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Scared - Spinal Fusion Gone Bad

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Has anyone experienced problems with their spinal fusion? I had a PLIF on L4/L5 on 6/4/08. The doctor said the xrays look good. I stated I still have pain in my lower back and leg. My PM doctor put me on a fentanayl patch and Norco for BT pain of which I am currently still on. I went back to work the beginning of August. My back pain began to decrease but the leg pain never went away and actually has gotten worse over the last month or so. I contined to work even though it was very hard for me to concentrate on my job due to the increasing pain. All this time the doctors state this is a normal part of the healing and nerve related pain takes the longest to go away. Two weeks ago I returned to my doctor and he noticed I am now limping and have decreased reflex/weakness in my left leg. I told him the pain had increased and is contant and that I found working very difficult due to the pain with movement. He told me I should not be working until he figures this out and wrote me an excuse to be off work and ordered a new MRI.

I had the MRI a week ago. At the follow up with my doctor on Monday he began by asking if any of my symptoms had changed and I told him no. He said something has happened with the fusion that he has never seen before.

According to the MRI..... "The left-sided interbody fusion cage is displaced posteriorly protruding 7-mm beyond the posterior vertebral body margin. It completely effaces the left lateral recess and compresses the left L5 nerve root against the left facet joint. There is enhancing granulation tissue along the left lateral recess at this level. Again,identified is prominent facet arthropathy, which is unchanged."

The long and short of this is the doctor apologized and said that I must have surgery again as the graft (cage) has moved out of the disk space and that is causing all the pain in my left leg. He said the biggest fear is permanent damage to the nerve and or infection. He said he may or may not remove the hardware and that he really can't say exactly what he will need to do until he sees what's going on in there. He said he would take very good care of me.

Needless to say....I am scared out of my mind now. I am in pain. This is turning out to be a nightmare and I am out of work again. This is going to be a sad holiday.

Sorry to be so wordy but I just want to see if anyone else has experienced this.



  • I just got home from the Hospital today so I am a bit woozey.

    I had spinal fusion L2 L3 L4 L5 sept.4 2007.

    The screws on L2 started protruding from my back about a month
    ago. I became all bent over and the pain was really bad. I went to another Doctor and the diagnosis was "complete Back Failure Syndrome". So two weeks ago I had it all done over, but with different techniques. I will go for my first checkup
    next Tuesday and my daughter warned that there is a problem with L1 and they might want a second surgery to repair the issue.

    So yes these operations do fail. And yes they fail a lot depending on what they are trying to fix.

    It is really only a matter of:

    Will you remember the famous men
    Who had to fall to rise again.
    So take a deep breath;
    Pick yourself up;
    Dust yourself off;
    Start all over again.

    I am in no way making light of your fear or the shock of having to "do it all over again" (like in the song) I too was shocked by what happened.

    You have no options except maybe to change surgeons or get a second opinion.

    Ask me some questions and I will tell you no lies... if I can.
    Good luck, Eric
  • Hi and Welcome to spine health :H
    We are here to offer you all the personal support in the world for the issues your goig through right now.

    I also had to have my fusion re-done. As I did not fuse.
    I know that in a way is totally different then what your going through.

    I want you to put your head up high. Don't think of the negative of the surgery itself. Those are possibilitys that the dr gave you just as they would with any surgery.
    So try to think in the other direction.

    Also remember you will still be around for the Holidays that is the important thing.

    I also am having major surgery this coming Monday. A aortic bi fem. Due to a clogged artery in my stomach. So I most likely will not be home for Thanksgiving. And well Xmas we are going to make the best of.

    Anything else you want to talk about please go ahead. That is what we are here for!!! :X >:D< >:D<
  • Thank you Eric and Terri! I have read both of your stories and you folks as well as so many on here have been through so much. I am trying to keep up my spirits right now. The leg pain is becoming so severe it is difficult to think of anything else and I am not able to really do anything such as go out shopping or such due to the pain.

    I keep so much of the pain to myself so as not to act like a complainer to my family and friends but I think it is winning and I am starting to complain constantly. Funny how pain can change and consume us. Reading this board helps me understand that there are others out there who have similar experiences and I am not alone. Sharing seems to at least calm the air and allows me to not focus on the pain as much.

    Eric, I hope you begin feeling better soon. I will keep you in my prayers. You have quite the following here and many people who care about you.

    Terri,I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts during your surgery and after. I appreciate all the kind words and encouragement.


  • Hi LoneStarGal, we have recenty had a couple members with deplaced interbody cages. I think it is rare, but can happen. Sometimes these things just don't follow the rules. I am sorry that you are facing surgery again, but if it will relieve your pain, it is worth it. Definitely sounds like the cage can't be left like that. Ask the doctor how will he prevent this from happening again? Was the cage size too small? Please hang in there and let us know how you are and when the surgery will be. I wish you all the best. >:D< Cali-Sue
  • Oh I too am sorry you are going through this.

