BLOG – L4-5 Spinal Fusion Surgery

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    Hi, Fritz. i was not so badly affected by my spinal problems as some of the other people on this forum but i had reached the stage where I could only walk for about 5-10 minutes brfore I had to sit down and rest. This was due to compression of spinal nerves mainly at L4/L5.
    to cut a long story short, I had a lumbar laminectomy and spinan fusion at L4/L5 with a bone graft from my hip and some bone and some bone substitude which i have forgetten the name of.No hardware because the Neurosurgeon said my vertebrae were too bad to hold it. That was in July 2011 and I was then almost 79 years old. I was in hospital for week and in a rehab hospital for another week then home. I have never regretted it and can walk for quite a few . I do have some nerve damge in my lewr legs but it does not prevent me from doing anything.Like you I had researched it and got a second opinion but knew I was deteriorating anyway. Marjorie


    How lovely to hear of a great success story, and at Marjorie’s age even more so, must have given you a whole new lease of life Marjorie.


    Saturday 24th January.

    Last night, I was tempted to try and write something witty about taking a high dose of morphine before going to the cinema. The fact off the matter is that if sitting down exacerbates your pain, then painkillers aren’t likely to get you through a film at the flicks. You have to rely on other things like breathing exercises, shuffling your weight back and forth from one butt cheek to the other, or scoffing a bag of liquorice toffees. And that’s not really funny for those of us in pain.

    One of the side effects I get from morphine is vivid dreams. I just woke with a start from a vivid dream where I witnessed a family member have a heart attack after we witnessed a terrorist bombing. Sadly, I snapped awake from this terribly vivid nightmare, only to realise after a few seconds that I was now wide awake and my pain meds have worn off.

    So I’m now between a rock and a hard place: I can lie here with raging pain in my hips. Or I can take my morphine and return to some pretty awful visions.

    A nurse once said to me that sleep is physically important, even if it’s mentally draining. So I’ve taken more meds and I’m waiting for them to work.

    Pain really sucks and I hope this surgery really is in the 95% of successful outcomes.



    Hi Steve, I agree with you totally that the forum by its nature will have members dealing with chronic pain. You are right that there are probably thousands of people each year that the surgery is successful. I think it is very good of you to be writing a blog page on your journey towards your spinal fusion. I am sure that anyone in a similar situation to yourself in the future will get a lot from it. I know if there was a post I could of read about someone’s journey would of helped me. I hope that your surgery goes well and I will be interested to carry on reading your blog to see how things go for you. Keeping everything crossed for you.



    HI Judi,

    Thank you for your lovely post. I think it can be so comforting when we talk to someone with the same problems as yourself. We all have dark days when we think that we are the only ones going through the pain, to be honest I think that makes the pain worse. I am not particularly crafty but I am going to give it a go. I will have to let myself have a go as I can be a perfectionist but in the grand scheme of things it really does not matter. I used to enjoy baking, I got the bug after the bake-off but it depends so much on having a great day pain wise plus it doesn’t help with the waistline . I had no idea until I read your post that you can do a jigsaw via an app. I downloaded an app yesterday and I have spent a couple of hours this morning doing a jigsaw on lighthouses. It certainly helped take my mind off my pain as today is a not a great day. I have also dug out an old puzzle book that was bought for me as a gift, but never touched. I think I will have a busy afternoon today. I hope you are having a good day today. My email is it would be great to keep in touch. You are welcome to email me anytime as is anyone on the forum.



    Sunday 25th January 2015

    Lumbar pain can mess with your head.

    This evening I was wandering around the house holding my left hip as the pain was bad again. My better half asked what I was doing holding my hip as she thought my back was the problem. She was quite right of course but it brought home an interesting point. The ‘injury’ site is in my lumbar spine, level with the top of my iliac crests. To me that is a million miles away from where my brain is telling me it hurts in my hip joints. Even further away are the pins and needles I get in my left foot.

    This is the problem that messes with your head – the logical bit of my brain tells me, from conversation and consultation, that the injury is in my back. I’ve seen the images and had everything explained to me in detail so I know this to be true. However, the subconscious bit of my brain that deals with pain is telling me that it’s my hips and lower leg that’s injured. Subconsciously, I am reaching out to hold and protect and rub my hips and lower leg. Then my conscious logical brain bits catch me doing it and I feel silly and stop holding it. Then ten minutes later I find myself holding my hips again.

