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    Fusion not complete after 2 1/2 years
    GinaVan123 posted:
    I had a fusion L4/L5/S1. I had seen my doctor 6 mths. after fusion. He told me it was complete, donnot call me unless I need another operation. I called complaning of intense pain after 8 mths. I was told by my doctors office not to call them , they didn't prescribe pain meds., I should be fine. Luckly my general physition continued with pain pills, uping my pain meds as the years went by. I continued to get worse and went to pain management doctor. She had an x ray done before she would enroll me in her PT. The radioligist came back with x rays showing that my fusion was in the begenning stages of fusion,. My pain doctor said it will not complete anymore, the scwers and bolts were holding my back together. My origaniale spinal doctor profussely denied that the fusion was incomplete as it is fused a little. I donnot know what this means? I do know that my body went into shock on tuesday, I ended up in emergency. Morphine, of course, I want off the drugs! Does anyone know if I could continue living without a complte fusion, or is it my destenty to have by back refused? I am 53 yrs. old and cannot hold my 9 lb grandaughter because of the pain, Can anyone let me know if your back didn't fuse, and what the doctors did for you? Help, I need info. GinaVan123
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    11 of 22 found this helpful
    CLINTONPT responded:
    Have you had a DXA to see if you have osteoporosis.
    You need to find out why your body didn't fuse before you think about another surgery.
    ?Vertebroplasty: injected bone cement
    Reduce pain: L4-S1 is stressed when you flex and extend spine or hold something away from your body. multiply the wt of object x 10 for lbs of stress you place on that area /cervical x 3. So when you pick up your 9 lb Gbaby, it is putting 90 lbs of pressure in an already weakened area. Sit down and hold her close to you; support her wt on your lap.
    Did the doc let you go to PT? Strengthen abdominals? learn to take care of your back?
    Try a molded back brace made for you. by Orthotist/prosthetist to stop excess movement?
    I can not believe it when I hear surgeons respond like you describe. He should have at least tried to find out what the problem was or referred you to someone who would. I hope you live near a big city so that you can see a different better Orthopod. Research for good one/compassionate with lots of referrals from satisfied clients.
    If you have a failure to fuse, mechanical stress over time will cause more problems at surgical site and vertebra above.
    Best of Luck
    cweinbl responded:
    There are many reasons why people continue to have severe chronic back pain after spinal fusion. I had bilateral multilevel fusion (L3-4 to S1) in 1991. It was my 4th spine surgery. Like the first three, it failed. So, I know what you're going through. I'm 57, but I had to retire at age 51.

    A partial list of reasons for continued pain include: disunion or failed fusion, hardware impinging nearby tissue, nerve damage, bone damage, osteoarthritis, fibrosis (scar tissue) that impinges nerve roots, unresolved stenosis, spinal collapse (vertebra self-fused), osteophyte (bone spur) impinging tissue or nerve root and instability.

    It sounds from your description that your fusion is not as solid as it should be at eight months. This is somewhat unusual, particularly with hardware.

    My first question is what type of fusion did you have? Did your surgeon use autologous donation? Cadaver donation? What was the source of your graft? My fusion was as hard as any bone in my body at six months. But, I had autologous donation. That is, my surgeon harvested bone from my hip and grafted it onto my spine. Today, many surgeons prefer to us rods, cages, pins, pedicle screws and other metal hardware. Sometimes older is better; and that might be the case with traditional spinal fusion. With hardware, there is always the risk that the metal implants will one day compress nearby nerve roots. Did you have this discussion with your surgeon before surgery? He should have asked which type of fusion you prefer.

    There is a chance that you have spinal nerve root damage, from the surgery or from before the surgery. It can take a very long time for damaged nerves to heal - up to a year. Sometimes they never heal, as in my case. You can hope that this is the case and that you will see some improvement in the next few months.

    There is no significant treatment or cure for damaged spinal nerve roots, advanced fibrosis, osteophytes or osteoarthritis. You can treat the symptoms with long and short-acting narcotics, anti-depressants (to inhibit the reuptake of Seratonin) and anti-convulsants (for neuropathic pain secondary to spinal nerve root damage). The best results are from using all of these medications simultaneously. I understand that you don't like using narcotics. But, that might be all that can help you manage your pain and remain productive. If you have instability, arthritis, osteophytes or fibrosis (scarring), PT is likely to exaccerbate the pain, not improve it. The only cure for instability is fusion (again).

