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3 level lumbar fusion
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3 level lumbar fusion

Hi all.  I'm facing a three level lumbar fusion and am very nervous about it.  I've had herniated discs at L3 through S1 (as well as grade 1 anterolisthesis) for several years now.  I've been very fortunate until now, as I would have occasional 'flare ups' , but with meds and rest it always got better after a couple of weeks.  In the past there was no sciatica involved.  My family dr. sent me to a spine specialist in August and he told me the only 'fix' was a fusion.  He did let me know that after a fusion of that magnitude, there would likely be some pain for the rest of my life.  Since it was once again getting better, I didn't want to have surgery and he completely agreed.  

Things have changed dramatically now.  For the past six weeks I've been dealing with severe sciatic pain in my upper leg and deep muscle pain in my calf.  I saw the specialist and he says we now have to go in and fix it.  He is sending me for a new MRI (my last was in August) so he can see exactly how he will need to do the surgery.  I keep hoping the new MRI will show something that we can do instead of surgery, but the logical part of my brain knows better.  I can't live with it like it is now, as it continues to rule my life (as I'm sure you all understand).

I guess what I'm looking for here is some idea of what to expect.  If anyone has had a 3 level lumbar fusion, I'd like to know how difficult the recovery period is.  I don't want to kid myself, if you know what I mean.  I'm also wondering if the 'new' pain is going to be easier to deal with.

I know this is a rambling post, but it somehow makes me feel better to join you all in supporting each other.

Thanks for letting me ramble...:-)
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Avatar_n_tn
hi, i have had a two level fusion, two years ago, now they want to do a third! not sure what to tell you, but have you had a nerve conduction test to see how much permanent nerve damage you have? mine is pretty bad, so even after the 1st fusion, i was in pain...last january my "new" dr. removed that hardware and i noticed that 3 months later i had a totally different pain..did an mri and discovered that the L3_L4 had herniated ...they want to go in and fix that , b/c my nerve pain this time is down the back of my butt and both legs all the way down.

recovery was not as bad as i had expected...mind you 1 fusion..was up after the 1st week trying to vaccuum and clean up the house (ocd, i guess!) it does get better everyday, but a 3 level is pretty intense. some of the nerves will probably be completly damaged and never regenarte (my case), hopefully you have had a nerve conduction test to see just how bad the damage is now....

sorry i couldn't help any more, but it might help, it might not...thats what the drs. say! arrgghh!

nan2687
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Avatar_n_tn
I don't know either of your situations, but one thing I can say for sure is that the procedure you have will often depend on which doctor you see.  When I was searching for a neurosurgeon in 2006, I had no idea what was needed, so I got the original doctor's opinion and then took my MRI and CT scans to 3 other physicians for opinions.  Much to my dismay, no one agreed on a single procedure to "fix" me. The first one suggested a laminectomy from C3 through C7, the second said a 5 level laminectomy was too risky from the standpoint of stability over time and suggested a laminoplasty (leaving lamina intact, but opening each level to provide more space).....the next doctor said I needed both a posterior AND an anterior procedure done and the last doctor said a fusion.  I came to the conclusion that I needed to do my own research on which procedures tend to be most successful, since I only have one back and I didn't want to be in surgery every year. I think that each surgeon seems to have a "favorite" procedure and one that they've used and applied to most every case they have.
I immediately decided against fusion because one physician said that it tends to put undue pressure on the levels above and below where you're fused - sometimes resulting in the need for more future surgery at THOSE levels.  (I think that I've seen some posts on this site that bear out that point.)  I eventually decided to go with the laminoplasty for my situation, though I know it's not a "one size fits all" thing.  I just can't emphasize enough that when you're contemplating surgery on your spine, you should at the very least get two opinions before making a decision on what is best for YOU.  The other thing I would suggest is that if you're seeing a spine specialist that happens to be an orthopedic surgeon, get your second opinion from a neurosurgeon.  They are closely aligned specialties, but while orthopods do spine surgeries, neurosurgeons deal exclusively with the brain, nerves and spinal cord....and they may have a different viewpoint on what you need. At the very least, if they confirm that a fusion is needed, you will feel better about having made the right decision.  Hope this helps!  Jo
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