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 Post subject: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 7:35 am 
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My husband (75, but a young 75 and not sedentary) has severe spinal stenosis in his lumbar spine caused by a number of different skeletal issues (spondyolithesis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, etc. No accident, just arthritis and a life of hard work). Previous surgery in 2012 installed a clamp at L4-L5, but the expected bone fusion itself there never really grew bone or fused the way it was supposed to and the clamp is now allowing slippage, more pain and nerve impingement. His worst areas are L3-L5, but there are some issues in about every level. He's been told everything from do a massive t10-s1 fusion, to do nothing because the physical cost of surgery is too much and there is no guarantee it will really work. Some drs want to do smaller surgeries, and fuse L4-L5 without the clamp and decompress L3. These surgeons are against the more aggressive massive fusions and feel less is more now, but can't really say on the likelihood of another surgery down the road.

Because we have gotten such extreme variation in recommendations, we were wondering whether people here that have had spinal fusion surgery have found it successful, whether they have had to have another spinal fusion within a few years, whether it relieved their back pain, did nothing for it or increased it, whether they recovered function from nerve impingement and what age they were when they had it. PM is fine; appreciate the input.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 8:35 am 
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February 1st I had "roto-rooter" on L3, 4 and 5. In a few months I'll be 80. I had the shots in the spine, they helped but not enough. I was in great pain. I chose surgry. The recovery was tough but 7 weeks later although not cured yet I am almmost normal and each day it is bit better. I am still going to PT. The surgeon didn't recommend the fusion.
Would I do it again? Yes, before the operation I was almost a cripple. Today after PT I am going for a semi-long walk for the first time in many months.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 9:56 am 
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I have not had back surgery so cannot give personal experiences for that. I did receive an interesting article from UCHealth on an alternative to fusing the spine.

Trial tests an alternative to spinal fusion for back pain

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In the trial, both groups get decompression surgery to relieve the narrowing in their spines. The control group gets spinal fusion; two in three get the TOPS device. The TOPS surgery involves securing two titanium plates with screws in the vertebrae above and below the decompressed space. In between the plates sits a bearing sealed in housing that absorbs stress between the vertebrae and allows the spine to flex, rotate and move laterally, just as a natural disk would.


This article is about a "trial" of the new technique but it might be worth your husband's time to contact them about it and see if he would be eligible to participate.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 10:30 am 
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Have a brother and sister that have both had the surgery, both a lot younger, and they are miserable and have had to have multiple surgeries over the years. It almost seems like a crap shoot. Be extremely careful because even the so called experts don't seem to be overly successful. Kind of like baseball where you're considered an all star by getting on base 1/3 of the time. Best of luck with whatever you choose to do.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 12:10 pm 
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I have DDD and scoliosis, and I have found the DDS Belt (Disc Disease Solution) helps me ALOT! I bought a used one on EBay probably a decade ago because I didn't want to spend the $$$ on a new one if it wasn't going to work for me. (I was pre Medicare at that time. I have since bought several more because they take several days to line dry after washing.) It is simply a belt that you place around your waist and inflate. The belt presses downward on your pelvis and upward on your rib cage to physically decompress your lower vertebrae, and it also provide a degree of "traction" for the lower back. In the beginning I wore it for several hours a day, every day, and I noticed relief almost immediately. Pain free . . . no. . . but a fair amount of pain reduction. I also use my inversion table (Teeter Hang Up) when I overdo my physical activity. Now, I use the DDS belt when I know I am going to be using my back (bending over a lot, lifting heavy loads, moving heavy furniture, etc) more or less to protect it. I no longer have to wear to DDS belt every day unless I have overdone something. I recommended this belt to a friend that has stenosis, however, it did not give her any relief at all. So it is a very individual thing whether it will provide some/any relief. But I would certainly give this a try before undergoing surgery. I, too, have a friend (much younger) who has had multiple back surgeries, and he is STILL in a great deal of pain. :( Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Pain sucks.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 12:33 pm 
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You might PM poster ridgewalker. I know she had a complex surgery years ago and may be able to offer advice. Good luck! I’m sure the pain is horrible.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 1:43 pm 
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Yes, I did have fusion surgery 10 years ago.

They fused L5 thru S2. Normally, there isn't a disc between S1 and S2 but I did have one and it bulged one direction while the disc between L5 and S1 bulged the other direction. Bi-lateral sciatic nerve pain so bad I could only walk a few steps before resting. I could only stand still for a few seconds at a time. The surgery took 5-1/2 hours. Recovery wasn't particularly easy but it was definitely better than the pain prior to surgery. I was 49 years old at the time. Today, I rarely have any pain whatsoever. I frequently "forget" about the hardware and do something ill-advised like jumping out of the bed of a truck. I take several day-long motorcycle rides every summer. I work/play with two GSD pups (one of them is super high energy, very athletic, powerful and LOVES to puppy-pounce Mom). I would do it again in half a heartbeat!

My surgeon was Chad Prusmack. Other posters here have also been treated by him with equally stellar results.

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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 21, 2019 2:31 pm 
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I had my L4 and L5 fused last June due to spondylolisthesis. At 61 years old I had worn out the joint between the vertebrae. Prior to the surgery I was having pain in my lower legs/ankles and could not sit in the car for more than 30 minutes without stopping and getting out. The recovery took a few months and I would now consider myself back to 100%. Mine was and one level fusion and I had been having problems for only about 18 months.


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 Post subject: Re: Spinal fusion success question
Post Posted: Mar 22, 2019 5:03 pm 
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Appreciate the comments. My husband had several shots before 2012 and one in 2017, but there wasn't a single one that did any good, even for a day. He's had traction, the belt (though not the inflatable one), the ILIF clamp, PT etc. The clamp procedure worked for about 4-5 years, but since it never really fused, its allowing slippage again. We are told that whenever one level or more in the spine is fused, it can put more pressure on the levels above and below (sometimes resulting in additional surgery) and it seems to be true in his case; L3 has spondyolithesis, scoliosis is now present etc., along with severe nerve impingement. Arthritis, DDD, herniation and even a cyst at L3 is also present.

We tried to see Dr. Prusmack, but couldn't get in; we did see a neurosurgeon he works with. This doctor has a "less is more" kind of approach and suggested decompression of L4 and L3 with no fusion. Another surgeon (orthopedic) suggested fusing L4-L5 and decompressing L3. Neither would straighten the spine and both say there are more problems and can't say whether they will worsen or even guess at how long (understandable). One doc wants to do a massive fusion from roughly T10-S1, including straightening the spine (an 8 hr surgery, with much rehabilitation and two years recovery time). A neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in AZ said he needed multilevel fusion surgery, but don't do it- the physical cost is too great. Amazing the differences in opinions between doctors. We are still contemplating and continuing to try non-surgical options along with him just living with it.


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