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Ramifications of Failed Fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I've been seeing a lot of posts about failed fusions and mine isn't looking too great atthe moment. I am 8 months out of ACDF C5/6 and not totally fused. I have a CT scan scheduled for September 3rd (my birthday maybe that will bring good luck). Do they usually schedule a second surgery if it does not fuse. I am having a lot of pain, and right now it is worse than before surgery. Having a lot more neuro symptoms as well. Tingling and numbness in fingers. Pain radiating down my left arm and into my hand....headaches....just a lot of stuff I didn't have right after surgery. Any comments or suggestions would be welcome. The Neuro did refer me to a pain specialist and we are working on finding a good combination of meds that will at least keep the pain at a level where I can function and work. Example of how sensitive my neck is right now. I work at an offie job and my monitor for my computer went out so I had to use my laptop monitor which had me looking to the right for about 2 hours. This was enough to set the muscles in my neck off and I was miserable (even taking Vicodin and Flexeril) for several days until things settled down. Right now typing this, I am feeling pain radiating down my right arm from my neck to my fingers. Any thoughts or suggestions?


  • I had a failed fusion 5 months after my acdf....I had the revision surgery as my surgeon told me that I had to have it...at the time I did not question it, did not know that much and did not even know these boards existed. The revision was done posterior and was a nightmare of a surgery....again they took bone from my hip and now I have 2 plates, 2 rods and 12 screws. Am I better? No....at this time I am going to PT for what they think could be rotator cuff but my last visit the PT girl thinks it is coming from my neck. And this might sound way out there...but last week my dog had surgery and the vet believe it or not had the same surgery, acdf, he also has a failed fusion but chose not to have revision....he says he has good days and bad days.....I do have nerve damage as was shown on an EMG/NCV test.....I am waiting to see my surgeon which will be Oct 22....they could not get me in any sooner. This is just my story.....if to do over again I would have got another opinion.

  • I am just wondering what type of fusion was done. Did you use your own bone, donor bone, cage, etc? Also, do you smoke? How old are you? I will be having a 2 level ACDF in September and my NS will be using a cage with my own bone ground inside. I also would like to have the best possible outcome. I hope you get a lot of suggestions.
  • I had posterior ACDF with plates and cadaver bone. I do not smoke and have been very careful to stay away from anti inflamatories as I was told they can hinder fusion. I've pretty much been the model patient, doing everything they have told me....PT, taking appropriate meds etc. I am a little nervous because the symptoms seem to be getting worse, not better as time goes on.
  • Hi All,

    I'm a spiney but am curious as to what you are considering a failed fusion?

    I have FBSS, but do not consider it a failed fusion. My bone grafts took but hardware has moved. Hardware does not need to be replaced at this time, although causing part of my pain issues. When I had fusion surgery I was also put on a bone stimulator for bone growth. Do they have a bone stimulator for neckies?

    Just like to have more info on all aspects of spine even though my problems are thoracic, lumbar and cerebral.
    Interested in what my SH family members are going through :)

  • was adamant that my problems were coming from my neck, not my shoulder. However doc wouldn't listen. Found a new one (orthopedic doc) and as turns out, my physical therapist was right. I have 5 problem areas in my neck. Sometimes they know more than docs do.
  • The bone grafts aren't looking like they are fusing.
  • One thing to listen to is for is a word called pseudoarthrosis(non-union). I would suspect that your surgeon will be ordering a CT scan and or a myelogram to diagnosis what is going on. I have gone through the revision surgery and it is much tougher on the body. Has your surgeon ordered you a bone growth stimulator? If the surgeon is not happy with the fusion progress this would be the next step to aid in the fusion. There are some who never fuse and are not even aware of it as there are no symptoms to the issue. The hardware is stable enough to hold the cervical spine if it does not fuse. As far as to the reason for not fusing who really knows. the surgeon may not have used a large enough piece of bone. Your bone does not like the new cadaver bone. Your having to much movement in the area for the fusion to take place. The one thing i would question is why are you doing pt if concerned of the non-fusion. I can see some stretches but not sure that all out pt is doing much for you at this point. Your pain could also becoming from scar tissue which could also cause the non-union. Here is a link to non-union that may help you more. Keep us posted on what the surgeon suggest. http://www.spine-health.com/glossary/n/non-union
  • Yes they have bone stimulators for your cervical spine. I have been using one since my 7-8 surgery.
  • I had my C5 C6 fused 2 years ago and am now having a PRODISK replacement on my C4 C5. The disk above my fusion started to bulge and the metal plate from my fusion was slicing it up! The metal plate that was used is so big it is above and below the bones it was screwed into. It will be removed on Sept 9th when I have my disk replacement (which I am terrified for) done.
  • glad i am not the only one with issues. i have os odontoideum and i had c1 c2 fusion from the back in july. hurt like hell. well. . that graft slipped. wire did not hold it. so in september i had screws, rods and wire. if that doesn't hold this cadaver bone in place nothing will . . . .lol. i am now post op 4 weeks and feel great, some numbness but it coes and goes. still getting the creaking and popping sounds too. dealing with it. thinking that the body is just reapiring itself.
    ps i was tortured with the posterior procedure twice
  • I am a little over 3 months after ACDF levels 5/6 6/7 fusion using cages filled with bone harvested from my own osteophytes, with plates and screws. I was doing pretty good up until a couple weeks ago until I started experiencing severe headaches, facial numbness, along with all the old symptoms returning like the burning between my shoulder blades, pain and numbness radiating down my left arm into my hand and fingers and now starting into the right side. My neurosurgeon ordered a myleogram, CT scan, and another nerve induction. Saw my neurologist for another issue this past Wed. and he said he was seeing more herniated discs at levels 3/4 4/5 on an MRI he had ordered back in Aug.. Man I was floored. Since he's not treating me for the neck issue he said to wait and see what the other tests say when I see my neurosurgeon in Nov. Don't think I can handle more surgery.

