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What does a failed surgery mean?

gethealthyggethealthy Posts: 303
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've heard folks say that their surgery failed or didn't take. Does that mean that no fusion occurred?

What happens when no fusion occurs? I sure hope my ACDF is successful. I'd hate to do this again. I'm 10 weeks out and go back Nov 30 to see how I'm doing.

I had no fusion at 5 weeks but have been faithful with my bone stimulator and walking.

I still feel raw inside. If I get bumped or step hard I get sharp pain like it's not all good in my neck yet. I get pain when I walk too but I think it's just my weak neck muscles trying to do their job. When I slow down it gets better. I can't do my normal pace yet.

I hear some folks talking about go out and riding their bikes and such at 12 weeks but most of those seem to have just one level done. I had 3 does that make healing slower?


  • A three level fusion is huge. I've had one myself and don't believe I'll ever be the same again. I was told before my surgery by my surgeon and recently by his PA that if my C6/7 doesn't fuse, I'll need another surgery to put in some rods or a cage posteriorly.

    I'm completely fused at C4/5 and 5/6, but C6/7 still shows some movement, which isn't good. This is the most difficult level to fuse, so it's not too surprising.

    Just hang in there. You've had major surgery and spine surgery is something all in itself.

    Take care and keep us posted.
  • Hi Cath

    We had the same levels done. Your year birthday is coming up. Did you use a bone stimulator? They say that helps. I hate mine but I do 4 hours daily.

    I hope your 6/7 fuses soon so you don't have to do another surgery.

    I'm reading a great book about body mechanics and such called "What to do for a pain in the neck" by Jerome Schofferman MD. I'm trying not to bend from the base of my neck but from the base of my skull or from my hips with hand support if need be. I'm doing kneeling or squatting with my back straight to pick things up. I'm hoping that helps with my 6/7. I bet that area gets lots of stress.

    I know I'll never be the same again which is good and bad. I've dealt with a bad neck for almost 2 decades so that part I'll be happy to say goodbye to. I know I won't be able to do the same activities but I'm okay with that. I'm going to be 59 in January so it's time to slow down and smell the roses.
  • There are two separate terms, neither is good. "Failed fusion", or pseudarthroses, is when the fusion just didn't happen. Some causes can be smoking, too much activity too soon, but usually no one knows. The pain from the failed fusion is often worse than the pre-surgical original pain.

    "Failed back" is when the fusion actually did work, but the pain didn't go away. There can be alot of causes, chronic nerve pain pathways, facet pain, sacro-iliac joint dysfunction, piriformis syndrome, infection of the hardware/joint, permanent nerve damage due to nerve compression from damaged disc, trauma from surgery, BMP overgrowth, just to name a few...
  • Thank you so much! That's a very clear description.

    I don't smoke so that's on my side. I don't think I've done too much activity. I hired a house keeper and a gardener which made me sad. I like to do both myself. I do walk and now do some strength training stuff but stay under 10 pounds. It's moves given to me by my PT and I got permission from my doctor so I hope it's okay.

    I really thought I'd start to fuse by my 5 week and didn't so I'm freaked out a bit. Fusion Fusion Fusion is on my mind LOL This is not a surgery I want to repeat. It's like being in jail. I want to get free!
  • I had a PLIF and I know they are not the same, but it took five months before they started to see fusion clearly. So I am sure it just takes time. You are doing everything right, just give it time. We all heal at our own rates, some faster than others.
  • You are too early to even be thinking about whether you are fusing. Don't worry about it! Keep a positive attitude and don't waste time and energy worrying about something you have no control over.

    My surgeon does not take X-rays until around 9 months unless the patient is complaining about something being awry because people fuse at such different rates and it just makes people anxious if they think someone has fused earlier and they haven't.

    Keep up the good things you are doing -- using the bone growth stimulator, walking, etc. and try to just focus on healing and getting better.
  • I'll think of you when I start getting fuse focused gwennie17. I'm sure you're right. Your doctor must have to put up with a lot of insecure people LOL. He's smart.

    Thank you. My husband would be applauding you if he read your post.
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