View Full Version : Questions- pre-op, post-op

09-28-2005, 11:52 AM
After months of struggling, fear, denial, I have faced the fact that I need surgery. I have a 70deg. left T1-6 high thoracic curve and a 105 deg. right T6-L2 thoracic. Also a 45 deg lumbar to L5. 7 yrs. ago in 1998 the thoracic curve was 92, so it's clearly getting worse.

I am currently experiencing pain only in my right SI. I am seeing a body worker who has helped to decrease the intensity and frequency of this pain. If I lie on my love seat, with my head on 1 arm rest and my calves on the other, I apparently put myself into a sort of traction and it relieves the pain when I have it. At least for now- things keep changing. I have a kneeling chair that helps for extended work at my computer. I have no pain in the rest of my back, altho I do notice a twisting sensation in my left ribcage and sometimes it feels like it's squeezing together in back.

I am a dancer/instructor- although I can't do much dancing these days due to the back pain- when it goes out I can barely walk, can't bend, etc. But I still try to do as much as I can to stay in shape.

My surgery is tentatively scheduled for Feb.7 at HSS with Dr. Boachie-Adjei. I realize that every situation is unique, and it's hard to compare ourselves, but I was wondering if there was anyone who was in a similar situation who has had the surgery?

Dr. Boachie warned me that I may end up with new symptoms of pain after the surgery; this concerns me- can any of you enlighten me/ share your experiences on this?

Also, I was wondering what I can do to prepare for the surgery. I know I should eat a high protein diet, try to gain weight, and keep up my pulminary function (which is currently not significantly compromised). But what about preparing the house for when I come home? I find myself wondering "Will I be able to do this?" as I brush my teeth, comb my hair, reach into the cupboard for a glass.... I did go to the "Resuming Acxtivities After Scoliosis Surgery" which was very helpful, but there are so many little everyday things that will most likely be affected.

Also, I run a dance school and do everything from scheduling, accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc, etc, myself. I am lining people up to take over while I am out of commission, but can anyone suggest how long that might be? I know it's be quite awhile before I can go in and teach again, but what about doing things at home at the computer?

Sorry for the length- the questions just keep coming! Any input, advice, suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

09-28-2005, 01:00 PM
Hi Rosella...

We're all very different, so my experience might not be anything like yours. I had surgery at the age of 42. After surgery, all of the lower back pain that I had was gone, but I had a lot of burning at the top of my fusion, which lasted for about 3 years. I also had right S-I joint pain before surgery. It would come and go, with 2-3 bad "attacks" per year. The surgery did not improve that pain. One surgeon told me that I was causing the pain by laying on my left side in bed, with my right (top leg) resting on the bed instead of resting on my left leg, or a pillow placed between by legs. I do seem to be able to avoid the pain by not going into that position. Unfortunately, when I'm sleeping I sometimes move into that position without knowing it.

When I came home from the hospital, I was able to do everything in terms of my own grooming (with the exception of things like shaving my legs). And, I was able to put in an hour or two at a time, at my desk at about 4-5 weeks post op.

Best of luck with your surgery.


09-28-2005, 06:03 PM
HI Rosella. I am sorry to hear that you have been having so much trouble with pain and your curves have progressed.

I had a 70 degree lumbar curve, which was causing me quite a lot of pain, even when I was sleeping. I also had a forty-something degree thoracic curve. For a few years I monitored it and the curves just kept progressing.

I also had to accept the fact that I needed surgery and had my fusion done by Dr. Boachie. You are certainly in good hands. It's hard to predict whether you'll still have the same pain after the surgery. I went from being in pain 70-80% of the time to minimal pain, maybe 10% of the time now. He did not guarantee me a pain-free result either...I don't think he guarantees that for anyone.

Dr. Boachie's staff was just wonderful before, during and after the surgery. I recommend going to rehab, if possible. It forced me to move around and I was instructed on how to do household and personal tasks. By the time I arrived home, I felt comfortable staying home alone while my husband was at work. I knew how to climb steps, etc. My parents live very close to me, and visited daily to walk with me outside.

I wish you all the best and don't hesitate to contact me with further questions...

09-29-2005, 10:11 AM
Thank you for responding. It's a scary road ahead of me, but so many have already travelled it and come out the better for it. It's nice to have this support system!

