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Second Cervical Fusion diagnosis of Pseudoarthrosis

limbo56llimbo56 Posts: 14
edited 10/17/2012 - 4:04 PM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I have been lurking on the sidelines for months now & learned a lot. You all have my empathy. Had my first ACDF back in 2004, c4-c7. Recovery was pretty long and painful. Considered the surgery a success. This March after months of pain & Drs. not believing me went to emergency & was admitted - central cord syndrome (pinch stenosis) c3-c4. After surgery pain in neck was greatly relieved. However, arm pain and hand numbness have continued till this day. Did go for follow up MRI and x-rays, Did not fuse. Have developed pseudoarthrosis. Surgeon recommended a laminectomy. Pain management doc is totally against it. He says there is only 20% chance of improvement with a third surgery. I am so confused and scared. Have lost trust in all things medical.(Was readmitted to hospital 3 weeks post op with a rare form of pneumonia) Every day is filled with pain and frustration. No one is promising improvement of symptoms. I waitressed for 20 years & loved it. Had my own baking business, gardened, painting, sculpting, yoga, etc. Every day I try & maintain a good attitude, strengthen my body, & be grateful I am not in a wheelchair. Feel like I am fighting a losing battle. I guess I would like to know if any other members have had a failed fusion and either postponed or refused surgery, and what the outcome was. Am I playing with fire? Any input would really be appreciated. Thank you all.

So sorry, did not read rules first, made a duplicate post. Sure could use some support.

lynn cutler


  • I am not sure if you have a post in another area or not, however let me say welcome to spine-health. I can relate to your frustrations with the pain and multiple surgeries. I myself can tell you that having multiple surgeries that the percentage for relief in pain does go down. That doesn't guarantee that you won't see any relief in pain. One thing to keep in mind is that psuedo is not the same as a non-union. Why they both mean you didn't fuse, psuedo can have more complications as the bone can grow the wrong way. It literally means false joint. It appears on imaging as a fusion but a Ct scan will show different. Your hardware will hold you in place. However, with the psuedo it could be what is causing the pain. The gold standard to fix a fusion is a posterior revision, which is much harder to recover from. Also they more than likely will need bone from you hip. Have you gotten multiple independent opinions? If not and your not sure what to do I would? I would get the opinions anyway, what do you have to loose? Now if the nerve is damaged, you more than likely won't get any relief? But I don't think they will know that till they do the surgery. Your fusion is the same as mine from c3-c7, and I can tell you to achieve mine I have gone through multiple surgeries.

    As far as living with the pain, over time, you begin to accept it, although somedays are still frustrating. It is like loosing someone, although you have just lost the person you were. But now you have to recreate yourself, and find the new you. I like to call it my baseline, and the things I can do now. I don't talk about the things I can't do any longer, just those things I can do. But then again you never know this surgery might do the trick and take care of the pain. If a surgeon guaranteed you relief I would run from them. Surgery is never a guarantee. But you have to also get your mind in the right place to get there as well. Sometimes talking to a pain psychologist does help. Not saying your nuts or anything, but you have to learn to deal with the new you. Were not dead and we have to go on living our lives as productive as we can. Staying active does help, even if it is limited. focus on what you can do and not what you can't. I also look at this way we are not getting any younger so somethings we were not going to be able to keep doing. Loosing a career is not easy to swallow. But maybe now it is time to go back to school and learn something you always wanted to, maybe you didn't want to, but maybe the opportunity to explore something new. Or maybe take up a new hobby, something you always wanted to learn.

    The one thing I know is the doctors don't know everything and most don't claim to either. Which is why they tell you they can't guarantee anything, but there is a chance, of pain relief. I have had multiple surgeries and looked at each one saying this is it, the pain will go away or get better. Now of course in the case of myelopathy, it doesn't get better, the surgery was done to stop the progression. Of course I am not sure if you have that, but I am guessing, with the central cord issue, you do. As far as wether you have nerve damage, about 6 months post a revision they can begin testing. So you know once a nerve is damaged it is damaged. Now if your issues are neck pain, well the surgery may or may not fix that. Keep in mind I think what your pm is saying, is that having multiple surgeries does create scar tissue, sure they can remove it, but it does come back.

    Will you be in pain management for the rest of your life, who knows. But if so, you need to embrace it and thank god that you can at least be there. Like you said your not in a wheel chair. That in it self is something to be vary thankful for. But if it was me in your shoes I would get more opinions and go from there. If someone was offering me a chance I would take it, like I did 6 times. Just how I am.

    Anyway just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do, don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep me posted on your decision.
  • Thank you for your kind words & realistic outlook. I cried buckets after reading your post. Finally, someone who gets it! Don't know your whole history, but with all your knowledge I can see you have been through a lot.
    Saw my pain management doc the other day - he is really pushing for the spinal cord stimulator. I have stenosis throughout my spine, some signal changes within the cord, moderate disc herniations in thoracic & lumbar. So, I am reluctant about the SCS. From what I understand, you can never have a MRI after it is implanted. Have been frozen with fear for quite some time, thought I would be able to` suck it up and move on after the surgery. Didn't know the arm pain would get so much worse.
    On that note, I am researching surgeons, & have made an appointment with an acupuncturist. Took my dog to the beach today, It was so beautiful. She just ran around in big, crazy, zooming loops. It gave me such joy. I want to feel like that again. I think someday I will.
    Thanks once more for the good cry, I really needed that!
    lynn cutler
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