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Smoking and bone growth stimulator

rascal2717rrascal2717 Posts: 109
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Stop Smoking
I am well aware that smoking greatly compromises the risks of spinal fusion recovery. Unfortunately I am addicted to cigarettes. Are there any statistics as to success vs failure of complete fusion as a smoker.

Also, does wearing the Biomet bone growth stimulator 10 hours a day enhance the chances of a smokers fusion success. Any stats on this?

Thanks for any and all advise.


  • There is no way to pinpoint a certain cause for patients not fusing, but smoking is a huge risk for it not happening.

    There are also many people on this site who continued to smoke but wore a bone growth stimulator that have not fused.

    You have this one chance to fuse...you will not get a do-over. If you are wearing a bone growth stimulator, your doctor must think you are at risk of not fusing. Give yourself EVER opportunity to fuse. Through wearing your BGS, not smoking, good nutrition, appropriate exercise, you will have done everything in your control.

    I am not a smoker, but I did like to drink coca-cola on occasion, which is known to be bad for osteoporosis. When I was 6 months postop fusion and saw NO fusion, I dropped them like a hot potato. Other than that I wore my BGS, eat organic foods and took supplements, walk 2 miles a day, and finally fused at 16 months. I have 5 degenerative levels that cause me a great deal of pain, but the fusion looks ok for now.

    Never have I been so scared than the day I did not see any fusion. This is the most important thing in your life. Be good to yourself!!! There are some great people on this forum that will support you!!

    Good luck,
  • Believe it or not, I had 2 level laminectomy and fusion almost 25 years ago and smoked the whole time(was a dope then and a dope now) and went 24 years 98%pain free. I was the SUCCESSFUL back fusion patient. When re-operated on at the same levels last month 1of the fusions was still fine and rather than re-fuse as they had anticipated, bolts were inserted between the fusion and my pelvis to just make it even sturdier. Those bolts are painful, but hopefully with time it will ease up and become more flexible. Used to be double jointed, but, that may be a thing of the past. My goal is to quit smoking and have bought the e-cig and chantix. Just wondered what the stats were, if that info was available. Best of luck in you feeling better every day!
  • Now "ex-smoker" here...

    My first fusion I smoked, no bone growth stim and I fused fast and good. A little over a year later my next level went and I underwent another ACDF. At 6 weeks a bit of clouding was showing in the x-ray - encouragement for fusion beginning.

    Fast forward 4.5-5 months post op, most all of my symptoms came back. I was using a bone growth stimulator (Orthoflex), and as you can see by my signature line, my fusion failed into a pseudoarthrosis - false joint. Instead of just my two levels being fixed, the failure screwed almost my entire cervical spine and part of my thoracic! 5 levels next month. Not gonna be fun....

    3 weeks ago, me and my friends "the ciggies" are no longer. They are toxic, I don't need them, and I really don't miss them! I just need to look at my x-rays to remind me. A dear friend on here told me of a book called: The easy way to stop Smoking, by Allen Carr Now she has never smoked but her son did, and it helped him, and I know it allowed me to become an "ex" pretty painlessly. :)

    I smoked for over 30 years, grew up the child of smokers - so this is the FIRST time in my life on this planet to NOT be around any smoking! I feel better, my skin feels nicer, my leg and feet edema are pretty much gone, energy getting better, smell changing, actually lost 12 lbs!!! The key isn't the addiction to get through, but the mind set and what your brain is telling you. No harping, just something I discovered, and it worked [for me].

    I guess for me, this many levels, "never ever smoked types" are even at risk - so I am going to give my body every chance to fuse and heal. Wishing you well on your path to fusion. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Rascal,

    When I was first put on a bone growth stimulator, I too looked for statistics. On Orthoflex's web site, the "only" statistics I could find where their study results - and sadly based on one level!!

    Honestly I would guess the stimulator does give you more of a fighting chance than without...if smoking?

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks so much for your responses Brenda. You seem like a wonderful role model to follow on this " journey". Will be thinking of you and your super successful outcome in the future!!!!!
  • rascal2717 said:
    I am well aware that smoking
    greatly compromises the risks of spinal fusion recovery.