09-29-2005, 12:01 PM
hi rosella, as you can see from my signature, i had surgery this summer. i'm nearly 11 weeks post op and (having consulted my surgeon on it) have been back to swimming and riding a horse already (please don't have heart attacks everyone, i'm fine) plus i've been driving and i'm trying to get a part time job doing admin or something else which is "easy"

my pain is GONE. i could've drawn with a fine line pen where my pain was before (i had about a 55* lumbar curve and 35*thoracic compensatory curve, so i just had a lumbar fusion) the only pain i had was where i had my costectomy (rib removed to gain access and use as a bone graft) and initially in my spine but now it's gone. maybe i'm lucky.

in relation to preparing your home - make sure before you leave that things aren't too high up or low down (you won't be able to bend) and that you have someone to help you. i don't know when postop consultations tend to take place in the states but my first one was 6 weeks and that was my first chance to get restrictions lifted (i'm basically saying that's how long you need help for - even if you start feeling better, you have to wait for your doctor's say so before you can bend and stuff again)

i'd say yes, keep your lung function up. i'd assume that as a dancer you know about diaphragmatic breathing, make sure you're good at that - lung function is affected by surgery and apparently it takes two years to fully recover, but you can be good enough to function quite normally pretty quickly. another good thing to do is swim if you can because swimming is great for all the muscles in your back.

this could potentially be taken the wrong way, i wouldn't want anyone to go overboard with this advice, but another thing is, it doesn't hurt if you have a bit of weight you can afford to lose. i was marginally overweight and don't lost weight easily but i lost 17lb in 10 days following surgery. a lot of patients i've spoken to have ended up very thin and consequently weak as a result of surgery, so make sure you're just generally healthy and strong beforehand. i hope all that makes sense :) feel free to ask me any other questions, i'm pretty open about all this stuff!

09-29-2005, 02:17 PM
hi rosella, as you can see from my signature, i had surgery this summer. i'm nearly 11 weeks post op and (having consulted my surgeon on it) have been back to swimming and riding a horse already (please don't have heart attacks everyone, i'm fine)

OK, I won't have a heart attack. If you start having problems, however, don't be surprised. :-)


09-29-2005, 02:19 PM
My surgery is in ONE week... does anyone know how i can become healthy, strong, and young in a week????

09-29-2005, 03:07 PM
Are you a witch? If so, I think all you need to do is twitch your nose. ;-) On the serious side, my recommendation would be to keep your diet as healthy as possible for the next week.


09-29-2005, 03:54 PM
OK, I won't have a heart attack. If you start having problems, however, don't be surprised. :-)


OMG, LOL. Sorry but that's funny, I don't mean to be rude :)

09-29-2005, 04:31 PM
OK, I won't have a heart attack. If you start having problems, however, don't be surprised. :-)

i won't be the one in trouble, my doctor will ;) i think i'll be ok. i've only ridden once and he said as long as i don't fall off...

10-03-2005, 10:42 AM
You don't mention your age, or your marital status. Just before you leave
home, collect your pans, skillets, bowls which you use every day and locate
them on or above the counter. Get everything off the floor which you might need to pick up. You will not be able to pull open the stove drawer and access the lower cabinets for many months ( without hurting your sacrum). As for the computer, If you are working on it from the office, or home , get a cordless key board and mouse, (about 39$ at any electronics stores) and put your computer on small a rolling desk. I am assuming you are in your forties or fifties so in the first four or five months, in order to be at the office for any length of time you will need a twin bed. ( you may be thinking, "I won't need to do these things". Think again. Your back will hurt and time on your feet and/or sitting will aggravate those painful areas. You can spend some time working on your feet and then lay down, pull your computer close, and use the cordless mouse and pad. All Physical therapists will tell you, sitting is the worst position for a back surgery patient. Take your grabber ( you will wear out several) in the shower with you. If you drop the soap, you are out of luck without it. Lean against the wall to shave your legs. BUY A TUB MAT! another young patient I know, slipped in the tub which necessitated another operation to replace damaged hardware. Your balance will be off for quite awhile. Invest in some therabands probably blue. After your PTherapy you will use them. Don't lean over (bend) as you feel better. I was told I could only genuflect ( keeping the upper back totally straight) to pick up things and boy was he right! The sacrum is going to be your weak spot. It will hurt longer then anything else. Everything will be numb in the beginning, but over six months, it will slowly and inconsistantly awaken. If you are married, have your husband write a schedule of your meds. If you are not married, maybe you have a good friend who could oversee your schedule. You will have many powerful medications, six or seven, and all will be taken at different times and amounts. You will be out of it and or groggy, but not tracking right for many weeks. Figuring out the schedule is not easy when you aren't feeling well. You will only sleep and limp to the bathroom. If you are by yourself, stock up on food and have friends come by to check on you. Your body will get better, then worse in an inconsistent dance towards health. Purchase two small round stick-on wide-angle mirrors for your side view mirrors at Walmart. You will need these because you can't twist to see traffic over your shoulder.Put your tie shoes in the back of your closet; slipons will be your shoes. You
will be physically ill (throwing up) in the hospital, it may be from neurontin or
oxycontin. You also may not be able to sleep at night in the hospital, and at home. Try to get off the above two meds within the first month at home. You will probably remain on hydracodone for the remainder of your rehab.
You are going to be depressed, stay on your antidepressants . Those of us
who like to be superwomen are struck a very hard blow by this operation-we are not going to make our own rules; we will get much better, then we will be dealt a new set of pains somewhere else on the back. Plan carefully for others to take over for you as you will need it more than you know. You will look great, and feel like hell! My guess is, you will not do much office work or much car travel for the first two months. If you try to do those things you accomplished before surgery, your back will speak to you with more pain and bed time. Show your friends your x-rays, they will understand better. You
will look great, they won't understand what your body is experiencing on the inside. Good luck and "roll with the flow". Kathleen, 63years, seven months