    There’s an argument going on in my head that only I know about and trying to explain it to a partner who is pain free is like pushing water uphill. With a fork.

    This is one of the reasons I like to sleep. So I can’t switch off from the argument!

    More ramblings soon.



    Tuesday 27th January 2015.

    Today I went to the hospital for a two-hour seminar on the spinal fusion surgery. It’s part of the ‘Enhanced Recovery Programme’ they run so that patients are much better informed prior to surgery what’s going to happen on the day. There were 7 patients, with partners/carers, and it was done very professionally with three presentations from the orthopaedic surgery practitioner, the head of rehabilitation therapy, and one of the acute pain team members.
    Really good presentations and it helped with some of the anxiety. Good to know that they won’t be harvesting bone from my hip. Good to know they don’t use post surgery back braces. Good to know that the ward staff priority is pain management. Apparently, being in pain is forbidden on the ward! Only one downside for me: because I have had a discectomy at the same level last year, there will be scar tissue that will need to be removed. The likelihood is that there will be a dural tear as they do it, so I will have to spend the first 48hrs after surgery immobile on my back, which means I could be in for a week.
    The big reassurance is that, of the 5% of patients who get worse pain out of a fusion, over half of them had a pre-existing condition which caused it or were smokers or obese. None of that applies to me so, chances are, I’ll be fine and dandy. In true seminar style we got homework to do before surgery. Core strengthening exercises and stretches to do daily up until surgery day.

    Feeling much more confident about it now. 🙂


    Friday 30th January 2015

    Went to see my GP again today after a week of a lot of pain. It turns out that domestic plumbing repairs and servicing a chainsaw is not on the list of things I’m allowed to do when my back is buggered. I was given a stern warning not to overdo it again and sent on my way with an increased dose of MST and another bottle of oramorph. It’s not often your GP gives you a rollicking, so I guess I was naughty and shan’t do it again.

    Now, time for some serious film watching…


    This is tough…. I have had 4 spinal fusions on my lower/lumbar back and two on my cervical/neck area. My first was over 30 years ago and the last 5 years ago. I don’t regret having them as I had no choice at the time. BUT… this surgery does have consequences…I have big problems above and below the affected areas and I am doing my utmost to avoid surgery at the lower thoracic levels. I don’t know if I will be able to hold out, but I am really trying my hardest. ASD (adjacent segment disease) is a very real possibility. I’m not saying I don’t think people should have this surgery, I’m just saying that- even though looking into the future might not be high on your agenda now- please consider how it might affect you further down the line, so to speak…. If you have no choice-like me- go for it, but if there is ANY chance of other treatment, do please try that first…

    Good Luck!


    Hi Kitty,

    You’re right, I don’t have any choice. If I can’t stand up without pain, I can’t work. I’ve been warned about ASD, which is why I resigned my sports activities. If I am strict with myself and don’t bend or twist under load, it greatly reduces the chance of ASD, as does fully complying with PT instructions during recovery. Nobody wants surgery but, like you, at some point you have to accept its the only chance and you have to take it.



    Tuesday 3rd February 2015

    Today was pre-op assessment day. Another hour long drive to the hospital!
    On the bright side, everyone at this hospital is really nice. Always have been. I got there at midday for a 2pm appointment and the receptionist, who by chance I’d met at another clinic recently, just asked straight away if I’d like to lie down across the chairs!

    She gave me a questionnaire to fill out for my previous medical history, previous surgery and current medications. Fortunately, I’d already printed it all out at home so I just stapled it to the form and gave it straight back.

    Being accommodating as they are, they saw me straight away. The healthcare assistant took my blood pressure, height, weight, ECG etc, and then I saw the pre-op sister. She went through my printout and made sure there was nothing amiss that might affect my surgery. She didn’t mind that I kept standing up every time my foot went numb either! She was quite thorough when it came to previous anaesthetics and how I had recovered from them. She noted that I am on high doses of morphine already and wrote a message to the anaeththetist to ensure I have a double dose pca after surgery.

    She gave me a urine sample bottle to bring back exactly two weeks before the surgery date. This is to make sure there is no nicotine in my system. I don’t smoke or chew tobacco so its not an issue for me. However, fusion surgery cannot go ahead if you are a smoker and they will not operate if you don’t stop. This is because nicotine will inhibit the bone growth and you won’t fuse. It’s as simple as that. That’s why they test you at two weeks. If you test positive, they cancel your surgery and still have time to give the admission date to a non-smoker.

