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1 year post op Neck Fusion Surgery question

ravenr2rravenr2 Posts: 13
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi Everyone,

I am in need of advice. I had my neck fusion surgery on 11/29/10. The levels that were fused were: C5-C6 and C6-C7. My post op recovery went okay. Aside from bad pain the day after surgery, I am doing okay. It is a year after my surgery, and I, what was supposed to be my last surgeon appointment, didn't go as planned. My surgeon informed me that one of the screws in my neck had broken off. Prior to this visit and many x-ray's, the screw in question was in place.

I haven't done anything out of the ordinary to have the screw come loose. He said that I need to get a CT Scan of my neck to find out where the screw broke off and where the piece is. I don't see where the screw broke off. It looks like it bent a little from the possible fusion of bone. Upon the bone growing, it looks like it pushed the screw out a bit..if that is possible.

I am experiencing a little neck discomfort. But nothing too serious. My surgeon also informed me that the fusion is taking, but just wants to be 100% sure the fusion took. He said if the CT Scan comes back with the screw piece location, he must take the piece out. In the long term, if the screw head is in my esophagus it can eventually erode and cause an infection or damage. He can't really pinpoint what the problem is and shy the screw came out that far. He asked me if I am doing anything out of the ordinary and I told him no. I am in no way blaming the surgeon for this, but I think it is the hardware. Of course we all sign a waiver about a possibility of faulty hardware and things of that nature. I am fully aware of this.

If the fusion didn't take place, he said that he needs to do the same surgery again. I am not too keen on doing this again. I am hopeful it is just the screw piece that needs to be taken out.

Can anyone who has had this let me know or at the very least give me advice.

I have to be honest, I am not keen on having the surgery again. I am going to get the CT Scan next thursday with an x-ray for my rom (range of motion). I would appreciate any advice or if anyone had any similar experiences, to help me out.




  • It looks like its coming out, not broken. I am not medically trained though so hopefully the ct scan will give you some answers. Good luck and I hope you don't have to have any big procedure done.

    Oh and P.S.... If someone blames you for something just say you have a loose screw hahahaha.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find a few of us whom have had multiple surgeries for different reasons. As far as the hardware issue, the look above the obvious screw backing out is seen. You are correct that there can be hardware issues and wise not to really place blame on your surgeon, as it does happen. Why, it happens is anyone's guess, so don't be hard on yourself that you could have done things different. As far as having the hardware removed, it is much easier coming out than going in and recovery is pretty easy. Your surgeon is doing the right thing with the Ct scan to see if a fusion has taken place, so that is all the correct. Of course the only real way to ensure fusion is direct visual, but the Ct will give a good idea.

    Hopefully if your surgery needs to be done over they can use the anterior approach and not the posterior approach. The posterior approach is a much longer recovery and more painful to boot. Given that it is a anterior hardware issue, I would assume they have to enter that way as well to get to the hardware. The hardware has to be taken out the way it was put in.

    If I were in your shoes, I would make to trains of thoughts. One as if the screw just broke and they need to remove it. The other the worst being they need to do redo the surgery all over again. I would design specific questions for both scenarios. When you see the surgeon again you are prepared for whatever the results are. Also keep in mind you don't have to make a decision right on the spot. If the surgery needs to be done over again, I would recommend getting a independent medical consult on the surgery that would need to be done, and what your risk would be if you want to wait. I say what your risk are as you say your not in that much pain at the moment. I know from personal experience how hard it is to go back in surgery, when all you want to do is put this behind you and move forward. But I have also learned that sometimes things don't work out quit like I want them to, no matter how hard I tried.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If I can be of any assistance don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted on how your appointment with the results from the CT.
  • Hi and thank you for the warm welcome :). I really appreciate the responses. Donnabe: my husband said that same thing about the having a screw loose if someone asks hehe. And for tamtam, thank you very much for the insight. I agree. I am trying to put all of this behind me, but life takes us all in different directions. I am pain today because of the cold weather here in the east coast. But my level for pain tolerance is high. Even if I am in severe pain, I deal with it. My level of pain today is not that great, but I am okay.

