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Failed fusions????

sheba1964ssheba1964 Posts: 102
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I just want to cry.I have just heard my revision surgery for a fail fusion on my L-4-5,& L-5/s1 has also failed to fuse.
What are the main reasons these operations fail to fuse.Can you be over-active?I tried so hard not to do that ,this time.
Now they want to go through the front to put in more hardware from the front as well.
Apparently he has another patient with the same problem,& he did this procedure with her,& he said she is happy now.
I don't know what to do.Life seems so cruel.I am so struggling with my mind ,faith,& the desire to keep fighting.I didnt think things could be any worse,but now I find this out.What is the point of life,when it does these things to us.
Has anyone else had to go thru this???


  • just 4 months postop from the revision??? Clarify this.

    It took 16 months for me to appear completely fused. I wore the bone growth stimulator for 7 months also.

    How was it decided that you have a non union?

  • just 4 months postop from the revision??? Clarify this.

    It took 16 months for me to appear completely fused. I wore the bone growth stimulator for 7 months also.

    How was it decided that you have a non union?

  • If you are just 4 months post op there is noway I would submit to another surgery, you still have lots of time to fuse. Same as sleepgirl I wore a bone growth stimulator to get a complete fusion. It appears they used BMP, I am assuming by the notes on your revision, even with BMP it wouldn't fuse in this short amount of time in the Lumbar spine, maybe cervical.

    Why is your surgeon saying you have a failed fusion? What test have the run outside of x-rays?
  • I'm curious what the doctor did for your revision surgery? Did he go in from the front and back or just the back. I agree with the others that 4 months is way early to be saying you don't have a fusion and that I also had to wear a stimulator for almost 9 months. Do you smoke?
  • From my own experience, and from all the research I did trying to understand my own failed fusion, I would say that 4 months is wayyyy too soon to give up on having a successful fusion. The only reason I could see to go in again this soon is if the hardware or graft has moved, or something like that. To get a good solid fusion can take up to 2 years, so for a doctor to say that you have a failed fusion, I would be suspicious that there is something else causing it. Do you have any other details? I would be asking lots of questions and getting another opinion if it were me. One can only take so much spine surgery

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • It is only 5.5 months since my revision surgery.My metalware had come loose & had slipped.The revision surgery recified this & yes they only went in through the rear again.Yes,they did use the cultured type bone for fusion,as oppossed to the graft they took from my hip the first operation.
    They have taken recent MRI scans to determine failed union.
    He has not mentioned ever a bone stimulator,not sure if they use them over here in New Zealand.
    I do not know way he is wanting to operate again so soon,but I will try to get more opinions before I agree to more surgery.
    I have had to take time to absorb all of this,as it was such a shock that this could fail again,so soon when I have tried so hard to be careful.
    No I don't smoke.I used to but stopped for this operation.I was usiing NRT patches at the time& had talked to my doc about that ,but he wasn't concerned.also at the hospital they gave me a patch.
    Also,they have said that the top L4-L5 fused,but the L5-S1 has not fused.
    I will be talking with my GP this coming week to discuss this further to see what his thoughts on the matter are?
    Thanks so much for your support & experiences,you are very Kind people,thanks & Bless you heaps.
  • Have you fused now ?How long did you take to get that fusion?

    Anybody???How long did it take for you to fuse,if you have had a lumbar fusion.
    I have heard of successful fusions going back to work in 8 weeks .Also heard of others being painfree again in 6 weeks to 3 months.
    Thankfully with the drugs ,my pain is bearable & I can do many things albeit slowly & carefully.
    I live alone & I worry that maybe i have been bending & twisting too soon,as I have to manage somehow.
    I am at a total loss now,but am pressing on to find answers.What else is there.
    I hope you are all doing better than this & that you have an awesome weekend.
  • another opinion in New Zealand? Glad you are not rushing back to surgery. Do obtain all the information that you can and educate yourself.

    My surgeon told me that he sees fusion patients that continue to grow bone in their second year after fusion.

    When I was 6 months postop I had zero bone growth noted on my xrays. After that time my physical therapist insisted that I wear a bone growth stimulator, which I did for 7 months. Every 3 months I went back for xrays, and you could see continued bone growth, and my last visit at 16 months looked fused. I could visualizethe changes myself, so I felt more confident that it was actually occurring.

    Good luck,


  • Hi Mike,

    It took me more then a year to fuse after a revision surgery where they went in from both the front and rear. It WAS a big operation but if you look at what happens when they only do a fusion from the rear I can see why a lot of people might have a problem. Its like putting a hinge on 2 spinal vertabrae and expecting it to hold. They like to put in screws and rods from the back and hope that the 2 spine segments don't move. What happens in the front of the spine?? It moves and ends up putting a lot of pressure on the rods and screws. Might work for some but it doesn't work for all. After my problems I would NEVER agree to having a fusion done from the rear only. Yes, they have some hybrid surgerys out there that might work also. Just my opinion after having been through it. If your surgeon is seeing signs of screws coming out, breaking or movement I would see no reason to wait to have it fixed. I can't see the reasoning behind not doing the fusion surgery correctly to begin with. My first lumbar fusion wasn't done as I was told it would be and the surgeon danced around why he didn't do what was agreed to. A lot depends on what the problem(s) are I guess. Just my opinion.
  • Can understand your disappointment, especially as this is revision surgery. However, as others have said, L5-S1 could still fuse. Do ask your surgeon about a bone growth stimulator - they could very well be available in NZ.