    Spine surgery is only 50% successful for pain relief (80% for improved function). I'll bet your surgeon didn't tell you that before surgery. Nor is it likely that the surgeon provide medications that you require. More surgery might or might not help (it could make it even worse).

    Finally, I understand how frustrating it might be when you can't pick up a grandchild without pain. But, please know that you are indeed fortunate compared with many others. I am forced to remain horizontal virtually all of the time. I can't sit upright or stand for more than a few minutes. Some people are unable to sit, stand or care for their bodily needs. Many others are permanently paralyzed. I say this only for perspective. As bad as it can seem, many others are more disabled and in more pain.

    At this point, you want to hope that it was just nerve damage.

    Good luck
    steelers151 responded:
    Hello GinaVan123 I had my S1-L5 fusion with hard ware on 02-22-10 and the pain I was having went away After my first 2 wk checkup I notice my right leg started to hurt a lot I figured after I got off the heavy meds from the hospital this pain came back strong I was laying in bed a few days later watching tv and I coughed and Oh my GOD I screamed like a baby it scared my wife out of a dead sleep I had a hard time just to get out of bed to go to the hospital It took two shoot of pain meds to actually to help and sent me home with two perks The hospital said I had a spin intrusion that was causing the pain from the X rays they did I went back to the nero surgeon the next day and the tested by pushing my feet up and when they did my right foot it intensified the pain and all they did was increase my meds I was very disappointed with them But hay we all trust in our doctors to help us in anyway we can He set me another appointment with him in two weeks I was praying I could make it that long This appointment was on a Tuesday and on Friday I have a fractured disc in my neck that needs to be repaired but I have my chiropractor adjust it with a activator so they dont twist your body to adjust it to help with the pain I get in my arms and head. The X ray showed a part of my right hip had a twist in it The adjustment went great it didnt hurt at all until he tryed to lift the table and OH my GOD the table made a jerk and it caused very sever pain so he lowered it back down The pain in my right leg went crazy and he believed it was my muscles caused from a pieace of my hip being twisted I couldnt move my head without causing it to flare up I had the EMS to get me off the bed They gave me two shots ! was for the pain the other was so I wouldn't remember the pain I guess I screamed every time I was moved and crying They took me to the local hospital and did some tests and took me by ambulance to Toledo hospital where I had the surgery This part really upset me. The head intern that works with the surgeon wanted to give me an upaderial. the same thing they give women when they have a c-section I asked how long would that last and he said a few day I got blont with him and told him no I dont want your bandaid no more I want the problem solved and he said he doesnt have to put up with my attitude and turned to walk away so I reply I dont either I'll go to a different doctor With in two hours they did a few tests I was upset I shouldnt have to get that way with any doctor to have them find the problem Well I believe the CT scan with die found the problem I had a staff infection that caused my first bone fusion to get weak and I believe the first time I went to the hospital from a cough that broke it On top of that the infection started to eat into my bones so they had to scrape them down to get it out of them and they changed the bone graph to a protein graph On my first surgery the 3 cuts they put in my back healed very nice so no one expected any thing wrong and I didnt have a fever or nothing just sever pain On the second surgery when they open me they found the infection pretty close to the surfaces but when they got to the spin thats where it was the worse. I take 3 perks a day and volume for the muscle in the back of my right leg I usually only take 1 a day some times twice a day not to often. I drink protein shake once a day. They was suppose to send in the bone graph in to see if that caused the infection They told us the protein gragh will be the opposite healing If I was you I would go to your family doctor to do a CT Scan with dye Thats how they found the broken graph. But the infection they did blood test to find that There was a man with the same problem you have two years later the pain came back and come to find out his staff infection went into his blood stream i guess thats not a good thing. I wish you the best but some times you got to get demanding with theses doctors to get them to do some thing. X-Ray wont find nothing
    soremomma responded:

    I had a spinal fusion with instrumentation in 2005. The dr. prescribed a 'bone growth stimulator'. I am a smoker, they used bone from my own hip for the fusion, but the stimulator worked wonders. My fusion was complete within 8 months. In fact, it worked a little too well, I now have bone growth problems because of bone growth pressing on other nerves. If your fusion hasn't taken yet, as your doc abt the stimulator. Everyone I've talked to who used on had positive results.

