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Fusion question

tonya42ttonya42 Posts: 810
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I just saw my Dr. today and asked when he would be checking for fusion. His answer was "In April". :? I had my surgery in Oct. Is this typical? I've read so many posts and it seems like everyone here has a doctor who has checked for fusion much sooner than this. Am I weird or something or is he just waiting to see the end result? Everybody who knows me knows I'm not good at all at playing the waiting game.


  • My surgery was Sept 26. I had x-rays and saw my doctor November 24, to make sure everything was in place, hardware-wise. I go for an MRI in January to check on the fusing.
  • Tonya,

    There are a lot of differences how doctors handle post-fusion patients. My first check up and X-ray (mostly to check if the hardware is in place) was after two weeks when my sutures were removed. Then I had check-ups at six-weeks, and three months, both with with x_ray. At that last time the beginning of fusion was observed. I had my final check-uo at 5 months, where the x-ray had shown that I was quite well fused (but it will continue on for about a year). At that last visit the OS discharged me. It is a bit unusual not to see the patient before, but I guess your Dr. wants to wait until fusion can be definitely observed.


  • I had surgery in mid-August. At my last appointment in mid-November I asked the surgeon about signs of fusion. He said it won't show on the x-rays for 8-12 months.

    My surgery was with facet bolts and he did say there may be fusion at the contact sites, but the only way he would know for sure at this point is if he went back in to take a look (and he only does this when patients are having major problems, so it was never a consideration for me).
  • my last xray after three months showed fusion between my c1 c2. everyone fuses at different rates.

    i can say from personal experience that walking and stationary biking really speeded up my fusion.

    after my first surgery i did lots of cardio. bones fusion was evident after six week. to bad it slipped.

    after my second fusion it was much slower becasue i believe i was less active for the first six weeks. after the six weeks i started doing more cardio and presto---> visible fusion on an xray.

    my NS told me 3-6 months is average time for fusion to start showing up.
  • Having been super slow to fuse my first operation I lookied into fusion and failures.

    Most surgeries show something at 6 months. My surgeon said there was little point as there is not a lot to see.
    Before then it is not uncommon to see no changes and as the growth can be so slow there would be litle point of checking sooner, unless they were worried about the hard wear.
    Every surgeon is different. At least you are being checked!

    Good Luck
  • I appreciate you guys answering me. I just HATE to wait but it seems to be the norm with fusion surgeries. I just need to learn to be patient.
  • time can sometimes seem as if a snail is pushing the world around :))(
    My Dr does a CT scan to check for fusion rather then an X-ray as he says it gives a clearer picture. An MRI is more for nerves and soft tissue, while an X-ray is best for bone structure.
    At 3 months there was good sign of fusion but at 6 months that fusion had pretty much stopped so now we have to wait for 9 months mark to see what is happening.
    I was really dissapointed at the last result but then I thought that if I hadn't had the 3 month check I would have been happy with the 6 month one (hope that makes sense)

    So really to wait for 6 months could be a good thing.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • I do see it as a good thing now that I've heard from you guys.
  • I do see it as a good thing now that I've heard from you guys.
  • Hi tonya:

    I am sure you know by now that every case is different. I saw my doctor 6 weeks after my TLIF, he did xrays and I had fused at 6 weeks. I then saw him at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and one year, with xrays at one year. If you are asking the question on this forum I think it would be wise to ask your doctor his reasoning behind waiting so long to see you. It might put your mind at ease.

  • My surgeon says that around the 3 month mark I should see fusion taking place.

    I had my AIBF surgery on L5-S1 on Oct 28, 2008.

    Going back the end of Jan for X-rays to see how fusion is taking.

    I hope that I can start some more serious rehab in Feb. and be ready for golf season in May.

    Good luck to you.

  • My neck surgery, I really don't remember, but on my back surgery, my doctor checked my fusion progress at 6 weeks and then again at 3 months. Not sure why your doctor would wait that long.
  • I actually just found out last week that my Neurosurgeon scheduled an MRI for me on January 2. So, I had x-rays at about 6 weeks post op, and now my MRI will be at 3 months post op. Not sure when I go back after that, though.

    I agree with whoever said that asking your doctor his reasoning may be beneficial. It would be nice to have a doctor's reasoning instead of just suggestions from people on a forum, considering your doctor is the one treating you and he knows your personal situation. It can't hurt, right? :)

    Hope you had a good Christmas!
  • It's a sort of unexpected visit so I get to ask him about the reason he waits 6 months before checking for fusion. I just want to know that it's healing and if not if there is something else that I could do to turn it around before then but considering the varied answers I've gotten from here I'm guessing that he is of the same mind set as itsalong walk's in that there may not be much to see before that time. I just do what my doctor tells me and try to eat right and stay active so if I'm doing my part I hope my body is doing it's part. Fusing.
  • As others have said, every surgeon is different. I specifically asked mine and he said that routinely he checks for fusion at 6 months. If patients have pain or symptoms that give them reason to complain, he will check sooner. His feeling is that if something is wrong with the hardware, the patient will have symptoms that will let him know he needs to do some imaging to check on what's happening. Otherwise, it isn't worth exposing the patient to radiation just to satisfy his/her curiosity! We spineys get enough of that as it is!

    Generally speaking, the doc isn't going to do anything if the patient is not showing fusion at 6 weeks, or 3 months, etc. so there isn't any medical reason to do imaging too early, unless there is atypical pain.

    Having fusion is an exercise in learned patience. :W
  • That makes complete sense to me now. Thanks.
  • did a few xrays earlier, but used the 6 month mark to determine I was beautifully fusing. I know how hard it is to wait, though!

  • The hospital did xrays of my instrumentation (PLIF on 12/4) and when I visited the doctor today, he compared those with the xrays taken today. He said that this gives him an idea if the hardware has shuffled any. Fortunately, they looked exactly alike, so I got a good report and don't have to wear a brace that he threatened me about should I not do as told the first month. My next visit is scheduled for 3 months post op (2 months out) where he said he should start to see some fusion activity.

    From what I've noticed on this forum, the fusion process and timeframe is different for everyone. The doctor said that walking really helps stimulate bone growth as does protein, etc. As a reminder, there are also activities that could hinder the fusion process (i.e. smoking, NSAID's, some physical activity, etc.)

    Good luck with your progress.
  • You can read all about it in my other post. I won't bother to repeat the whole story here but let's just say I am amazed and on cloud nine right now. :D
    So oh I hope you get the same news I got today.
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