    Good that you're going to get more opinions before submitting to more surgery.

    Even though I was fused by 6 months, as time has gone on, I can feel that my back is becoming stronger and can now do more things, like walking the dogs on leads and washing the car, which I couldn't do before 18 months out. I only had a one level, which was from the front, and I've got a plate, screws and cage and they used BMP. I have read that when they fuse from the front, it fuses more quickly than from the back. It was probably from a post on this forum, but can't remember any more details. At the time of surgery, I got the impression that my surgeon preferred to fuse from the front and had a lot of success.

    Keep your chin up Mike and talk to your doctor about seeing another neurosurgeon.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Your surgeon unfortunately is correct, if the hardware has moved and there is a black "halo" around the hardware, it probably is going to be a failed union. I sorry for you that you have to go through another surgery, but at least you are "moving foreward" sooner...Good luck....
  • I'll keep you posted ---thanks for your help & encouragement.
    I'm really freaked out by surgery through the front.Seem's like it could be so easy to have a problem with all the bits that must have to be moved aside?Plus,whats it like to recovery from a front incision.As I live alone it's so much more difficult to exist without streching the boundries of motion.
    There hasn't been any sign of movement of the hardware .He seems satisfied with that,this time.
    Even though I still feel the aching over & above the current levels of Oxycontin,etc I'm on,it feels better than it has in such a long time,I aren't running back to surgery if I can help it.I feel like I need a rest.This has been going on for so very long now it seems.
    Well Happy Healing folks,I will chat more soon--Mike.
  • Hi Mike

    My surgery was from the front (ALIF). The stomach will be painful and swollen for 6-8 weeks.

    My surgeon had done over 200 anterior fusions and I had complete confidence that all would go well. They have to be very careful with the major arteries and a vascular surgeon is usually there to do this. I was hooked up to a cell salvage machine and didn't lose any blood.

    I had to do a bowel cleanse the day prior to surgery but was able to have clear soup and jelly for dinner.

    I live alone with two Labradors and was able to manage. It was difficult at times, but they knew things were different and were very gentle with me.

    Go with how you feel and have that rest from more surgery. You'll know when you're ready to face more if you still haven't fused during the next 12 months.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • That is most encouraging,thank you!!
    I recieved my surgeons report yesterday .He has said in it,that he only believes it has a 50/50 chance of being successful in reducing my pain.That doesn't seem very high.How have you founf it in regard to its success.I see you say it has been a success.So can you do things like jog across a street when you need to?
    I think its pretty cool the way you have stayed around to keep encouraging the newbies ,You must have a special Heart,LOL.
    Chat more soon,Mike.
  • Oh Mike, that isn't the news you needed to hear. Hopefully L5-S1 will fuse during the next 6-12 months. Weather permitting, walk as much as you're able to, breaking it up into smaller sections and not several kilometers at one time. I found walking better than any other exercise during the first 6 months. Until I had fused, other exercise hurt my back and I stopped doing it.

    Do check with your surgeon about a bone stimulator. I've not heard of anyone here in Australia who's had one, but in difficult cases, it seems to be one of the therapies in the US, so perhaps they're available in NZ??

    Where I've been fused at L4-5, I don't have any of that dreadful pain down my buttocks and legs. Before surgery, I wasn't getting a lot of pain in that area of my back, but was and still do get back pain at the L5-S1 level and a little pain down the back of the leg if I overdo things. I can't sit still for long periods in a normal chair and I think that's how it's going to be for the rest of my life. So to have relief from all that nerve pain and able to do most things means that my fusion is successful. Cos I'm an old girl, I don't attempt to run any more, but I do some low impact aerobics from a DVD, but some of the moves, I have to modify. I also do a little Tai Chi/Qigong. I used to be crazy about aerobics back in the 90's but I damaged my feet and had to have one of the bones fused. That foot's not as flexible as the other one, but it's ok.

    Even though the levels either side of my fusion aren't too good, my surgeon didn't want to operate on them when he did L4-5. He didn't say why and I was too groggy to ask, and then at post-op visits, I forgot to ask. So if pain levels were to increase, then I'd have to consider further surgery. I'm hoping that the exercise I'm doing will keep the muscles strong and support the spine, and so far so good.

    I feel it's important that some of us who've had successful surgeries and are 12 months plus out, encourage new ones, and try and give support to those like yourself who are having problems healing. It's a lonely world out there without someone to say "I understand and care". I've been given lots of direct and indirect support and it feels right to give to those needing it now.

    I imagine it's pretty cold in NZ at the moment, and that wouldn't help with your pain. It's pretty cold here in Perth but we're having sunny days and that lifts the spirit.

    Take care Mike


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • How does that happen? How long after your surgery and the healing process? Was it based on some daily life activit or something else?
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