    A am 47, was hit by the car when I was 41, fusion at 44...way too mush pain to discuss again. I have 3 grandsons and can understand your frustration. Have you tried a TENS unit? It uses electrical current to fool your nerves into not feeling pain, great device. Even after 6 years I use mine on a regular basis. Sometimes it's the only thing that works. Pain meds are a frustration, but, unfortunately, they are a way of life for me. I could not get through the day without the massive doses of morphine, vicodin, ultram, lyrica, flexeril, and robaxin. The help of a good pain doctor is a must. You have to find one you are comfortable with and one who has some empathy for your condition. They are hard to find, but worth the effort. I would try to avoid any further surgery, but get another opinion if that is the path you feel you need to go on.

    Exercise is a must as much as medication. Keep your core strengthened, if nothing else, it makes a huge difference on what you are able to do on a daily basis. Learn your limitation, but don't let them rule you...attitude is important as well. So, keep your chin up. find good doctors that are willing to help you, don't let the future scare you, just take one day at a time.

    Good luck!!!!
    nanabiddy42 responded:
    I had spinal fusion and 2 years later my pain came back. The drug Neurotin was a life saver for me 4 years before the fusion. It coated my nerve endings and stopped the pain.It only worked for so long. I went back to my spinal fusion Dr and all he could say was see the Pian Clinic. They wanted to give me injections after trying methadone, fentynal patches etc--I did not go for the injections--I found a Dr that was advertising spinal decompression. I emailed the Dr that nite and was told to come in for an evluation the following day. I had to bring my CT scans and they told me they could help me. I had 20 treatment with lying on a computerized table and my pain was relived only after 5 treatments. My insurance did not cover it but it was the best $2500 my husband and I ever spent. Google or bing it and you will see a video and who in your area may do this treatment.
    Pain free and 60--grandmother of 7
    desrae1 responded:
    Hi Gina,

    I had a fusion on C6/C7 July 16, 2009 from an injury that occured Jan. 07. Before my SX I had severe neck pain/spasms as well as the constant sensation of pins and needles going all the way down my left arm, into the hand (all fingers included) and the same sensation occasionally in my right arm and into my pinky and ring finger. Since the surgery I do not have as much pain/spasms in my neck and shoulders (though pain is still maybe after 3 yrs I have simply gotten used to it????) BUT I will say that the "pins and needles sensation" (and in turn loss of strenth that goes along with that wonderful feeling, have not subsided at all in my left arm/hand and have actually increased in my right arm/hand (to the point that the right bothers me more than the left).

    I have just recently had a 2nd MRI done and just this past Thursday had to suffer through a CT Milogram. I have an appointment with my surgeon this upcoming Monday so he can go over all the results with me but another surgery is a strong possiblility at this point. I will tell you that I just saw my pain management doctor yesterday and he told me that he hates to see someone as young as I am (31 years old now- 30 at the time of surgery) have a fusion because it almost never fails that within 10 years I will have to have another due to the fact that the disks either above or below the fusion have to work that much harder to compensate for the lack of movement in C6/C7.

    On a brighter note, I have recently met with a lady that owns a pilates/yoga establishment and she seemed rather knowledgable as she was reading over my latest MRI report. She stated that she has had people in MUCH worse condition than me come to her and get wonderful results. Mind you, they are not over night but I have heard nothing but good things regarding pilates and GENTLE yoga. Kay (the owner that I spoke with) told me about one client who had 6 diks that were all buldging and herniated and couldn't even walk when he first went to her. It has been a long road (about 5 years) but he is now able to play tennis again. Looking at his MRIs, nothing has changed as far as the bulging/herniated disks but he is no longer in pain which is the ultimate goal.

    On one last note, if you are finding that you back pain is causing extreme lower pack pain (as mine has) I have a suggestion. I threw out my lower back a week ago from last Sunday and up until this last Sunday I was laid out in bed on constant ice and when I did have to get up I could barely walk and was completely hunched over. I went to Bed Batha and Beyond and spent the best $200 of my life on a product called Back2Life. Look up the website to get more info. It runs in 12 minute sessions and the first night I bought it I had to get help to set it up because I was in so much pain but once it was all done. I ran two sessions in a row and for the first time in a week I got up and was with VERY LITTLE pain I could stand up straight and walk quicker than the 90 year old pace I had been walking for that last week. I have used it everyday since I got it, 3 sessions at a time and sometimes more than once a day and have not had any lower back pain since. Seriously, if I could marry that machine I would! lol.