    I see my surgeon again on the 21st of this month to see. Also this surgery is a result of a hit and run. I was a pedestrian and the car left the scene. I am lucky to be alive to say the least. I am all of 5'4 but have broad shoulders. And this is the worst of injury I sustained. So I am going through a lot right now. I am soo happy I joined this forum. Before my surgery, I was reading people's experiences and now I have one of my own. All I can do right now is go with what is best for me. I will update on how my CT scan went and what the final verdict is.

    I again thank you both for the insight. Emotionally and physically is mind numbing sometimes and hard. But I always like to look at these athletes who had the same surgery more than once, and see how they live. Some can't do the sport anymore, while others persevere. I am trying to look at this as not a bad thing though. I am thankful this was caught now rather then later on. They also did an autograft and took bone from my own hip for the fusion..so I am dealing with that pain too.. I don't look at my life as terrible now, just unique hehe.

    Thank you all once again and I am thankful for all the help.
  • I had a C5-6 fusion in 1992 by a doc in FW. A year later, the pain started in just like the year before. I went to a doc in Dallas and he said the one in FW used an old method and the fusion was coming out. I had it redone exactly one year later to date.
    I don't have any metal in me.
    I would get a second and third opinion. Although I have severe pain from C6-7 and C4-5, the fusion is fine.
    I agree, it just looks like the screw is loose and not totally out.
  • Well I went to get the CT scan. I also have the images on a cd for my surgeon to look at. The report says that the "right anterior approach screw at C7 is partially withdrawn by approx 7mm. Fusion cages at C5-C-6 and C6-C7 with solid bone fusion". Thursday I go to my surgeon to discuss the CT scan and what he can do.

    The CT images of the screw does show it coming out and going a little to the left. This explains the pressure and pain I have been having on my left side of my neck.

    Soo..I will post Thursday afternoon what the surgeon tells me and I will go from there. I really just want this fixed.

    If the surgeon needs to take the screw out or take the entire hardware out, what would the recovery time be. If anyone knows, that would be great. I know the recovery time is different for everyone.

    I'm trying to get an approximate on the recovery time for this.I know the surgeon would be able to tell me an approximate time frame. I am loosing sleep over this. I know it is nearly not as bad as other people who had complications.

  • The best thing that can come out of this is if you are already fused then hardware can come out already anyways, And your fusion has taken place you say in 2010 so had plenty of time to fuse, Hopefuly CT will show that,

    And now that 1 screw is backed out already should be easier to remove,
    Screws were probably made in china, They would of been beter off using drywall screws from menards made in the good old USA!

    Good luck,
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Thanks for the info. Yes I am fully fused the CT scan report confirms. I have developed pain in my left side of my neck again. I didn't experience any of this before the screw ever so slowly withdrew. So all in, this is a good thing it sounds like.

    It seems that the median recovery time from what I was reading is about 3-8 weeks. It also depends on the individual.

    What happens if my surgeon removes that hardware? Does he or will he need to do anything else to the area? Removal is still not confirmed yet, but it looks like he will be doing it. Sorry for the dumb questions, I just don't know any of this.

    I am eagerly awaiting this visit Thursday.

    The reason I asked how long the recovery is, it that I have 2 interviews. One tomorrow afternoon and one thursday morning. The one thursday, ironically, is for a neurosurgeon.

    I laughed when I you said about the hardware hehe. I have been a basket case since I found out my screw is withdrawing. I know that most of you are going through a lot more than I or have had this happen before. So if i repeat myself, I'm sorry in advance hehe.


  • Hey All,

    Thank you all for the help :). I just wanted to post that I went to my surgeon today. He confirmed that I need the titanium plate and screws taken out. All of my hardware is going to be removed :). My surgeon said that I am fused and the hardware is serving no purpose now. Plus I don't really have a choice because the screw is backing out at confirmed 7mm. He said this will cause problems if it is not removed. Sooo...Im doing it :).

    This can cause me huge problems if he doesn't take care of it. Soo.. I am having the surgery the week after next (easter week). He said that there is no recovery time. Of course the first few days after removal is going to be a bit tough and I may be in a bit of pain. But I will finally be pain free once again after hardware removal:). I can continue to live the way I have been with no restrictions :).

    I am scared, yes, but I am glad to have this taken out. My surgeon says this rarely happens to his patients. He is going to inspect the hardware upon removal for any faults and such. I assured my surgeon that it isn't his fault, it is the hardware. I am glad to say that all the pain I am in will finally be gone :). General anesthesia is going to be used and the entire surgery is gonna take no more than a half an hour. I mean I underwent the fusion surgery, so this should be cake..relatively.