    I was also given a blood test form to attend two days before surgery. Group & save and cross match. This is so that my blood type and serum can be recorded and the surgeon will tell the blood bank how many units they need to have available for the operation, or on standby. Surprisingly enough, spinal fusion surgery will involve a significant amount of blood loss so at least two units will be needed.

    After the sister, I was seen by the pharmacist. He went through all my current medications and told me when to take them on the day of the surgery. He also needs the information in order to ensure the ward has enough stock for my stay. I had standard screening blood tests on my way out of the hospital.

    So everything is now in place and the countdown begins.

    I have a month to go before the big day, so I’m preparing well.
    I have 700 films on an external hard drive ready to watch in the days following, new PJs ordered. Mobility equipment either bought or booked to hire. I even have about 12 good friends booked on a ‘rota’ for visiting I’m that well prepared this time.

    All that is left to do is keep moving as much as possible, keep exercising and try not to put on any more weight!




    Hi I have just had A 7 level lumber spinal fusion for scoliosis and my back fortunately seems to be fine. It is the burning nerve pain that is unbearable on my front from my waist to my knees. I have been put on Pregablin bot it affects my eyes.
    I am not sorry I had the op as I was housebound an now I feel hopeful of being able to walk again. i am still on crutches but it is only early days for me, My op was on 17Jan 2015. I am just trying to say that not all fusions are bad ones. I could Go on and tell you all s muc more but my eyes are so bad. Love Jean x


    Hi Jean,

    It’s brilliant to hear you so upbeat about your surgery. 7 level fusion must be a real challenge to recover from and it’s a brave decision to go ahead. To be able to walk after being housebound must be awesome!

    I feel for you on the Pregabalin. I had completely blurred vision when they gave it to me. Have you asked to swap? They tried gabapentin on me which had the same effect. Then they tried amitriptyline, which made me feel wired, but I could see and got plenty of sleep. Ask your GP if you can try something else.

    Thanks for the positive post.



    Saturday 7th February.

    Yesterday started out well, peaked late morning and then went downhill all the way to the end.

    I had deliberately booked a supermarket delivery for early morning so that I didn’t waste the morning in bed. So I was up at 0700 and the shopping was in the kitchen by 0720.

    By 1000 I had the shopping away, cleaned out the fireplace, lit the fire, put out washing in front of it to dry and fixed a drawer with a piece of sandpaper and glue.

    At 1100, I was walking the dog. The pain in my hips and legs was pushing past the breakthrough morphine and so I phoned the doctors surgery for a repeat prescription for oramorph as I was likely to run out over the weekend.

    Unusually, my GP answered the phone and, while she said she would do the prescription, she gave me another hard time about it. She said she would be ringing the chronic pain team to speed up the referral as she was concerned that the pct would be on her case for prescribing them.

    When I got to the surgery to collect my prescription, she said that she had spoken to the pain team and that they had said I am on way too much morphine and they would be ringing me later in the day.

    My thoughts were: 1. I am the one in pain, not them. 2. How can they determine how much pain meds I need without examining me? 3. I’m on the same medication that the hospital took two weeks to sort out when I was in over Christmas.

    I was a little fed up but got on with the rest of my day regardless. In the evening, I went out for a meal and to the cinema with my wife. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not taking my painkillers out with me and, as a result, I spent the second half of the film in agony. Which kind of reinforced why I need to be on painkillers in the first place. So I’m feeling combative and belligerent about it now.

    On the bright side, my disabled badge turned up this morning.



    Monday morning (09/02) and I’m fixing a cable to the outside wall in my back garden. Step ladders, although positioned firmly on flat even concrete floor, decide to rapidly move sideways. Resultantly, I rapidly moved vertically. The resultant tangle of broken step ladders, patio furniture and limbs took the fire brigade about an hour to stabilise and remove.

    The ambulance service took me straight to hospital, where I remain on IV morphine, MST morphine, Tramadol, cocodamol and some other drugs I can’t spell or pronounce.

    The biggest concern is the reaction of friends or family to the news. I was expecting something along the lines of “Oh my God, are you ok? What do you need?” Instead, what I got was “Oh my God, what were you doing up a step ladder?

    Funny things people.

    Looks like I’ll be here until the surgery on 5th March.


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