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Spinal Fusion surgery?

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  • Spinal Fusion surgery?

    I searched for this but didn't really find much on it except a few that had it but no details. I need DETAILS!!! 8-D In Dec. 09 I had a huge herniated disk removed via laminectomy. I wish then they had done the whole fusion because of course it has done nothing but boot out the remaining disk substance ever since! As anyone who has ever felt a very squished nerve the pain can be unreal! I have discovered that it is AMAZING at what you can get used to living with though (as in having to keep going to work and feeding animals and cleaning ()*)(*&*( litterboxes!)

    But anyway I knew the feeling in my toes would not come back but with the whole leg getting numbness and increasingly weaker (and clumsier!) the Dr. (not even a surgeon) said that fusion ws the only way. The surgeon I go to does the two plates on each side with 2 screws top and bottom. He'll have to go through the back, there's just too much darn FRONT to go through even if I would let him which OH H*LL NO!

    So long story long, how does this compare to the non fusion surgery? Do you still wear the back brace? Is the pain the same? (compared to the sciatica I found the pain to be a non issue, changing the bandage was way worse!) I guess there will be TWO incisions? One on each side?

    What is the recovery time? (I had a month off last time but now I am out of leave time so will have to crawl in and sit in my chair at least part time fairly quickly) When can you drive? ride? How days in the hospital? Last time was just overnight and that was too much for me!
    Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

    Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

  • #2
    I had a cervical discectomy with bone fusion and plate at c5-c6 about 10 years ago. Where your toes are numb my hand was. And then it began involuntary movements, that was kinda scary!!! I felt INSTANATLY better after the surgery.Dr did not want me to ride for 6 weeks, too much movement in the neck from riding.And I really had to change the type of horse I rode. No longer could I ride one that was strong or heavy in the hand or that jumped incrediably hard, it just made me too sore. So I sold that one and found one more suitable...
    Have to say if I had known the surgery back then was going to be such a pain relief I would have done it 10 years earlier, but then again medical technology wasn't as up to date either....I say go for it. On a side note, it will weaken those discs above and below fusion over time, so make sure to protect them. Personally I would not ride without a back brace afterwards ever! Good Luck! Hope you feel better soon!

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      That's an excellent idea about the back brace, thanks!! I'm glad it worked so well for you. I am looking forward to saying good bye to the pain! Again!
      Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

      Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had the lower five vertabrea in my back fused with four metal plates (2 on each side) and screws in 1989. Very glad I did as I was in EXCRUCIATING pain all the time, had had three previous laminectomies. The main issue is that now my hips bother me a lot (the past year) and not sure how much has come from the fusion and how much is just "old age" arthritis. Until that complication I did pretty well. I won't kid you the surgery was VERY hard and the recovery also VERY hard. Maybe a bit easier and less invasive now, I don't know.
        www.shawneeacres.net

        Comment


        • #5
          I had my first fusion in 2001 (I was 22 years old). L5-S1 was fused; had 4 pedicle screws placed with vertical rods connecting them. They did take a block of bone from my iliac crest (back of pelvic bone) as a bone graft - that was the worst part of the recovery. The back felt better long before the pelvis did.

          My second fusion was in 2004. This time they fused L4-L5. The S1 pedicle screws were removed as that fusion was solid and they weren't needed. They used the existing L5 pedicle screws, added screws to L4 and placed vertical rods and a horizontal crosspiece connecting the center of the rods. This time they removed the L4-L5 disc and placed a block of cadaver bone in it's place.

          Recovery from the second surgery was much quicker. I've had no problems since, I have excellent mobility (can still touch my toes while keeping my knees straight!), and I can ride without any problems. I do mostly dressage work with my OTTB who is prone to "Thoroughbred Moments" when he thinks something will jump out of the trees and eat him.

          I do not ride with a back brace. Both surgeons said it would not help and if anything, would hurt me in the long run as the muscles would become dependent on the brace. Strong core muscles (esp. abdominal muscles) will protect your discs above & below the fusion, not a brace.

          I do a lot of routine work around the house; gardening, bending over, waxing the cars, stacking firewood... I might be a little sore after waxing 2 cars in a day, but who wouldn't?

          I do have a patch of permanent numbness on the outside of my thigh; that's been there since the first surgery. And I do get goosebumps in odd patches on both legs....both were chalked up to nerve damage.