    When you have the revision do they have to use a cage again? I dont have a cage but have a 'PEEK spacers' instead. MAybe this would be better for you at least mentally.

    As has been said, the only thing you can do now is try to be positive about the outcome of this next surgery. Dont let fear get you down.
    I also understand about the pain and not wanting to complain to others, I worry that they may start avoiding me if all I do is whinge about pain etc but in my heart I know I have true friends that would never do that - as I am sure you wouldn't do it to them.

    Also if they dont need to remove the hardware, the surgery will be easier then if they we doing a fusion from scratch.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • :) =D> Thank you all for the encouragement. I am not sure about what he (doctor) will do. I think he was so shocked he wasn't able to tell me executely what he will do and simply stated he would have to wait until he could see what was going on in there before he would be able to know what he would do. He did state he may remove the hardware dependant upon whether I am fusing or not and that he may have to grind something. I will ask more questions on the 1st when I go back in for the pre hospital physical and pre-admission. I am hoping he will then have more of a game plan and be able to provide more information.

    I did do some research and it does state ususally when this happens it is due to the cage not being the correct size for the disk space. We will just have to wait and see but I am taking all your advice and am trying to be very positive. I will enjoy Thanksgiving with my family and then hopefully on the 3rd of December I will have surgery and it will be all good.

    Again, thank you for your encouragement and positive words. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!

  • I also have PEEK... But they're cages, not spacers. They use them along with the IN-FUSE BMP. So far, so good.
  • Itsalongwalk, is another member who had this same thing happen. You might look her up on here. Good-luck to you. I am sure your surgeon will be extra cautious to make sure everything is secure when he fixes you up again. Take care
  • Cali-Sue...Thank you so much. I will try to contact her.

  • I had ALIF L4/L5 July 11 this year and have continued to have pain. I had cages and BMP only, no hardware. One of my cages has moved out of vertebra space and is pressing on my L5 nerve root. I am scheduled on 12/4 to have PLIF to correct this and relieve the nerve roots and also to add hardware to tighten down everything. I'm so angry and depressed and do no want to do this again. I went back to work after 8 weeks at home the first time and have been hurting all along. I have people that don't believe me that I hurt and don't understand why I have to have another surgery. I've got the doctor's explanation and attached myelogram/ct scan for work so that they will be okay with my being off again. And even with that, my manager has questioned to whether I really need the surgery or not. It all is so hard and I'm trying to accept that things do go wrong and there isn't anything to blame.
    I'm not showing any fusion from the BMP either.

    I hope that you find some way to accept all of this and have the revision and that we all get fixed and get better.

    Good luck!
  • >:D< >:D< Don't ya just want to get in their face and tell them it is not your choice for a second surgery. Geesh! Do people really think we LOVE pain! Go figure! So sorry that you will have to go back, but you do what you have to do, right?

    Many hugs >:D< >:D< >:D< to both of you!
  • I had a L5-S1 ALIfusion in Jan 08; wore a TSLO brace for 5 months, then corset brace with velcro. Monthly xrays continue to show healing. However, lots of pain continues. Recent MRI and CT scan (Sept 08) show that fusion healed but discogram on 10/22/08 proved positive for pain for already fused level, L5-S1 and for the one above, L4-L5 which is also herniated.

    My options are to live with pain -- NO WAY -- or to proceed with PLIF...or perhaps get a 2nd opinion which I hesitate to do since so many diagnostics prove the need for surgery--plus my surgeon's experience, reputation and conservative disposition make me feel like I'm on the right track, even tho' I'll need a second fusion.

    At least now I know what to expect for second fusion--and I know that NO FOOLING AROUND and trying to pretend I'm okay and bend and do stuff I'm not supposed to!!! You dn't realize how taxing simple housework is until you go thru back surgery. Brushing your teeth is very difficult because you can't bend over. Complete rest and walking as soon as able post-op with pain meds and lots of sleep are best advice I can give.

