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Broken C-67 fusion plate

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Long story short..Had a fusion in 1996 after waiting three years playing with worker's comp doctors. Pain after surgery was unbearable, if I didn't have kids I would have killed myself. Found a great pain doc, got all that under control. After about 2 yrs was able to get off all his meds and control the pain on an as-needed basis. Fast forward 2003 they found arthritis throughout my spine. 2004 they figured I hadn't had enough and threw osteoporosis in there. The pain was unbearable, again. I found a NUCCA chiropractor who saved my life. Got me up, moving and back into life. Was almost out of pain and off my daily Percocet and Valium and then I broke the top fusion plate..I've been in pain ever since that was 2005ish? My neurosurgeon doesn't want to remove the plate unless he has to because the risk of damaging the esophagus outweighs the benefit of surgery. He says he can never get rid of the pain regardless of what he operates on. He has watched me with MRIs, I trust him, he is the best in the area. Then last winter I was cleaning and went to look under a couch leaned on my left arm and had instant pain. Popped a pill chilled out and left it alone. About two months prior to that I had an MRI that I have subsequently found out read as a bulging disk above the broken fusion...I haven't gone back to my surgeon because I can't stand to hear I'm sorry I wish I could do something for you but I can't and I won't take the chance of surgery until you lose more movement in your arm..Which I have. That and the and the MRI costs are killing me even with insurance..I don't want to be a complainer, I haven't even gone back since whatever popped in my neck this winter.. This doc has stuck by me through thick and thin prescribing meds when no one else would, etc. My chiropractor says I need to get another opinion because he can't stabilize my neck anymore. Which leads to unbearable migraines whenever they decide they want to pop up..And don't go away until I can get to the chiropractor and have him realign me. I'm getting tired of this I have been in pain every day of my life since the car accident in 1993..

Has anyone had any dealings with broken plates and removal and fixation. My fusion is stable, the plate doesn't interfere with my swallowing, it just causes pain..I would rather chance a surgery in my late 40s and have a chance at a semi normal life then wait for something else to happen, be older and maybe not recover from surgery as easily..Any advice is greatly appreciated. I average 3-5 10 mg Percocet a day and 5-15 mg of Valium..And it doesn't get rid of the pain just makes it bearable.


  • I don't have any experience with plates, or even with cervical disc issues, but wanted to respond. There is usually more than one highly qualified spinal specialist in an area, and I would encourage you to get another opinion. I have found that staying with one doctor results in having your case looked at from only one perspective. When a specialist diagnoses you and performs surgery, it is difficult for him to look at you in a new/different way. He has made up his mind about what he can/cannot do for you already.

    If you go to a new spinal specialist, he/she may tell you the very same thing, BUT he/she might come up with something new and different that could help your situation. I would think it is worth a try, anyway.

    Perhaps you will have to travel to another area to find a fellowship-trained spinal specialist, but, hopefully, it would be worthwhile in the long run. If not, at least you know you have explored more possibilities.

    Good luck. I'm sorry you are in so much ongoing pain.

    xx Gwennie
  • Hi and welcome to spine-health. Sorry to hear about the issues with the plate. Plates usually are not a issue to take out. However the longer they are in the more bone that has grown around them. I am a little confused as to mean broke the fusion plate? If the plate broke I would assume that it is not consumed in bone. However, I am not a doctor, just someone who has tried on several pieces of hardware on the cervical spine, and had them removed. As long as you are fused the hardware no longer serves a purpose. Most don't need surgery for removal as they cause no issue. Your surgeon says he is worried about damaging your esophagus with the removal, shouldn't he be more concerned about a moving plate near your spinal cord? Also keep in mind in the cervical spine there just isn't much room. Have they checked to see if the plate is moving at all? If so what test did they use?

    I noticed that you said you have another herniated disc? Is the pain coming from the herniated disc or the plate? When is the last emg study you had done? They can also do selective nerve blocks to identify the pain source, as well. I agree with whomever told you to get another opinion.

    Anyway just wanted to stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Besides the forums is some awesome articles written and peer reviewed by doctors. Take care and I do hope you get some relief soon. Look forward to reading more of your post.
  • He said something about scar tissue around the area that could rip through my esophagus and I'd end up with a feeding tube. Said the risks don't outweigh the benefits yet!!! I've had the plate since 96 and broke in 2005 ish...The fusion is solid..I can see where the plate is broken in my regular x-ray it is the top plate and it is just in half I don't see any side to side movement just a gap where it broke, the screws are all in place as well.. And yea the disk above the broken plate is what is now bulging and is hurting I can feel it...I know in my heart of hearts that if he went in and fixed that and the plate I would be better off. I never expect to be out of pain but I think I could be in "less pain." I haven't had an EMG since they tried one in 1995 I couldn't take the pain, made the doctor stop the study...

    My surgeon left the area for a while and when he came back I went and saw him and told him I was still having pain and all the docs were doing was throwing medicating at me..So he had fit that nobody had bothered to x-ray me in 5 yrs.. I spent almost a day in the hospital having new MRIs, bone scans, brain scans, plain x-rays...and have been in and out of MRI machines I can't even count anymore I'm surprised the kitchen magnets don't fly off and stick to me...What scares me was after that round of tests he came in and said everything with the fusion is fine. But you have arthritis throughout your spine now..And looked me straight in the eye and said I don't care what anyone tells you please don't let anyone operate on your back again it's a mess...He's not your typical doctor which is why I am in such a spot. He never carries a chart into the room, he looks at you when he speaks to you, he doesn't sugar coat, and he has a sense of humor..All things I truly respect in a person. And I am not the only patient of his that feels that way I have never heard a bad word spoken about this man. He actually knows his patients and cares..I have never had a doc like him in my life and it's not the old patient falling for the doctor thing, hes older and not my type,,LOL...I just trust him he has been with me through thick and thin...But as you and others have said a second opinion can't hurt...Just can't afford another MRI scan right now...The last one I had about two months before I hurt my neck again..God this is getting old..

    What kinds of surgery have you had?
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