          One more thing: My first surgery was done by an orthopaedic surgeon who specialized in spines. My second was done by a neurosurgeon. If possible, use a neurosurgeon. My second surgery was 8.5 hours long compared to the first (3 hours) and I really feel like the neurosurgeon was very thorough and meticulous where the ortho was just concerned with finishing the surgery.

          Full recovery was about 6 months for me, but I am a very active person. If you have a desk job, I'd say 3-4 months, MAYBE two.

          Both my surgeries were done posterior (through the back), still have a nice long scar down my spine & likely always will. Only one incision, about 5-6" long. Like a previous poster said, the surgery and recovery is TOUGH. I spent 5 days in the hospital each time. It was about 2 or 3 months before I was cleared to drive as I lost all the reflexes in my right leg.

          Best to you, please feel free to PM if you have any questions....

          Taryn
          Last edited by tarynls; Apr. 7, 2011, 08:12 PM. Reason: typo!

          Comment


          • #6
            I had my fusion surgery in 2008. L4-L5, L5-S1. Disks removed, cadaver bone inserted. Hardware consists of 6 screws and 2 rods with one cross bar.

            Pics of x-ray:
            http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/p...09-08_1652.jpg

            http://i409.photobucket.com/albums/p...09-08_1647.jpg

            Back was instantly better... recovery from surgery was long and hard. Back to work in 12 weeks (should have waited) Riding permitted at 12 week checkup (per Dr: "as long as there is no jarring" lol)

            My continuing problem: at around 20 weeks post-op I had scar tissue break off of one of the screw heads. Now when I twist, turn, bend or move the muscle scrapes along the screw head causing pain and muscle spasms. Dr told me to learn to live with it, no fixing it. Waiting on a disability determination because of it.

            My Dr is a neurosurgeon, took 5 hours to do the surgery, 7 days in the hospital.

            Comment


            • #7
              I actually had the REVERSE situation. Neoursurgeons did my first three surgeries and basically said "nothing else could be done". My fusion was done by and ortho surgeon who did NOTHING ELSE but fusions. He took 9.5 hours and he did obviously, a great job! I have heard of SO MANY fusions that had to be redone, and the fact mine has lasted now for 22 years is incredible! And to think I ahve ridden, jumped and fallen plenty during that time period!!
              www.shawneeacres.net

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks so much for all your experiences! This is going to be difficult I know but I can't find a new job if I am hobbling around all the time! The timing is just really unfortunate!
                Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

                Comment


                • #9
                  All I can say is make sure that you use a surgeon who does lots of fusion surgery. I have two DD's who both needed fusion surgery. One had surgery last year with both an Ortho and Neuo surgeon. The other is still pending. I've done lots of reading on the subject and most who were in pain before surgery have great relief.

                  DD was in the hospital 7 days, out of school 6 weeks, strict movement restriction (no bending, lifting, twisting) 6 months, PT 3 months, and released to normal activity at 1 year post op. She is great now! No pain. She had 5 levels fused.

                  Every recovery is different and I think age, mental readiness and phyiscal shape play a big role.

                  Best wishes Summerhorse for a smooth surgery and recovery.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I had a fusion of L4-L5 in 2004 after a prior laminectomy in 2001. It did get rid of my sciatica but I still have numbness in my toes. I used a neurosurgeon (rather than an orthopedic surgeon) who was quite experienced. I developed an infection at the incision site (although it did not surface for several months after the fusion). The infection required another surgery which was supposed to be followed by 6 weeks of daily IV antibiotics - developed an allergic reaction to the antibiotic and an IV line infection about 3 weeks in and thought I was dying. All in all it was a very difficult time. Spent 3 months in the back brace with no bending, lifting or twisting allowed after the fusion. It was quite painful (and I'm no wuss) but not as debilitating as the sciatica. When I started riding again I was so weak I double bounced at the posting trot like a rank beginner. Eventually I did get back to doing dressage work but chose to do most trot work rising and some canter in a two point - my doctor had warned me that when part of your spine is fused, the torque of repetitive movement (i.e. following the motion at sitting trot and canter) is increased above and below the fused area and eventually this could cause more sciatica and require another fusion. Not an option for me! I have a 6 inch long scar down my back but that is no big deal. Good luck to you with your surgery and recovery.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      May I ask what everyone's fusion was for? Disc problems or vertebrae or both?

