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Question On Instrumentation Removed

Mindymork62MMindymork62 Posts: 207
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello Everyone,

I had a fusion of L 3/4 & L 4/5 with cage & screws. Surgery was done in June of 2010. Went to my surgeon yesterday and he showed me my current X-rays where all six of the screws are loose and one is breaking. He's going to remove all the screws next month and leave the cage. I know this is normally an easy surgery, but I'm concerned about the fact I have Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis and my bones in my spine are soft. He said he will know more when he actually goes in. My question is; what will prevent my disc or vertebrae from collapsing?
I have been in so much pain for many months and cannot walk very far, and I'm hoping this will relieve some of the pain.


  • Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
  • Sorry to hear about the screws breaking and coming loose. I've never heard of them removing the screws but leaving the cage, but it must mean that the fusion material adhered to the cage.

    Did you ask the surgeon this question? My thinking is that is what's going to keep your spine from collapsing is the disc fusion and the fusion of the cage to your spine.

    After just over a year, it should be pretty solid if there is indeed fusion. I suppose that's what he means about he'll know more when he gets in there?

    I hope this procedure helps and lessens your pain. Please keep us posted.

    Take care,
  • Never heard of the screws loosening and breaking while still having a solid fusion. Hum? Usually when screws break and loosen it indicates some pretty significant movement. I am surprised your surgeon didn't tell you if you were fused or not in the disc area. Sounds to me like it may be prudent to get another opinion before going under the knife again. I know I would whether I loved the surgeon or not. To much at risk here. There are tests that can tell you if the fusion is a complete one or not. My surgeon sent me for a cat scan that pretty well spelled out where the fusion was totally fused and where it wasn't. That was the reason for one of my thread posts that nobody chimed in on. I read on this forum of people having their hardware taken out but never for the reason you mention. Having soft bones might make sense for the srews maybe loosening some but not breaking, as it takes a lot of pressure to break something like a screw, at least it seems that way to me.

    Is your surgeon well known for only doing spinal surgery? If not I would get myself to one and in a hurry. Hope your not limited by your insurance.

    Good luck and let us know what you find out.

  • David, you bring up a good point. There does have to be a reason that the screws came out and broke and that definitely could mean movement.

    Sounds like seeing another surgeon, one that specializes only in spines and fellowship-trained is a good idea. I did assume in my post that you were completely fused, but that was only an assumption. It's imperative with this op that you know if you're fused or not. He shouldn't go in to find that out, like David said there are tests to tell how much you're fused. I also had a CT scan and an MRI to look for fusion and it was confirmed that I was fused. It was my C6/7 because it was slow to join the fusion party, but it's done its job.

    Sorry, my bad. Thanks for chiming in David. You're points are very valid.

  • Mindy, I too have heard that broken screws are a sign of failure to fuse; is he planning on doing any reinforcement to the pre-existing cage or adding any more material? I heard they often can tell if the fusion isn't solid if there is a black area around the hardware on X-rays. Good luck.
  • Yes, there is a dark blackish area around one of the screws in particular, and yes. I am fused. My surgeon is one of the best and he specializes in spine surgeon. I have gotten another opinion from an orthopedic surgeon, and he agrees with my Neurosurgeon. Also, I loss sight in my left eye this past Tuesday, but it returned on Wednesday evening. My surgeon will not do any surgery until they find out what caused that. He's going to do a Doppler on my carotid artery this week. One thing after another. LOL
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