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11 months Post PLIF - non-union

huskymomhhuskymom Posts: 24
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had PLIF surgery in September 2009 at L4/L5 and had a short time where I felt great and the pain returned and also some new pain. I have pain in the left SI area (before and after surgery) and pain in both iliac crests (post surgery). My NS had told me that the surgery was healed and the only thing he could think of was that it was sacroilitis. The SI Joint injections increased the pain rather than it subsiding which to me would say that's not the problem. He did an MRI of each hip and SI joints and he said that I needed to see an ortho as the problem was in my hips. I have now seen the ortho and he said my hips are fine. He said that he can't tell from the x-rays, but he doesn't believe the fusion took. So he sent me for a CT scan and said he still cannot tell for sure if the fusion took and proceded with an x-ray extending and bending, still inconclusive. He said that my pain is all functional pain (hurts upon bending, twisting, moving in general) which leads him to believe that the fusion did not take. He also indicated that one of the pedicle screws is hitting the joint at L3/L4. He did an injection at L3/L4 and it did not help. He said basically my only option is to go back in and do exploratory surgery to see if there is movement in the joint at L4/L5 and then redo the fusion.

Does this sound right that nothing can confirm that the fusion did or didn't take? Any advice?




  • Was this a spine fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon?


  • Welcome to Spine Health. People here are very friendly and will certainly try to support you. :D
    There is also a lot of information in the conditions and treatments section.

    Please remember that none of us on here are medically trained, so any opinion we give or experience shared, is just that, and not from any expert knowledge.

    As for not being able to tell if you have fused after 11 months, either on an x-ray or CT scan, does sound strange. I don't think that an MRI scan would show fusion but certainly an x-ray and CT scan should give this information. However, some other people have said that their surgeon has told them that an x-ray doesn't show it. (They think that is strange too!) As that is what they do to check for fusion, it is confusing. Perhaps sometimes it is difficult to see it.

    My x-rays taken at 8 weeks didn't show any sign of fusion starting, but my surgeon said it was too early and will x-ray again at 12 months, unless I have any problems. I am now almost 5 months, and just over the last couple of days, have started getting a horrid stabbing pain when I bend down. I am taking it very easy now, and hoping that it will go away again! :<

    What does your doctor say about the reason why it doesn't show if you are fused or not? He has certainly done several tests to look! Does he have any suggestions to help your body to fuse (if it hasn't)? Some people seem to be given a Bone Growth Stimulator to wear, to help them to fuse.

    Sorry I can't offer much help or advice. :S
    We will be here to listen and support you Val.

    There are some others who have had to have their fusion re-done because it hasn't fused. Hopefully they will post their experiences.

    I really hope that they find a way to help you get back on track in your recovery. :-)
  • Thanks for the reply jellyhall. The dr. didn't say why he can't tell if its fused by the studies he's done and I didn't think to ask. I was very much caught off guard when he said that he didn't think it was. He said that if it wasn't fused by now, it won't fuse, but I will ask him about a bone stimulator. I hadn't heard of that before.

    I'm going for a nerve block in 2 weeks and then see the dr. again in September (on the 1 year anniversary of my surgery).

    I'm at a loss right now and just don't know what to do.

  • I had no fusion on Xray at my 6 month visit with my surgeon. My physical therapist recommend a bone growth stimulator, and my doctor ordered it. Statically about 2/3 of patients that wear it during the 6-9 month post op period go on to fuse. At least that is what the bone stimulator company told me. I also that many supplements and watch my nutrient, so as to promote bone growth.

    In saying this, I'm not sure if a bone stimulator would work at 11 months out, but it has been a good option for me. I use an orthofix stimulator; so you could look on their website, and others, to see what kind of research has been done regarding usage at your stage of recovery.

    It could never hurt to get another opinion either, considering that contemplating another surgery.

    Take care,

  • I had L4/L5 alif on 10/09 same as you three docs told me I havent fused new doc seems to thik Im starting to I have my doubts.Ive had xray,mri and ct done I also have pain in my hips and lumbar area left leg numb since surgery.I dont take any pain meds Im sick of takeing them 4 years worth pre surgery I would rather deal with the pain with a clear head. New doc told me he wont do another surgery as long as screws are holding he suggested I get a pain stimulater I dont want that either Im determind to beat this on my own.
  • Hi Berg

    Sounds like you have a lot of the same symptoms I do. I was told that if I wasn't fused by now, it's not going to fuse. I asked my doctor about the pain pump and spinal stimulator and he said no. He said I'm too young and they don't work.

    I keep thinking I'm going to beat this myself, but then I attempt to do something that seems so trivial and I'm set back. Yesterday I pulled a couple of weeds and I was paying dearly last night. My hips hurt more than anything, and if it isn't fused, I'm wondering if the instability is causing the pain. For pain, I can only take a very weak Darvocet so I really haven't had much in the way of pain meds.

    Best of luck in your recovery and hope things get better!

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