love to know how people who had it done a year or two (or longer) ago are doing.- Nora

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 1:31PM
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Hi Nora (pugluvrnj)

I wanted to see how you are doing since your surgery. Also, can you tell me where your 2 level fusion was? I am doing some research before making my decision on whether or not to have this surgery. I look forward to hearing back from you!


    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 3:20PM
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Hi Michelle,
The 2-level fusion was between L4/5 and S1. It's almost 19 months since the surgery and I still feel great. I can stand and walk without a problem. I bend a lot because I'm
always pulling weeds. When I do too much bending I can feel it the next morning, but it's just a slight stiffness and not pain. It also goes away during the course of the day. I consider myself very lucky because I've heard of too many people who were not helped by surgery. Then again, maybe it's not luck - maybe it was the skill of my surgeon. I really don't know.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 12:49AM
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Last year, I ruptured my L5/S1. 13 mm big or so. I had a micro-discectomy, and then PT, and for a while, I was more or less pain-free....except if I had to move or stretch too far. I wish someone would have told me that first.

At any rate, fast forward a few months after PT, and I'm in near-constant pain. Any time i do too much of anything (walking, sitting....whatever), I hurt pretty bad. I had a second MRI, that showed scar tissue buildup, and that's sure not helping things, but my new doctor (who has MUCH better bedside manner) says that my disc is so 'deflated', the disc itself may be touching my spine, especially with excess movement. While the scar tissue may not be THE problem, it is certainly exacerbating it.

He believes that the first course of action should be epidural steroid injuections and another round of PT. He thinks that building up the muscles around the damaged disc will stabilize it. I'm thinking that the first round of PT did help with pain in the short term, and the steroids might help it work better this time around, but I think it's only a temporary thing.

He says that afterwards, it PT doesn't work, a fusion is the best course of action. He says that if the surgery goes well, after rehab and PT, I will lose a minimal amount of flexibility, but will be otherwise TOTALLY over this injury. I can go horseback riding, or resume my job, which involves a LOT of bending/lifting/stooping.

What do the other doctors here think? What do the L5/S1 fusion patients here think? I'd really love to hear something from you.

Thanks much,


    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 4:49PM
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Hi Justin. I had spinal fusion and have no regrets. It was a 2-level fusion between L4/5 and S1. I was also told that there would be a minimal loss of flexibility, but I really don't notice it. Maybe if I were a gymnast it would be more obvious to me! I walk a lot and I'm constantly bending over to pull weeds and to clean the house and I don't have any problems. As I wrote in a previous post, sometimes if I overdo it I feel stiff the next morning, but that goes away quickly. If it helps any, I'm 56.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 5:00PM
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Thanks much for the sentiment, pug. That makes me feel a whoooole lot better.

Funny enough, I WAS a gymnast. For ten years. My new doc thinks (and I agree) that that MUST have had some effect on the wear and tear on my back in general. But, those days are behind me, so I don't really think that'll be an issue in the future.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 1:23AM
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You're welcome! Good luck if you decide to go through with the fusion.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 10:59AM
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My older sister, who just turned 60, had lumbar spinal fusion surgery over 2 months ago. She has always been fit, was very athletic (state diving champion and swimmer), etc. Her son, who lives with her, is a quadraplegic, and I'm sure being his main caregiver over the years (her ex-husband has never provided a break for her or her sons or shared in parental responsibilities since the divorce) has taken its toll, physically, on her back, especially. Her son has an attendant to help him get up and get dressed for work and to get him ready for bed, since my sister cannot do those things any more, and probably shouldn't have been doing them for a while. It broke her heart when she said she could not even brush his teeth for him, the pain was so excruciating.

Her pain is still with her. What's worse, her general health has spiralled, loss of weight and appetite, no sleep. They had done periodic scans and MRI's, and her neurosurgeon had her believing that it was in her "head," and suggested antidepressants, of all things, and that as far as he could tell, the surgery was a success! She convinced them to do another MRI on Tuesday, and this time they discovered an infection in her back, the area being where the epidural was performed. She was admitted yesterday into the Infectious Diseases unit and is undergoing tests. The reason this infection (most likely staph, although as of yet they haven't said "staph") wasn't discovered earlier because the other MRIs only concentrated on the 8 vertebrae and the infection was beyond that area. So, she has had this infection since day 1 of the surgery.

It has been a nightmare for her and she has said over and over again that the surgery was the biggest mistake she ever made.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 3:40PM
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Wodka - I'm hoping that after the staph infection clears up, your sister will feel better about the surgery. If she's has this infection since day 1 of the surgery, she certainly can't tell if the original problem has been taken care of, due to the pain she's in. I wish her the best!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 11:22PM
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Nora, thank you for the well wishes for my sister. Please keep her in your prayers. It may be even worse than staph. I talked to her last night and couldn't believe a doctor would do this, but this is what happened. An oncologist came in and told her that she possibly has cancer - that they found a mass 1 1/4" on her lung, mass on her shoulder, and a tumor in her back. Now, until the "possibility" changes to a confirmation, should this doctor have told this potentially devastating news to her at 8 p.m., on a Friday night, when my sister is totally by herself, and then say "I'll see you on Monday?!" Or at least could have said, I want to rule out the possibility of cancer, so would like to run more tests? Where is the bedside manner these days?

She was scheduled to have more bloodwork done this morning at 4 a.m. She does not want us to tell our 83 year old mother yet, until everything is confirmed, because my mom just buried my dad less than two years ago, who died of lung cancer.

