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Failed fusion?

Started by mikem on 01/21/2010 8:50pm

I have had 6 lumber surgeries since 1993 starting with a fusion at L4,L5 and S1, since then I have been fused all the way to L1. The 5 th surgery to fuse L2 and L1 the Dr. decided to use MBP rather than my own bone it the previous 4, it didn't take and 6 months later he had to refuse using a graft from my hip. The 8 to 9 months that followed were the best my back has felt since before the first injury 16 years ago. the last 3 months has felt like the L2 to L1 fusion is loose again and has been popping cracking and various pains in that area and lower portion of my body just like when the fusion didnt take after the time he used MBP. Has anyone heard of a fusion becoming loose 9mmonths later? is this possible? Are there any test to check the strength of a fusion? Also we found out after the last surgery that my bone that was used in the first surgeries is starting to grow across my spinal canal from one side to the other. Is this causing a problem with the overgrowth pushing on my spinal cord? This overgrowth is hard to see on a MRI and CAT scan and only was originally found during a Mylogram where the Dr. could not get through the bone to inject the dye. My Dr. didn't believe it until the last surgery. Does anyone have any suggestions or recomendations? thanks.

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5 Responses


hi, mike-- i have definitely heard of a fusion becoming loose 9 months after surgery. i had a 4 level cervical fusion that seemed to be fused until 6 months after surgery and then suddenly a crack appeared in one of the cadaver bone plugs that they used to fill the space where they had removed one of my discs. i've been using an electronic bone growth stimulator for the past 6 months to try to heal the crack, but it's still fractured. it's now been 15 months since the surgery and until about a month ago i wasn't having any new pain that seemed to be related to the crack, but for the past month it has been hurting quite a bit and now a CT scan shows that the two parts have become displaced (uneven). so far they say that my hardware is still intact, which is what they worry about in these cases. your surgeon should be able to tell from an xray or CT scan whether your hardware is breaking apart or backing out. mine tells me that those are the main dangers of a failed fusion or what they call a "delayed nonunion." good luck!


My Dr. has always told me that the hardware is just there until the bone takes hold and is not good if the hardware is holding levels for a extended period of time. My dr. is not one to think outside the box, but I trust his surgical skills and expertise. I live inthe midwest and have tried contacting the University of Michigan medical centers for advise or help but cannot get in contact with the right department but I will keep trying. As for your bone plugs moving. I would not wait to long because if it moves to far far it's going start pinching on the spinal cord. Since it's in the cervical area the risk is higher for long term problems or permenant damage. I wouldn't wait in your case, I would see someone else, especially since you've been wearing the bone growth stimulator for so long and it hasn't helped. good luck


Hey I am also a 8 surgery person. I am recoveringy from my 6th back surgery currently. I have had 2 neck fusions for herniated discs & then 10 yrs later my low back problems started. I started with Laminectomies to Fusions with Hard ware to having to have my hardware removed with fusion. Have had so much testing, docs, PT, & Pain Clinics that it has been unbelieveable.

CT/Myelograms, MRIs, Discograms, Bonescans all can tell if there is a nonfusion or fracture in your back. Having those test all at once can give your doc a good picture of what is going on. Sometimes there is shadows in MRIs from Metal/Hardware & previous fusions that they order other tests.

Arthritis in our spines also does alot of popping sounds. But if you pop gives you pain/weakness radiating down leg then there is more going on. With all the fusions it takes time for them to heal. Bone growth varies. And it slows as we get older so taking calcium pills is very helpful.

As for Midwest Docs. Did you check out the University of Wisconsin's Ortho Spine docs? Cleveland Clinic? What state are you in??


I relate in several ways. I had multi-level fusions on December 1, 2010. Had horrendous popping form two months after surgery. Surgeon attributed it to gas trapped in the spine. Have been grinding and squeeking with every movement.

I had decrompression in more than one place, and had the bone taken off the back of my spine to fill the cages between the vertebraes. It is disconcerting to grind and squeek, but I guess it is just the spine above the fused areas, or the fusion has not completed to the extent to keep the spine still.

I don't have time to continue this discussion, but I will check back with you.

Wish you the best.


What a year. After thinking my fusion failed, a Mylogram CT showed a broken pedicle screw at L1 and caused the fusion to become loose. since this was the 3 time to fuse L1 my Dr. decided to fuse me higher all the way up to T10. Then I was fused from T10 to S1. Three weeks after the surgery I developed a severe infection that required another surgery to clean it out. That was rough, the pain, and it made the recovery longer than normal. After the infection was gone my pain in my spine was intense, massive pains in my lower half of my body from my belly down including an lot of numbness. My Dr. had no answers and he directed me to Dr. Rick Sasso at the Indiana Spine Group in Indianapolis who is a nationally well known Dr. He did a MRI and EMG along with consulting a fellow Dr. within the group that the excessive metal in my back and bone overgrowth on my original surgery bolts from 18 years were causing all my problems. On 1-21-11, in Indianapolis at St. Vincent's hospital and 5 hours worth of surgery, all my hardware was removed including bone that had grown over the bolts from the original surgery. Yes the bone fusion after so many years basically grew from one side of the spine to the other constricting the nerves and cord at L4 to S1. Eight weeks later I feel great, my flexibility is close to what it was before the original surgery, twisting is difficult, but I will be since I am fused in a large area. Even did a little golfing yesterday.
Two things I would recommend would be if possible go to a well known Dr. in a major city and have your hardware removed once the fusion takes, I live in South Bend, In. and I would never go to any surgeons or hospitals here if I had a choice unless it was an emergency. I am confident my back will be fine and when it come time for needing knee replacements or anything thing orthopedic related I would go to Indianapolis. Dr. Sasso and St. Vincent hospital are in a class above the rest in my opinion and it has been an amazingly positive experience.
One thing that does bother me is no matter where you live every Dr. and hospital should strive to be the best, not just ok or not willing to be open minded to find a patients problem. constantly being updated on technology and techniques, I should of went there 6 years ago and saved myself a lot of pain and stress.