|Incisions three months post surgery.|
My three-month follow-up visit was February 17th, 2012. The first fusion which was done on my L4-L5 on October 14, 2010, clearly shows on the x-ray that complete fusion along the edges of the implant cage has occurred. It was exciting to see and such a difference from an x-ray over a year ago. Most orthopaedic spine surgeons will tell you it can take up to three years for full fusion to take place. Of course a lot depends on your health and your exercise regime. My surgeon was very happy with the healing and growth of the first fusion. Coming in May, I will be having a 64-slice CT Scan that will, in three-dimensions, show just how 'filled in' the entire disc space it. I'm looking forward to it.
This last fusion which took place November 17, 2011 and was at the L5-S1 level, shows no movement since the surgery. The first three months after surgery are critical to the fusion 'setting'...usually at this point it is in the position it will permanently fuse in. You are very limited in what you can do during these three months. NO LIFTING, NO BENDING at all. Of course you don't feel like doing those things anyway, so it's not real difficult to follow the doc's instructions. He actually said I'm at the point where I have "NO RESTRICTIONS" (his words). I can do what I feel like doing but to be sure to not do things that will cause pain...pain is the message your body gives you when you are overdoing it or doing something that is stressing the fusion area. So, I have gone back to the weight machines at the gym...but with a very low resistance. I only want to re-tone my arms and legs and not try to do MAJOR weights like I did after the first fusion...which led to the second fusion. I can walk over two miles with no leg weakness and am biking with a very good cardio rate for up to 45 minutes. Exercise is SO critical to the whole healing process. A handful of folks I met who told me they had family members or friends who DID NOT heal fully after this type of surgery also revealed that those patients DID NOT exercise before OR after the surgery. If you KNOW you won't be committed to the post surgery exercise routine...then I BEG you to not do this surgery. I fear your outcome will not be good.
Overall, I'm back to my normal life with minimal pain at times. Every once in a while I do have a pain level that will reach a 5 or 6. Usually after a LONG day at work with a lot of up and down from my chair and a lot of driving. Of course, stress can add to a pain level...and that, too, happens from time to time. A couple of extra strength Tylenol, though, takes care of any discomfort. I've only had to resort to 1/2 a Vicodin (hydrocodone) on two occasions. Sleep is very good even though when I roll from my back to either side I still wake up because I've got to put a pillow between my legs /knees for comfort. I DO NOT bend at the waist and, frankly, haven't done so for nearly two years. I am working at getting my quads in better shape in order to use those muscles to squat/rise when I need to pick something up. I still and probably will always use my extended grippers around the house. Why bend and put stress on the rest of my back if I don't have to. Right?
Here is a link about this surgery that I found to be very interesting. I'm a curious gal and always want to know the mechanics behind everything...this surgery being no different. Please check out the links attached to this webpage. This might help you as you make your decision to move forward with a fusion. I will keep this blog up even though I may not post very often. I want it to be here for anyone who may have questions and may need to contact someone who has been through this procedure...twice.