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Failed Fusion

Hey everyone! I had a posterior and anterior fusion of my L4-L5-S1 in July 2011. I've been having increased pain the last several months and a CT scan showed that my fusion is not stable on the right side of my posterior fusion. Basically, I didn't grow bone all the way across. The scan shows bone growth that started but didn't finish. My surgeon said that fusions can heal for up to two years and told me to start taking Vitamin D supplements again and prescribed another month of physical therapy. He didn't tell me to follow up with him and he didn't tell me options of how to treat it. He basically dropped the bomb shell on me and told me to take some vitamin D and hope for the best. He said that fusions can continue to heal for up to two years, well I'm five months away from that point. You can't tell me that some vitamin D pills are going to help me suddenly grow a large chunk of missing bone. I consulted with my physical therapist more and we had a very honest discussion about it all. My fusion has essentially failed :( My pain is getting increasingly worse. Has anyone had a similar problem with their fusion? I'm only 26 years old. I fear that as this continues to get worse I will need further surgeries down the line. Pain killers don't work for me so I don't bother taking them. I'm already beginning to feel depressed again because my pain is affecting my daily living. If anyone has had anything similar and has anything to share I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much!


  • I had a 2 level fusion in 2010. Although I got good bone growth (and it does take up to 2 years for this process to complete), unfortunately, my pain symptoms continued.

    I had revision surgery in 2011 to change most of the hardware, but again my pain persisted. Also, purely from having the fusion surgery, it seems I have developed sacro-iliac pain too.

    I've recently had a spinal cord stimulator permanently implanted, which has sorted out the leg pain and some of the back pain (sort of), but essentially, I was told my fusion surgery had failed.

    It is tough to accept this, but there's nothing you can do apart from continue to get professional help and support from your surgeon. Have follow-up diagnostic tests to find out if anything else is going on and have investigations to find out if any further treatment is available that would resolve your pain issues.

    Also, if possible, are you able to get a second opinion from another orthopeadic or neuro surgeon?

    Don't give up! I am sure there is something that be done to help you in the future. On Spine Health, you will find that most of the people who have had successful outcomes are out living their lives and don't tend to post much any more. For the rest of us who may have had similar experiences to yourself, on the whole, we have continued to try and find answers. That's what I love about Spine Health - you are not alone and I have found the members here to be very supportive.

    You need to find a health professional you have 100 per cent faith in and go from there. Have you attended a Pain Management programme perhaps?

    I really hope you can find some answers soon. Good luck.
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • I had a L4-5 fusion Dec. 18. I have the residual nerve pain, but have been able to be quite active. I do get frustrated, but I found and ortho surgeon who did my surgery minimally invasively. I believe that made all the difference in the world. I suggest you start research on finding a Dr. with whom you can trust and not just say take Vit.D. That is not an answer. I am in the medical field myself, x-ray tech, and have seen every outcome imaginable. Of course, I take x-rays and CTs on pre and post=surgical patients. Do your homework and go looking for a dr. I live in a rural area, had to drive an hour for my surgeon and was well worth it. I would have driven further, to go to the dr. I found. It took me a while, I switched from a neurosurgeon who did it the open way, to a orthopedic surgeon who did it minimally invasively. I have the rods, screws, and cage, in other words, a complete fusion and was out of the hospital within 23 hours. I have had seven other non back surgeries. This was by far the most intense, pain wise. But 10 weeks out, and I am doing very well. So just keep looking and try to find a dr. with whom you have your utmost faith in. Good luck!!
    radtechtam MIS L4-5 Fusion
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