    The waiting I think is the worst.
  • Feb of 2008 is when they found my congenital anomally. I had a fusion at the c1-c2 level that was unsuccesful. My surgoen wanted to use the "harms" method, but when he cut my neck open, the muscles and veins were " unlike that of anyone else he has seen" ( Massive) So instead of the "harms" way he had to use wire and graft fixation. That did not work. The new surgeon i am seeing wants to use the "magrel" method or go through my throat. Has anyone ever tried those methods and if so did they work?
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,346
    fusion was declared a "failure" minimal fusion - Non-union -Pseudo arthrosis ... are some of the fancy terms for just plain messed up! It took me 3 doctors and multiple cats, mri's and EMG's (almost 1.5 years after the 1st) before I finally found an orthopedic surgeon who put my MRI on the view box and said "We have to redo the whole shabang" I was in sooo much pain and despare. Those words were some of the best things I has ever heard in my life .... finally another chance! It is hard to get one (or almost never the same) doc to admit that things are or have gone very wrong. When the pain becomes (or already is) bad enough and another surgery is the only option .... you will want to have revisions done ASAP.

    My status is better than before the first, and better than before the second. I and happy for progress and don't demand or expect perfection.
    Yes I am a chronic pain patient now, but I can still walk and control my bodily functions - My pain is not completely out of control like after the first surgery.

    I believe that a failed fusion is one of the worst kinds of hell we can go through, but we can get through it. We are here to offer advice (non-medical), support, and whatever else we can.

    Good luck and good surgery outcomes,


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  • I had ACDF surgery January of 2014. After returing to April 2015, I sought the help of a chiropractor, because after returning to work I started experiencing the same symptoms prior to surgery. Yesterday I experienced some numbing and tingling in my left shoulder. By the time I made it to the doctor( chiropractor) my whole left side was drooping my hand turn blue and I am not quite sure or understanding what is happening? I feel better this morning, and my hand returned to normal color. What has been anyone else experience after ACDF surgery?
    Sending gentle hugs....Felicia
  • KristyBDAKKristyBDA Posts: 1
    edited 11/18/2015 - 4:56 AM
    Hi! I had two level c5/6 ACDF about 7 weeks ago. Long time history of scapula pain, numbness in tingling along right arm/ fingers. My GP told me to switch pillows and lose weight .. The surgeon said I had spinal cord compression and two herniated discs and obvious pinched nerves and that he was worried it had been misdiagnosed for so long. Great surgery experience and now finding recovery extremely difficult. Autograft form hip (no major pain).
    About two weeks after Surgery I shopped, put away the groceries. I do laundry. I clean. I cook. I basically can't sit my [edit] still. I have this weird guilty feeling if I can't continue my regular activities, and know full well the standards I set myself are high. So own worst enemy and I have a hard time putting myself first. Off the pain meds since week 4.
    extensive soft tissue swelling in neck area visible on X-ray and about to begin some physio next week.
    I've been reading and using these forums as comfort and have to say thanks as they help me feel not so 'insane' during the ups and downs...(and boy have I had some downs, depression is an understatement).

    I attempted going back to a very busy office job on Monday and found myself unable to function. To me this is unacceptable. Anyone else having a hard time getting back into the swing of things? Should I be this darn tired/ achy?
    Guess I just want some shared experience here.
    Love and light,
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,129
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