    He said He is gonna make an incision where the last one was made in the from of my neck, move my vocal cords and take the hardware out. Soo I'll have a little issue swallowing big deal lol. No biggie. I will go to the same out patient clinic that I went to when I had the fusion surgery performed. My surgeon will perform the surgery.

    All in all a great visit today and I am happy :).


  • Okay it all set up! I am getting my hardware officially removed tomorrow!! I am nervous, but I will be fine. I went through the first surgery a basket case. For this one, I am not nearly as bad. The entire procedure will be 30 min my neuro said. Then I can go home and rest.

    I have to be honest, I cant wait to get this done and be pain free or feel like I can't swallow.

    I will post how I am doing either friday or the weekend.

    Wish me luck :)

  • Just wanted to wish you much luck tomorrow! I hope the hardware removal will eliminate the pain. Please let us know how you are doing after surgery! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    Almost the same situation as you. I had broken screws, notice I said screws in the plural and one backing out. All this was causing the plate to backout and press against my esophagus, causing my surgeon to fear of perforating the esophagus. Off to surgery I went. They had to remove all my hardware and break away all the old fusion ( most of the fusion did not take) and build my neck over again. My surgeon had told me if I had fused the broken screws would be no big deal and removal of just the hardware would of been easy. Hopefully everything will turn out good for you. Good luck
  • ravenr2- Please let us know how your surgery went. I am looking at another surgery after a year an a half, as I am continuing to have cervical nerve issues. Best wishes for a successful removal of hardware and speedy recovery.
  • Dear Raven,
    You are probably recovering now and I hope everything has been smooth so far!
    We are thinking about you.

    Im really new to Spine Health and will have the same levels as you fused in a month.
    Cause: car accident & genetics
    Effect: herniations C4-7, stenosis, osteoarthritis, myelopathy, neuropathy
    Non-invasive Treatment: everything under the sun
    Invasive Treatment: 2 level ACDF, C5 & C6, May 2012
    Moving Forward: SCS
  • Hi Raven,
    I hope your surgery went well! Rest lots and let us know how things went when you get a chance.
    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • My apologies for not posting in a few weeks. I was due to have surgery last thursday, however I ran into complications. I had a high fever and the anesthesiologist wouldn't administer. I went to my pcp and he gave me levaquin (never again will i take that). After 2 days of having a malaise feeling, I called him (pcp). I ended up getting a migraine from it (Levaquin) and he said no need to continue. I had to monitor my temp all week. It was fluctuating from a 89.6 to 99.2.

    Then I took my temp at home, before surgery yesterday, and had a 89.9.

    Arrived at surgical center with my hubby and my dad. Went into the recovery area, and they took my temp again to be safe. My temp was 100.5. They took it 4 more times and fluctuated from 100.5 to 101. I told them what I had done at home. They went through the meds my dr gave me and all. My surgeon came out to talk to me and I told him what was going on and that I wanted the hardware out immediately. He told me he was not concerned as they were going to give me antibiotic in my IV.

    They did just that. I came out of recovery around 4:30 yesterday feeling, well better. The only thing that hurt and still goes is the incision in front my throat and my vocal cords. My surgeon, after inspecting the hardware, spoke to my dad and hubby in the waiting room, and told them that the locking mechanism in the cage cracked and the screws were coming out that way! He asked if I had fallen or anything and they both said no. I didn't. He was baffled. He is having the hardware inspected by a lab they deal with to see if what went wrong. I had asked my surgeon if I can have the hardware and screws, he said he can make that request by the lab, but is not sure if they will.

    After he went into the waiting room, his asst (god love her :) ) asked me how I was feeling. I told her i was feeling much pain. I have a high level of pain tolerance, but I couldn't stand it. They gave me Vicodin in my IV and the pain in my neck was gone in a matter of minutes and I didn't feel groggy or tired! I only had incision pain. The nurse told me that they kept checking my temp and it went from almost 101 back down to normal! She said that the titanuim could have reacted that way to my body being that it cracked. She didn't tell me it cracked, but my hubby and told me when I left. My surgeon did a great job and he is the best! I never felt soo comfortable :). All in all the surgery couldn't have gone better :). I did very well.