    Good luck!
  • Don't always assume movement of hardware is the surgeon's fault. It doesn't take much of moving the wrong way, or a hardware malfunction, to go wrong. My understanding is movement of hardware is one of the first signs that a fusion hasn't happened. I have to applaud LoneStarGal's surgeon - the docs that tell you upfront there's a problem, and promise you "they will be with you and do the best they can" to help you usually mean it.That's a keeper surgeon. Get a second opinion if it makes you feel better, but I'd let the first surgeon follow-up; he was there the first time, know's what he did, and will better be able to correct it once he sees it, and he's honest with you. Nothing is worse than telling your surgeon that you think something is very wrong and being dismissed as "a hiccup".
    You have every right be scared, no one wants to go through that surgery again!
  • level 2 fusion on Sept 25th. L4/5 L5/S1 Had cages with BMP and PEEK. No hardware, but he did put "caps" on the ends to stop any leakage of the bone protein. Well, let me tell you, that didn't quite work out so well. I have the leakage and have had 2 epideral Corti's! not happy! I also had my first seizure since my surgery in Sept after the procedure of the cortisone!
    Well, I was going to say....I have had right leg issues since the surgery, before too, now worse! My whole leg from the hip down gets very cold, cramps up like you wouldn't believe! I can't even put a sheet over my foot at night or else it will cramp!
    The doc thinks that the leakage is causing inflamation and pressure on the nerve and that's the problem. All I can say is that I supposed to go back to work Monday, the first, and I had to fight for my job since my FMLA is up as of today, and I will not let this send me backwards!
    I'm also using a bone stimulator which I"m not too sure how well it's working. It is very annoying to me to wear, but if it works, then what the heck!
    Oh well, I guess my point is, keep your chin up! Unfortunetly surgeries aren't always 100%, but you have all of us here for you! We have been there, done that, and are in the process of.....

    Take care!
  • Thank you for all your responses. I am hanging in there and know I will get through this. I do have faith in my doctor. I think he is honest and caring. We are all told of the problems that can occur with spinal surgery and things do go wrong at no fault of anyone. Sometimes s**t happens. ~X( I am sorry we all have to go through what we do with our bodies but I guess we have to stop and remember at least our doctors are trying to fix us.

    I hope each one of you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am thankful I am here and thankful I have doctors who are working to make me better.

  • One thing we all need to keep in mind - spine surgery is no guarantee. :(
    Sounds like you have a good attitude, I DO think that is a huge part of it and silly as it may seem, influences the healing process. Stay strong, you will get there.
  • you are in so much pain and having to go through another surgery. I had 3 surgeries in 12 months and it just wore me out mentally, emotionally and physically. The fact that your doctor has addressed this with such integrity is awesome. Many surgeons see problems and want to run and push you up to someone else. Or in my case, tell me everything is fine when it is not! Ugh.

    Just keep a positive attitude and visualize your spine fully healed and everything in it's place. I did this on daily basis after my 3rd surgery and I am a fusion success story. (Just unfortunately have permanent nerve damage that nothing surgically related to my fusion would help - no impingement or anything.)

    I also experience the numbness and weakness and it is scary. I'm hoping this surgery will get everything secured and your body can heal properly.

    Hang in there and keep us posted!!

  • what ever happened to my BMP that was in my spacer that moved?

    Can the body reabsorb it? BMP??

    I wonder. Hmmm. My cage was reported as being loose and empty, whater that means, but my surgeon is good and I am confident in him.

    LoneSatrGal, when you due to go in? Please tell me more about the risk of permanent nerve damage - what did he say??

    Good Luck
  • RichardfeflieRRichardfeflie Posts: 1
    edited 05/18/2015 - 3:49 AM
    I had a cervical fusion a number of years ago,now I think there may be something wrong with this fusion. I am experiencing a real prolonged pain down my left leg and where the fusion was done the cervicals in my neck click loudly with a lot of pain and when I turn my head there's more clicking and I get light-headed and needle to refocus my eye sight, is this something I need to hav checked out?

    There is nobody on the forum qualified any responses will be based on personal experiences only

    Liz ... spine-health moderator
  • I had a fusion L5 in January 13 and continue to have constant pain in my lower back and legs myself, have gone back to my surgeon twice and he claims everything is just fine and it takes up to 2 years to heal. What does heal mean, that the pain goes away slowly or should I have been bedridden for that amount of time because it has not gone away and it is now November 15 and going back in for L3 addition to my original cage fusion for L4 L5 because my hardware broke somehow and no one seen it until I went in for an injection and the doctor said uh oh and I said two words I dont want to hear and showed me a broken screw, when that happened I do not know, it never showed up in my MRI nor my CAT scan I guess it was the view of the pictures that confirmed it, how long its been that way could be an answer to why my pain is still ongoing and painful.

    I have surgery scheduled in less than a week and I am scared to death because of the pain I had with the original surgery and said I will never go thru that again well here I go, anyone else ever had this happen and what are the long term effects of a broken screw and the healing of a fusion surgery? I could have nerve damage but I guess I will find out, I walk like a duck now and my right foot is basically worse than the left but the pain is more in my left leg and groin. I am taking pills pills pills for chronic pain, break through pain which seems to be worse and waking me up at night along with me unable to hold a glass in my right hand and spilling it when I try to drink from it, I am nervous about what may be going on but will be optimistic, havent worked in 3 years and its been a financial burden to me and my family as the bread winner of the family.

    Any feedback would be great if anyone has ever had broken hardware and a fusion gone wrong?
  • engineer86eengineer86 AlexandriaPosts: 1
    Hi. Did you have your repeat surgery? I have this same problem but with a TLIF
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