My Si Joint Fusion Experience
Hello to all on this thread. Perhaps I can help by sharing my experience, although I hardly know where to begin. I haven't been closely following forums like this one since I had bilateral SI-joint fusion in August of 2004. In my case, this surgery gave me my life back! I also have had a prior bi-level lumbar posterior fusion of L4-L5 and L5-S1 in 1996, a lumbar discectomyin 1995, a spinal cord stimulator, an intrathecal morphine pump implanted in 2000, and various and sundry injections. So I have a basis to compare the trauma from my SI-joint surgery. In my case, this surgery was much less painful and difficult than my spinal fusion.
I severely injured my pelvis in an auto accident at age 19, recovered seemingly completely, then developed pain in a sciatic pattern at age 45. Was misdiagnosed with degenerative disc disease, had the above-mentioned spinal surgeries which only made my pain worse. I continued to suffer increased pain which baffled the many orthopedic and neurosurgeons who examined me over an eight-year period post-lumbar fusion surgery. They were baffled because noone thought to consider the possibility that my pain originated from my sacroiliac joints! My pain increased to the point that I had to retire from my career as a marine scientist, permanently disabled, from the chronic pain. By 2004, at age 46, I could no longer stand or sit except for very brief periods due to the severity of the pain radiating from my lumbar area to my feet. Even lieing on my back was painful due to the pressure of my body weight on my Si joints. My wonderful pain specialist at UC-San Francisco ordered a CT scan, then, which suggested SI joint degeneration. My pain doctor told me that if the degeneration was visible on a CT scan then it was really bad. She gave me diagnostic lidocaine nerve blocks into each SI joint, the gold standard test for diagnosing Si joint degeneration, and I was pain free for 6-8 hrs until the lidocaine wore off! Finally, an accurate diagnosis! I was so excited to have a rational explanation for the baffling, debilitating pain I suffered from.
I researched SI-joint fusion in medical journals and located a superb surgeon in Loveland, Colorado who is very accomplished and experienced at this form of surgery. He is fantastic. His name is Dr. Jeffrey Donner. He performed a bilateral fusion, with screws, on both of my severely degenerated Si joints, then prescribed a conservative regimen of NO weight bearing on the joints for a minimum of three months. This allows the joints to fuse properly. The screws ultimately were painful for me and 13 months after fusion surgery, I had the screws removed. This did lessen the pain. I repeat, this surgery gave me my life back. I can now walk long distances, sit for up to an hour without pain, and live a somewhat active, low-impact lifestyle. I am still in pain but at a much lower level.
I have no assocaition with Dr. Donner other than as a surgical patient. And I present my long story to offer hope to those of you who suffer with this affliction and feel hopeless at times.