    So then haven't you answered your own question?
    rascal2717 said:

    Unfortunately I am addicted to cigarettes.
    This is called a "cop out". It's the excuse every drug addict makes. It's not good enough. Many have quit before you and many more will after you. So it is doable.
    rascal2717 said:

    Are there any statistics as to success vs failure of complete fusion as a smoker.
    What difference does it make. You'll be your own statistic. That should be enough. Want to be a success and statistically 0 chance. Quit the smoking and stop making excuses.
    rascal2717 said:

    Thanks for any and all advise.
    You're welcome. Bet you wished you hadn't put that statement in your post huh? ;-)

    An ex-smoker. You can do it.
  • I read the book that helped Brenda and I started CHantix, now my quit day was only 3 days ago (today is day 3) but so far so good. I really don't think about smoking and if I do I don't need it, it is a want and how often do I tell my kids you don't need that you want it so your not getting it. Or I say nope not doing it been smoke free for two days not messing it up now. Today will be hard my mom is taking me to see my second opinion in Buffalo a hour away and she will be smoking the whole way ... Urrr But I will do it.. I am not gonna let someone else break me Wish me luck... I smoked for over 20 years never really wanted to quit, then when I discovered what was going on with my back and how much it effected my fusion I had no choice took til now to work up to it mind over matter , but it is happening You can do it believe me if I can do it anyone can do it..
  • I have been online for weeks reading all the informative and interesting info that this site provides. Many of my questions have been answered, and the forums have made me feel like I am not alone for the first time in three years. Although, I am still confused regarding the Exogen Bone Stimulator suggested by my surgeon. The more I read the more confused I have become. To keep this short, I would like to know if Exogen is the only stimulator to get or is there other reliable stimulators out there? I will be paying out of pocket for mine. Ebay seems to be an option, but with alot of caution and risk to the purchase. Any advise will be helpful and much appreciated as I need to purchase a stimulator within the next week for the benefits to work.

    I recently underwent lumbar facet fusion on L4/L5 on Oct.6th, this was non-invasive (as they like to say)but still very painful recovery, very little sleep, and anxiety regarding if the fusion will happen. Prior to this procedure here is my history. A crazy list in such a short time. Yet all failed! This lead me, without choice, to my latest surgery.

    Laser Discectomy on C4/C5 this worked! Laser Laminectomy L4/5,L5/S1 failed. Injections into lower back (I lost track of how many) they all failed. I only felt relief for two to three days. Lyase injections (imported from Germany) wasted of time and money, did not work. Nerve root injections, failed. Nerve root abalation/SI joint failed. Then, back to surgery with a Discectomy on my L4/L5, left me with nerve damage left leg, and complete failure for pain relief in lower back. Diagnosis after that was pain management for life, not an option for me that is why I recently had my latest surgery, which I call my "hail mary" last ditch effort to get my life back. Not to mention the three years of pain meds, all the different nerve pain meds that did not work and the unforseen damage they may be causing to my insides. Writing all my history with all the pain and frustration I endured makes me ill. I know everyone on this site is all to familiar with pain and frustration, again I know now I am not alone in this nightmare of a journey my life has taken.
  • I believe there are many manufacturers of bone growth stimulators. The one I use is Biomet. Some stimulators are worn for a short time per day and others suchas mine is worn 10 hours per day. Fortunately, mine was 100% covered by my insurance.
    Why not ask your doctor what other ones he recommends and how you can reasonably get one?
  • I had an Anterior/posterior lumbar fusion on L4/L5 and L5/S1 in late December. 6 weeks prior to my surgery I switched to nicotine free smokes but I didn't like them very much so I rotated between those and regular cigarettes. I smokes almost 2 packs a day. I smokes both kinds of cigarettes until day before my surgery. After my surgery I quit cold turkey. My surgery was the worst experience I've ever been through and the worst pain you can even imagine. It's been 6 weeks since my surgery and I feel better still have pain, can't drive yet, and my Dr has not approved me to do physical Therapy yet. I wear my bone stimulater 2 hours a day as recommend by instruction packet. I never was told I needed one or knew anything about it till the day before surgery when a representative of the stimulator place called me to tell me he was bringing it to hospital and needed a contact number of someone he could give it to while I was in surgery. I didn't really think about it much cause day before surgery I was anxious and nervous so I had other things on my mind. I recently got benefits statement from my insurance company and they won't cover it at all cause its not "medically needed". It was 5,000 dollars. I freaked. Why was I never told about this? I'm also very skeptical about it and don't really know if it actually does anything. My mother and husband believe in it very much so I wear it regionally everyday.
    As far as smoking goes it has been a challenge and first several weeks I only thought about it once in awhile. Now at 6 weeks I crave it so bad I can hardly stand it. I figure its because I'm stressed depressed and bored cause I'm home most days by myself unable to drive or do any house work or really much moving around due to dr orders. It's easier at night and I don't think about it as much cause my husband and kids are home and I'm spending time with them. Over last weeks or so I sneak a few puffs of a smoke a few times a week. Never an entire cigarette but I'm super worried about my fusion not working. I'm not trying to make excuses or anything. I need to suck it up but dang it its so hard and sucks so bad. I wondered if sneaking a puff or two is really going to affect anything? I go into Dr for 6 week check up on Monday so I will be getting x ray to see if my bone has started to fuse. At my 1st post opp appt the fusion had started but not much at all but that was only 2 weeks after surgery and my surgeon said everything looked great. He knew I was a smoker prior to my surgery and still operated. With all the pain I'm having (which is much better now) but the pain of surgery the difficulty of everything and not having the ability to do anything myself and being alone watching TV most days has really taken its toll on my emotionally. I almost wish I would have never had the surgery, although I did not rush into it. I had 4 different opinions from different Doctors, I went through months of PT before hand, tried chiropractor, acupuncture, massage therapy, steroid injections and nothing worked. I had been suffering from the low back pain for 2 and half years and it took me months to make up my mind to go through with the surgery. Outside influences affected my decision to do it a lot. About 2 months before surgery back went down hill I could hardly walk very much couldn't stand in shower or even wash my hair myself. I never wanted to go out cause it was painful to sit or stand for long periods of time. Sitting in my recliner and a heating pad is the only thing that eased my pain along with medication. I had missed so many fun things Including my kids activities. My quality of life was not very good.
    After all that said I'm just curious about what others on here feel about the stimulator, the smoking, and the stress/depression post surgery. I'm just confused and frustrated.
  • stunned.... 2-10 hours a day? I was asked (and did) wear mine 24/7 with showers the only exception. Anyone else asked to wear their's this way?
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I was not prescribed one until 9 months post surgery (two level lumbar) when indications were that I may not be fusing. Insurance paid for it ($5000). I am a nonsmoker. My tenure was 4 hours a day. This could be split up, but not in any duration less than one hour.