    All in all I have to say, I feel better since they took the hardware out! I am feeling no pain in my neck at all, just the incision area in the from of my throat and vocal cords. I was given clindamycin 600mg to take today 3 times (8 hour) to prevent infection and Vicodin if I feel any pain.

    All in all the hardware removal surgery went very well better than the original surgery. The time it took for the hardware to come out was only 30 min!

    Whomever needs to get their hardware out or is thinking of doing it, I highly recommend it. If there is pain, get it out. The only thing I would say from my experience last night and today, is the swallowing is not that bad, it is more like a severe sore throat but I am able to eat soft foods and drink cool things. The incision and my vocal cords hurt, but it is to be expected.

    Rest, rest and more rest :)

    Thank you all for caring and it is nice to know that all of you are on here :). Hugs to each and every one of you. If any of you need to talk, please feel free to pm me or do a friend request.
  • To hear that everything went well for you! I hope your throat feels better which each coming day! Yes rest you have been through a lot. Keep us updated when you can. ;-)
    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • That hardware needed to come out!
    Glad u are doing ok, and starting to feel better.

    Cause: car accident & genetics
    Effect: herniations C4-7, stenosis, osteoarthritis, myelopathy, neuropathy
    Non-invasive Treatment: everything under the sun
    Invasive Treatment: 2 level ACDF, C5 & C6, May 2012
    Moving Forward: SCS
  • Hi All,

    I am feeling a little better than yesterday. I am still having little pain in incision site and swallowing has gotten a little better. I am feeling a little discomfort in my neck,but no pain..yet hehe. I sat outside a little today because the weather here in NJ is simply gorgeous :).

    I got a call from my surgeon asst to see how I was doing yesterday. She told me the dressing for the incision site can come off tuesday. I can take it off myslef. She knows how I am with washing and she said try not to get the area wet at all lol. I managed to take a nice bath with so much water to fill my legs. I washed my hair with one of those caps that have the shampoo and conditioner mixed in. I put that in my microwave to warm up and I am using this for a few days. Not exactly the way I clean my hair, but it will do for a few days lol.

    Last night I had lots of excuse the grotesqueness, phlegm. I kept coughing and coughing and my voice was gone lol. I ate some Martin's Watermelon Italian ice and my hubby and son got me ice cream :). The cold from the Italian ice and ice cream did wonders :). This morning I was coughing a little but not like yesterday. I can swallow better and I can talk again lol! But I try not talk too much otherwise ill loose it again lol. I even tried to lay down a bit, and did for only 20 min lol. I guess im stubburn lol like my mom.

    It is funny friends of mine are on facebook complaining they feel sick or have a cold and are in bed. I'm like really? Really!! I just had my hardware removed and frontal incision discomfort and your sick?! lol. Some people just make me mad. Of all the people who should be resting, it is me lol. I just laugh when I hear people complain about a little cold or sinus problems. They would never be able to handle what me and the rest of us went through. They would want every pain medication imaginable lol. I guess some of us are stronger than we really know. Others will never what true pain really means!

    Day by day im getting better. And the pain is minimal :).

  • Raven2,

    I am so glad to hear that your surgery was a success! And that you are feeling so good! Keep up the good work.

    I feel the same as you about people complaining about how sick they are, etc. My favorite is when I am out running errands (wearing my brace of course) and someone stops me and tells me they know just how I feel because they slept on their neck wrong and had to wear a neck brace for a day. Right...... :)

    Keep us posted on how you are feeling, and you are definitely in my thoughts!

    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • I know Monica :). I am doing much better today. I actually got in my car and went to a local grocery store. Bad idea! I think I pushed myself a bit to far today lol. It was a short trip, but I am not ready yet to drive. I rather not until I am comfortable again lol. The surgeon said there is no restrictions, but I rather take it slow. At least until I have my follow up appointment with my surgeon next week, I am going to take it slow at the moment.

    I am able to swallow better and started to eat more. Like chicken and garlic mashed potatoes for dinner tonight. And my fav dessert ice cream :). I will be having that before bed lol.

    I am still pissed I cant shower. The shampoo cap made my hair look gross and feel yucky.

