Hi! I was primarily browsing this website to look for extremely long term effects of spine fusions (such as degradation of discs/vertebrae above and below the fusion site), as I recently had a fusion, but when I saw this post, I decided to add my (so far) extremely positive story.
In August of 2011, I had a fusion of T12-L2 as a result of an L1 burst fracture. I'm a 22 year old female. I was in moderately good shape... I am thin, but wasn't necessarily all that active or muscular even before, but I eat extremely healthfully.
My fusion was performed by minimally invasive technique (XLIF) by a very skilled surgeon (right place at the right time, by the Grace of God, as this was emergency surgery). He used a 2 inch incision on my left side, removed my second to lowest rib and used that for access and as a bone graft. The bone graft was placed in a titanium cage and held in place by titanium screws. I'm told I shouldn't set off any alarms, lol. He didn't cut any muscles or anything, and sealed the incision with surgical glue and internal stitches. The scar looks very nice and I think it will be almost invisible eventually. I wore a brace for 3 months while not in bed. I have the best posture now! Hahaha.
After 3 weeks I had no pain when laying down or standing/sitting up for less than twenty minutes or so. I had a dull, tired ache after standing/sitting up for longer, but nothing major. The time I could stand/sit up without pain increased over time. At this point, if I retain good posture while sitting (I always do so while standing), I have NO pain, no matter how long I sit or stand up. Right now I feel completely the same as I did before I broke my back. If I let my posture slack, I get a bit of that tired ache after about an hour or two. At times, I can feel the hardware... just like there's something gripping my spine, but it's not uncomfortable. It's just weird, and exactly like kiwimike described.
My fusion has taken extremely well and I'm just about fully fused. I have what should be my last appointment in August, and at that point, I'll be completely cleared for activity. Right now, I can be active, as long as it's low impact. So I swim.
Attached X-ray is from February.