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Is there hope with a 4th cervical fusion??

Disabled-DoctorDDisabled-Doctor Posts: 9
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi there, I am a 46 years old physician, who had neck pain for 20 years. the pain became severe and I had 1 ACDF C5,6,7 in 2004 which did not fuse. I worked with a broken neck, until I had a CT scan that showed the non-fusion. Then I had a revision of ACDF a year later which led to unbearable pain. 3 months later, I had the THIRD SURGERY, all anterior hardware removed, and I was fused from the back.Now the pain is unbearable again,,,,,4 years after the last surgery. Anyone with similare experience who had a successful outcome with further surgery???


  • Hi Doc,

    It's been a while since I heard from you, I found out last week after more tests that C6 failed (colapsed) due to my week bones, he thinks maybe C5 also and C3 above the work in did Dec. 8, 2008 C4-6 now needs to be repaired. I have been on state disability since med Sept. he said I would be off work until April 27, 2010 that really shocked me. They are sending me to San Jose to see a new doctor to due front and back surgery on my neck C3-6 with a plate front and back. I just want this pain to go away so I can relate you a lot.
    Keep the faith, that's the one thing I turn to the most.

  • Dear Rick,

    It is good to hear from you Rick. I do not know what to say to you man !!! None of us here can provide real help, but we all try to help one-another and vent when we need to!!

    I really hope your next surgery gets is a success. This is exactly what I was told in 2002, after my first MRI, I was told that I needed to be fused from the front and the back. But they went for the front first "ACDF", which failed. My concern is whenever you have screws already in there is less space for the new ones, that is why they want to go from the back as well. Imagine the little vertebrae, each is small in size, and you have 2 to 3 screws in each, when you take the screws out, you leave holes. They have to find places with solid bone for the new screws, otherwise, they are weak if they put the screws through the holes. That is the problem you and I have.

    Pray for success of the surgery and pain-free life afterword, My heart goes out to you Rick. Keep me posted.

  • Hi Doc,

    I got my orthopedic spine surgeon date for Nov. 12, it's been a long road I am very grateful I can see some help coming.

  • Hi Doc,

    I had a C5-6 and a revision when it did not fuse. I too am still in pain and not given any reason nor any hope.

    Are any of your doctors suggesting a 4th surgery?

    The screws... I wondered about the old holes when the first screws in my neck were removed. Don't the holes grow back together much like a bone fuses after a break or like a fusion?

    Are you still able to work? I am not able to re-enter the work force after being a stay at home mom. It stinks being so incapable, but I trudge on hoping. I believe God is in control and that He has a plan and that helps me.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey D. Doc,
    Sorry to hear about your failed fusion, I have been fortunate in that way as my fusion of C3 thru C6 worked out especially as I have had a corpectomy,
    discectomy, a strut and cage installed to fill that void, then plates, rods, and screws to hold it all together performed both from the anterior and posterior.My entire spine continues to collapse due to my OA disease so it is inevitable I will require more repairs in the near future. I would be surprised if anyone here with spinal fusion surgery mush less any spinal surgeries will ever be pain free again. For me it is just a part of my life now, I can accept that I won't get better, I know I will get worse, but that gives me the strength to soldier on and do the best I can every day.
  • Thank you guys for your comments, I really appreciate it.

    About the holes: when I had my second surgery the set of screws of the first surgery were still in my neck. So, when they removed them to put the new set of screws, the holes were just created, so there was no time for healing.
    They can not take the screws out and let the bone heal and then come back in a year to put new screws.

    About Hope, I have that too. But it is so hard, because I am a doctor and I know that osteoarthritis worsens with time. So, if the present is intolerable, what is worse going to be like? I do not want to bring anyone down or be negative. May be I am a realist, or tired, or having a bad day :)
  • Sorry to hear about your troubles,but I know exactly how you are feeling.I had my first fushion 15 yrs ago and after 2 additional aurgeries I hurt more now than I ever have.But I guess all we can do is keep the faith.Wish you all the best of luck!!
  • Hey Doc

    Why are they saying they need to do a fourth surgery? I must be missing the reason behind going in a fourth time? Do you have a hardware issue or another level gone out? Do you have myelopathy? I have actually been through surgery five times. In my case I hate to think of what life would be like without the surgery. Am I still in pain daily, you betcha and I use meds to control the pain. The one thing I know is I still have my ability to walk and the use of my arms, as well. If your worried about the holes from the bones they can use bone cement to fill them in, much like they do with a fracture of the spine.

    You have to realize doing spine surgery forever alters the mechanics of the spine. It is not like any other surgery. I also think everyone needs to go through a mourning process over the things they have lost, and can no longer do, so they can move forward in life. You may not work again but there are many other things in life besides a job, that are just important. I think that you have to also realize recovering from spine surgery is a very long process. while your physical scars are gone, you still have some pain and the mechanics and more than likely won't return to the life you had before it. There are so many variables that go into recovery, and what you want out of surgery. I think we have to be reasonable in those expectations. At this point and time I don't ever expect to be pain free, if by some chance it would happen, then wonderful. However I do wish to preserve the things I can do now. So you need to set the expectations and discuss them with your surgeon to see if they are reasonable? Without knowing the totality of your situation it is hard, to think what is reasonable. Do take care and I hope you are feeling better.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hi Tam,
    Well said and being Dr Disabled is a medical doctor he knows all about the mechanics of the human body. Waking up in the morning, rolling off the bed and walking away is a gift alone. Being able to go about my daily activities with a little discomfort isn't all that bad as so many others have it so much worse. I think you have brought to light here many good points and that is why tamtam you are very respected here at S-H.
    Take care,
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I am now in the recovery phase of my fourth cervical spine surgery. The first being c3 and c4 fused, the second being redo for failed fusion, third was for c5 and c6 fusion and last but not least, the fourth was due to all fusions failing. Severe stenosis at all levels, collapse of c5 and c6 with broken screws and the plate was backing out causing compression of the esophagus. My last surgery was c5 and c6 corpectomy with fusion of c4 thru c7. Plates, screws rods and anything else they could find to make my neck stable. Only time will tell if this surgery will be successful.
    Some days the pain is tolerable and others it is not. The main thing is I will not let my spine issues control my life. I am still working full time and am enjoying a active social life. Do I have to force myself to continue this way? YES! Are there times I want to give up,yes, but I will feel sorry for myself for a few days and try again. Also let me add in the middle of all my neck surgeries I also had two lower back disectomys.

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