10-03-2005, 09:55 PM
Thanks for all the useful information! I am 45 and am married, no children. A friend will be staying with me after I get out of rehab to help out. I already bought one grabber! And I already anticipated not being able to pick up dropped bars of soap, so I told my husband we'll be switching to liquid soap after the operation! We have a small shower stall- no bathtub- do you think I'll need a grab bar? It sounds grim indeed, but I'd rather be prepared for the worst than find out too late all the things I should have done to get thru the first months after the surgery. Am wondering about clothes- should I stock up on button down shirts? I assume pullover sweaters will not be easy to wear? Thanks for the info and I hope you are feeling better and better with every day!

10-03-2005, 10:53 PM
Sounds as though you have done your homework. As far as a grab bar, yes, it would certainly help. As for a rubber mat in a small shower, buy one and cut it in half. If need be, cut a hole for the drain. You can easily slip when you are groggy and unstable as you certainly will be. Don't you dare buy any button down shirts to hide your torso. Buy the newest styles of clothing. You will wear your new brace over your clothes. Since fall is here, you will wear a jacket over your brace and clothes. I had several good looking jogging outfits and I wore a turtleneck under the brace with the top of outfit as a jacket. You will still look big through the middle, but its okay. You probably will live in form fitting turtlenecks this winter.It was important to me to look as good as I could on the outside even though I felt awful. You will be happy in some goodlooking exercise outfits that will go right to lunch with a friend when you feel better. These are also easy to wear to rehabilitaion which you will start at about 6 weeks out. Because you will be straight, you will love the way clothes fit on your slender body( I am assuming you are a slender dance teacher). Look at yourself often in the mirror, it will make all the time spent
recovering seem worth it. Buy yourself a couple of new tops and pants outfits to be worn after you get home. You deserve it!!!! don't buy a larger size to accomodate the brace, you will probably lose weight. The brace will
make you pretty popular at stores, its always interesting to see which adults
have the maturity to simply ask about it and which look embarrassed and avert their eyes. Everyone will help you. I found that men were by far, more
up front then women about questioning me. One man stopped, looked at me, and said, " that thing can't possibly be comfortable, whats it for"? I laughed
and we conversed. You will not have to carry anything to your car or pick up
anything from the floor of any department store for the next year! I really am not trying to make light of our predicament, but we deserve any good which comes of this surgery. I marvel at my hips being straight and how good I look now in a tight black turtleneck sweater over some black jogging pants with a turquoise stripe down the side and a matching black jacket over my brace.My shoulders are level, and I don't have to take up one pants leg, and I don't have that damned hump. Yes, I am very thin, but at 63, its okay. These are things you need to keep in your mind when your pain levels are up. You are going to have some real bonuses when this is over. As a dancer, you should have the torso that you have wanted for years. Hangin there, Kathleen

10-04-2005, 02:35 PM
Rosella, you can also put a small chair in the shower for that first month, since that helped me for washing my legs and feet and shave after a while :cool:

Karen Ocker
10-04-2005, 06:45 PM

I had surgery 3 yrs ago for 30/80/40 curves which were reduced 50% at age 60! I now have no pain. Since you are younger you might even get a better correction because my spine was stiff and it was a revision surgery.

I also had Dr. Boachie and would do it again in a minute.

10-04-2005, 09:15 PM
Thanks for asking and answering that question. As my surgery gets closer and closer (1 month out), I find myself awake at night asking these questions. I needed to hear the worst, also. I like to expect the worst, hope for the best, and accept what happens.

10-05-2005, 08:55 PM
Again, thanks for all the advice. I was asking about the button-down shirts because I assumed that if you can't raise your arms above your head for 3 months, that would limit what you could wear. My surgery is scheduled for Feb, and I live in upstate NY, so it'll still be chilly for awhile. It would be great to be able to wear turtlenecks and sweaters!

10-05-2005, 09:36 PM
As I am awaiting possible surgery in the spring, I've been wondering what clothing will be suitable, too. Somewhere I read that button-down shirts were the most easy thing to wear as you can't or shouldn't raise your arms. What is the consensus here? I realize this is not most major concern here. This is pretty minor. I live in northern Arizona and usually wear turtleneck or warm sweaters in the winter.
Thanks Everyone!