    Anyway, I hope this info is able to help you and if you would like to discuss this further you can find me on under desrae1. If you do write me just make sure to specify in the subject line who you are from WebMD so I don't delete you on accident. Good luck!!!!!
    An_189733 responded:
    Please e-mail me:

    Maybe we can talk on the phone instead of all this typing...
    Rotorhed1966 responded:
    I'm sorry, but you didn't give us nearly enough information about your procedure. I would love to give you some feedback, but without any additional information on your part, I would only be guessing. Just take a look at the size of the replies you are receiving compared to your post. See what I mean? There is advice and help waiting for you, but we need something more to go on in order to make a more informed opinion. Until then, I can only wish you the best and I'll even offer you my e-mail address so we can talk instead of all this typing that is very uncomfortable for me. Just e-mail me at . Good Luck!
    Rotorhed1966 replied to Rotorhed1966's response:
    There, I changed my picture so you can see what I have to sleep on!
    Geradine4733 responded:
    I am sorry that your surgery did not go well and that you are in pain. My laminectomy, fusion, and metal rods and screws L2 - S1 did not go well because L1 herniated, and the fusion did not fuse because the spine is not stable. My spine doctor is a jerk because he said the metal rods and screws helped my scolosis so it was a success.

    I wish I never had it done. This has caused severe chronic pain, and I can not do so many things. Another spine doctor wants to do a revision. He gives me a rosy positive story of success - just like the spine doctor who did my surgery.

    Another spine doctor and my ortho surgeon said that my chances of a successful second surgery is very low because my arthritis and degenerative disc disease is progressing. Even if the fusion would fuse, I probably would still have pain - and it could be worse..

    I wish I could give you a better answer. I can not give you advice. I can only tell you my story. Best wishes that another doctor can help you.
    lilygag7 responded:
    I also have a failed spinal fusion surgery. I am almost 6 years out of surgery. My pain is incredible and my Doctor has no interest in helping me--I need a solution! I need to find another Doctor that will view my file and re-evaluate my situation. I live in Arizona, if anyone has a Doc that they would recommend I would love the info.
    mitchell0316 replied to lilygag7's response:
    Like many replying, I'm sorry for you and like them, I feel your pain. I had a single fusion 3 years ago c6-c7, followed in 2009 fusing C2-T1. The second was not successful and I've been pretty much bedridden since, as once I lift my head, the muscles spasm and the pain builds up. I'm 51 and haven't been able to get out of bed for more than a few hours in a day.

    IMHO, If you're still in pain after more than a year, do what I did and look for another doctor. My doctor was the greatest until he sliced me up. After which he completely ignored me and my problems.

    But don't expect miracles after such a long time. Unless your doctor is trying to hide something (like mine, but I doubt yours is) you'll be subjected to more MRIs, CAT scans, and dye injections into the spine to fine more detailed information.

    Good luck.
    eagleeye60 responded:
    hey fusion buddy i also had a l4--s1 fusion seems to have taken i had the operation 6years ago i aslos had a staph infection after the operation that wasnt detected until four years after the surgery had six weeks antibiotics and got rid of that but in your case you need a new doc he sounds like a loser to me and dont stop looking until you fine one who will listen and also i now have a bad sacroialic joint from the fusion wich is common and can cause alot of back pain and is often misdiagnosec
    123Marilyn responded:
    My Lumbar Fusion never healed, my surgeon was telling me for 6 months that my fusion was healing very well. The whole time I complained of severe pain, could not stand or walk on a hard surface, back pain much worse, severe leg pain. Could never return to work. Found out 1 year later from another Doctor that it never began to heal. After seeing 3 other surgeons for help, I was told that it most likely an infection in my spinal cord causing so much pain. He agreed the Fusion never healed. His first course of action was to have me make an appointment with a specific doctor at a pain management office to have an injection into my L2 & L3 where fusion was. If this helped to remove the pain he would operate in that area. If it did not relieve my pain, I have all the symptoms of an infection. Called the pain office, I was refused an appointment, because I had been seen by a pain management doctor in prior year. I found this unbelievable! Have found so many road blocks to achieve some quality of life. The surgeon who operated on you, telling you that you are healing, is committing Malpractice. You should pursue this, also follow up on the possibility of a spinal infection. I understand your grief & agony!

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