I am on pins and needles, (I live out of town) and am praying with all my heart that this doctor is wrong, and that the staph has caused all of these "masses" and complications. Please join me in my prayers. Thank you.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 10:41AM
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wodka, I'm so sorry for what you and your sister are going through.

I am shocked, though, that the "mass on her lung" wasn't seen by the radiologist that read her chest x-rays prior to her surgery and that a "tumor in her back" wasn't seen on any spinal MRI or CT scan as well.

That would give me a bit of hope that if they weren't there prior to her surgery 2 months ago that this may, indeed, be from the infection and not cancer.

As for the oncologist, that isn't surprising to me. Having spent most of my life working in the medical area of hospitals, you usually find oncologists like this.
Most of them keep a good distance from emotions with patients. It's an insulating mechanism that they use to be able to deal with what they do on a day to day basis with patients.
It's difficult to let much emotion and good bedside manner come out as that then puts them closer to patients that they may have to treat and then watch die.
Those oncologists that have a great bedside manner, well many of them don't last in the field of oncology for long. They end up with too many emotions and too much attachment to their patients. It takes a huge toll on them and they just can't deal with it any more.

I will keep you and your sister and your family in my prayers and hopefully you will get better news in the coming week.

Please keep us informed about how things are and what is going on.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 2:56PM
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Wodka, I'm hoping that the results come in quickly, and that it turns out to be nothing more than an easily-cured infection. I'm wishing your sister the best. The doctor certainly could have waited until Monday, when more could be done about it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 7:18PM
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Nora and Fran, thank you for your kind thoughts. Unfortunately, our worst fears were confirmed this afternoon. She has adenocarcinoma - 1 1/4" mass in her lung, areas in her shoulder and her back. She will meet with the onocologist on Tuesday and most likely begin radiation that same day. Only a few of us know, she has not told her sons yet, nor our mom or other siblings. My younger sister is with her now, and I suggested that, as hard as it will be, they call and tell Mama while she's at home (not to wait until she comes to the hospital tomorrow, then worry about her getting home.) She will be able to grieve tonight and then be more prepared to face the future with my sister tomorrow. She tried calling Mama, but bless her heart, she was at Mass, so will have that message waiting on her to call. She has 3 sons - two live away and the one who is quadraplegic lives with her. He will be devastated the most - ever since his accident he has leaned on her. It's just all terribly sad. Thanks for listening.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 7:49PM
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Wodka, I'm sorry to hear this news.
Did your sister have her own bone taken for the fusion, or did the doctor use cadaver bone? I'm not a doctor, but I'm starting to wonder if perhaps the bone was harvested from someone who had undetected cancer. Just a thought, and probably far-fetched. I just think it's strange that they saw none of this on the x-rays and/or MRI's she would have had to have before the operation.
In any case,, I'm hoping for a good prognosis, and that she tolerates radiation and/or chemo well.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 11:26PM
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Nora, thank you for your response. Just from what I am hearing, it sounds like my sister, most likely, has had this cancer for a while, way before the surgery.

I tend to agree with you, though, about all the pre-surgery xrays and MRI's - it seems like something would have shown up.

My mom took the news like the strong woman that she is, ended up comforting me.

Sorry to have sidetracked this thread - I really thought my sister had experienced a bad surgery. God, we never know.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 9:20AM
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Wodka, I'm so sorry to hear the confirmed news about your sister. I too hope for a good prognosis and that chemo and radiation will be well tolerated.

I would certainly question how this could have possibly been missed prior to her lumbar spinal fusion.

At her age, she would have had to have a chest x-ray prior to surgery and a mass of that size should have been seen by any radiologist that looked at the films.

The same with an MRI. Even though the MRI may have been ordered for the lumbar area of the spine, there are still pics of the entire spine from the neck down to the S1 vertebrae. If read correctly, a mass on the spine should also have been noted.

In any event, my prayers are with you, your sister and your entire family.

Please keep us updated as to how your sister is doing as well as you and your entire family.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 12:31AM
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Fran, supposedly, the MRI's done pre-surgery and even after only went down a certain number of vertebrae, and her mass was below that point.

Also, the chest X-rays initially showed all clear, which is also puzzling to us.

She plans to fight this, and God knows, she is a fighter. Thank you again for including our family in your prayers.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 8:31AM
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Wodka, Keeping her and your family in our prayers.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 4:00AM
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With everything going on, I forgot about posting about my sister. Unfortunately, she lost her battle to cancer in November. We were all stunned by how quickly her health deteriorated.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 11:04AM
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Hi there, new to this discussion.I had a 3 level fusion on 12/16/2010. O jave no back pain when I walk or do anything. I just tire very easily. My neurosurgeon was deemed one of the best, & the x rays MRI show s very successful fusion. However, my emotions are running away in me. I'm weepy, lonely. Can't stand it! Is anyone else feeling this way?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 10:10AM
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I had a spinal fusion at L5 S1 in feb 2011 right around 6 weeks later i developed a high fever and the doctor advised me I had a staph infection they had to do emergency surgery to do a clean out. The doctor did advise me he could not get all around the harware to do the clean out and that was 4 weeks ago. I now have a picc line in my arm to give myself iv antibiotics everyday and have now developed sever pain in my lower back and right hip all the way down to my foot. No fever but extreme pain the doctors are doing all kinds of tests to find out what is going on but my surgeon has advised me that they believe my body is rejecting the hardware and that the only way to get rid of the infection is to take the hardware out now.... anyone have this problem? and suggestions?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 12:54PM
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