                      I have little to moderate sciatica as of right now, but I'm being told the only way to "fix" my problem is surgery. My L5 is 80% off of my S1. This apparently has been like this for a while, however after a serious motorcycle accident in November of last year, I began having leg pain/numbness.

                      All the doctors/surgeons whom I have consulted with and been seen by say a fall from a horse could knock it off the rest of the way. But, I REALLY don't want to even say the word surgery let alone have it.

                      I endurance ride and wonder how many months something like that would put me out?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Sign of Grace - I have sent you a PM (re: reason for fusion).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Artificial disk

                          Not Lumbar, but Cervical disk . The alternative was fusion of the c5 & c6. like Equusrider. Then wearing a neck brace for 3 months.

                          With the artificial disk, spent one day in the hospital and was up and about after 3 days. Only had a band-aid on the incision. Surgery was done by a neurosurgen. Best of all, it doesn't preclude a fusion if required later.

                          Rode horses after 2 weeks recovery.
                          Equus makus brokus but happy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I just had my first back surgery....was injured 10 plus years ago when a horse flipped over on me...

                            I was operated on Feb 9, spent a week in the hospital and recovery was about 8 weeks. (I have 4 vertebrae in the lowest part of my back, fused.... 8screws, 3 rods and a plate holding it all together now) I was a MESS!

                            I have all the feeling back in my feet. I have no more hip pain and though I lost ALL the strenth in my core...I have slowly started back with work.

                            Was tempted today to ride....but something about falling with all this hardware now attached to me gives me the creeps!

                            After 10 years of pain...I am still getting used to life without it. Nice to be able to sit in a car for hours on end without squirming and having to take pain meds...can work a full day on my feet and the only thing that hurts is the fact I am so out of shape!

                            As to whether it will give me the ability to ride again....guess that all depends on how chicken poopoo I am

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hosspuller

                              You have an artificial disc? I thought those were still kind of experimental, or at least problematic. I see them being advertised for the lumbar spine......

                              If I may ask, what led to your decision to use the disc versus fusion? And if you were dealing with a lumbar surgery, would you have still opted for the disc?

                              Thanks.
                              Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                              Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                              -Rudyard Kipling

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I'm intrigued by the artificial discs, too. I've got three discs degenerating. I'd really rather not get fused. Maybe Hosspuller could start a new thread about artificial discs? So as not to hijack this one....

                                I'd like to know more, though!
                                My Work In Progress...

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by sign of Grace View Post
                                  May I ask what everyone's fusion was for? Disc problems or vertebrae or both?

                                  I have little to moderate sciatica as of right now, but I'm being told the only way to "fix" my problem is surgery. My L5 is 80% off of my S1.
                                  The reason for my first fusion was I had a fall and broke the joints (pars interarticularis) between L5 & S1 on both sides, causing spondylolisthesis (which is what you describe above).

                                  The reason for the second fusion was partly due to a disc issue and partly due to a ton of scar tissue that arose after the first surgery.

                                  If you ride endurance, I'd say a minimim of a year before you're competing again (and that's for a short ride, maybe 25 miles).
                                  Last edited by tarynls; Apr. 29, 2011, 11:11 AM. Reason: typo!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by AWorkinProgress View Post
                                    I'm intrigued by the artificial discs, too. I've got three discs degenerating. I'd really rather not get fused. Maybe Hosspuller could start a new thread about artificial discs? So as not to hijack this one....

                                    I'd like to know more, though!
                                    Me too! What was Hosspuller's diagnosis to begin with? I'm facing surgery 20May (c4-6). Artificial disc was never brought up, and I've seen 3 different neuro surgeons.
                                    "Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      I had sciatic pain so severe it was getting hard to do anything. well the joke is on me I guess because it is the 5th day after surgery and I'm in AGONY. Again the back and incision itself hurts but could deal with that. Now I have crippling sciatica in BOTH legs.
                                      Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                                      Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Summerhorse, hang in there. My friend recently had back surgery in December. She had such bad sciatica pain she was walking doubled over with a walker. She visited the ER twice and basically had "emergency" back surgery because she was in SO much pain. She said for a couple weeks, her sciatica pain worsened after surgery.

                                        But after 3 months, she's back to riding and the pain subsided!

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