    Fast forward. Yesterday I was finally validated after 22 months of reporting pain and a sense of instability when the xray showed a "halo." My surgeon said it was either good news or bad news. To me it was good news (and obviously good news for his bank account). I will undergo a revision. Immediately after that surgery I will be wearing the BGS and turtle shell. I am now labeled an "at risk" fusion patient.

    I so dread doing this again, but I can't envision the balance of my life enduring this condition.


  • AllMetalAAllMetal Posts: 1,189
    edited 02/01/2013 - 2:11 PM
    that is all. Sorry airborne72.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I had a two level ACDF (C3/4 C4/5) done three months ago.
    My surgeon had me get the Biomet Bone Growth Stimulator - and I was to wear the stimulator a minmum of 16 hours a day. He said that as long as I was wearing it that long, I should just keep it on 24/7 - minus time to shower.

    I was diligent about wearing it, despite the fact that it caused a terrible heat rash at the back of my neck. The combination of the BGS AND the Miami J Collar - my neck hates to be enclosed in anything.

    Now, fast forward - 3 months later and I just went to see my surgeon for my 12 week post-op visit and he said my neck was almost fully fused! So, the torture of the heat rash has been worth it.

    I am assuming fusion would take longer (he said up to a year, depending on several things), so I am way ahead of the game.

    Fortunately, I don't smoke, don't drink sodas and am in generally good health, except for the neck stuff.
    So, there you have it.

    Will I ever know for sure whether the BGS made a difference? I sure hope I never have to know!!! :)

    Good luck!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Apparently, there are several different brands, and the surgeon notifies the company for the duration of daily treatment. The one I have is set for 1/2 hour of daily treatments. It is not adjustable, and only one treatment is permitted for each 24 hour duration.

    Obviously, you know that continuing to smoke is defeating your chances of a successful fusion. Statistics about BGS and smokers who continue to smoke while using them are meaningless when applied to an individual, because only the individual's response is relevant. It doesn't matter if thirty percent of smokers who wear a BGS fuse if you're not one of those thirty percent!

    If you are using a BGS, are you aware that you are not supposed to be smoking AT ALL while it is in use? So if you are wearing it for ten hours a day, you're not supposed to be smoking at all during those ten hours. Actually, that is giving you a head-start on quitting, if you think about it.

    Is it possible that you can manage to cut down on the amount that you smoke? At least that will help somewhat, and perhaps be less intimidating than "quitting forever."

    Or, you might want to borrow the old tried-but-true slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous: "One day at a time." The idea is that if you can manage to not smoke for one day, you can do it again the next day. And so forth and so on. You're already not supposed to be smoking with the BGS on, so you're more than halfway there, assuming you sleep--LOL!

    See if your local hospital, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, or the local chapter of the American Lung Association offers smoking support groups. With all the additives that the tobacco companies put into cigarettes (which, by the way, is the lowest crap grade tobacco that they produce,) there are plenty of very addictive substances in cigarette smoke. It can, for many people, be a harder habit to kick than heroin is. Some people can manage cold turkey, some need pharmacologics (Chantix or nicotine replacement therapy) to stop, and some people do really well when they can discuss their experiences with other people who are trying to quit. Also, statistically, it takes the average long term smoker seven attempts to finally stop smoking successfully.

    So don't quit trying to quit! There are a lot more benefits to it: We just have an additional one.
    I'm not a spinal diagnosis. I'm a human being with a spinal diagnosis.
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