    I had my incision dressing on since thursday and havent showered just bathed. Maybe one of you can help me on this one as I forgot what I did last time. Is it safe for me to shower as the incision site is covered with the dressing. I do have extra patches to change along with post op tape that I bought at CVS last week if it gets wet. My surgeon assistant told me friday to take the dressing off by tuesday. She told me don't shower or get the site wet. I want to shower soo badly it is really bothering me lol. Can I shower now that it sunday almost monday?

    When I had my initial ACDF surgery and had my brace on, I used to get the same thing. I used to just look at the people really stupidly and say you have to be kidding me? lol.

  • Hi All,

    I had to shower last night lol. I couldn't stand it lol. I removed my incision bandage after I got out of the shower becasue it got a a little wet. Not the best shower in the world, but boy it felt real good to wash my hair!

    I put a nice gauze patch for post-op surgeries and used this not so great tape, but it held in place all night.

    Woke up today and showerd. God how a simple shower makes a difference lol. I removed the gauze patch after my shower and tapped the incision site tape. I didn't put a gauze wrapping or anything on my incision site. I basically am letting the air hit it now.

    I need to get to my local CVS pharmacy to get a waterproof bandage for when I do a quick shower at night.

    Okay now the most important part of my post, how im feeling lol! I am doing much, much better :). My neck is a little sore as im moving more today. I need to get my neck back in motion. I mean I am fused, but I am still "babying" my neck.

    I hope when I am posting everyday, others will feel more comfortable if they need to get their hardware removed. It is really not that bad. The worst thing that anyone can do, is not eat. Yes eat soft and cool foods. Italian ice and ice cream really helps the throat. I am still a little sore in my throat, but it is sooo much better. In order for your body to get better at recovery, it is important to eat. Eating helps the body heal. The swallowing is honestly not that bad. I drank lots of water too. Drinking lots of water flushed all the medications out of the system. The urine may smell and that is because of the medications. Just keep at it.

    Also another trick I tried was Halls cough drops. They really helped me because of the cooling and anesthetic aspect of the drop. The warming cough drops are okay but for a full effect of relief, get the regular extra cooling ones.

    Trust me, once the hardware is removed, you will feel soo much better. The recovery from this is not too bad. I have read horror stories and such about the hardware removal. Everyone is different. But if you are determined to get yourself better, the worst thing to do is feel sorry for yourself. I have been there and done all of that with the initial ACDF surgery I had in 2010!

    I look at myself now and then. If I would have known then what I know now, I wouldn't have done or let the surgery effect like it did. I had panic and anxiety attacks and was on medication. I one day picked myself up and said I was not going to let this surgery or my accident overcome me. Do I still have anxiety and panic attacks of course I do. But I do a breathing technique to stop it. Hell, I had at least 5 panic attacks when I had my hardware removed thursday. I stopped them right away!

    Like I say to my friends, this part of my life chapter is closed. I am ready to see what the new one has in store for me :). Lets hope the next chapter is better that the first :).

    Hope you all have a fabulous day. I'll be back tomorrow again :).


  • Hi All,

    It has been a good day today. I took my "gauze" bandage off for good on monday and haven put anything on since then. I called my surgeon's office yesterday to see how to care for the incision site. It is easy to forget from the original surgery. They said that I can leave the bandage off and not put anything on the incision site. I was told if the steri strips dont come off by tomorrow (wednesday) then to take them off. I did just that tonight. I took the steri strips off and the incision doesn't look too bad.

    All in all, I am doing really well. I am moving my neck around more and even drove a few places. I am not going to limit myself to places I wan tto go. I know I said I wasn't comfortable driving, but that was 2 days after this surgery. Now I am almost a week post op and am doing sooo good :). Swallowing is much easier but there still feel like there is a little something there. Sneezing is a funny visual lol. I sneeze normal and my incision area feel weird lol.

    I took such good care of myself and helped myself recover and get better.

    Now it is time to relax and lay down.

    Night all and take good care of yourselves!

  • I am so glad you are feeling better! Keep up the good work and enjoy how well you feel!

    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • Heather youngHHeather young Posts: 1
    edited 03/19/2015 - 8:20 AM
    I had c5/6 acdf surgery 2weeks ago ive had a headache for two days is that normal n what causes it

    Welcome to Spine-Health

    Use that above hyperlink to help you get started with Spine-Health and navigate through the system.

    If there are any questions, you can always post them here, send Liz or myself a private message or contact Ron rdilauro@veritashealth.com

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    Heather y
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