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Screw broken from neck fusion

I am at wits end right now. I had a C4-7 fusion two years ago Jan 16th 2012. It wasn't too fun, because I teach school and I had to take 6 weeks off of school. Anyways, my neck has been hurting me again and I am having all the neuro pins and needles stuff going on in my head again, so I made an appointment with my neurosurgeon. His nurse called a couple of weeks ago and cancelled on me because the neurosurgeon wanted a longer Christmas vacation. So I went to my regular doctor and asked for a neck x-ray because I just wasn't feeling right. To make a long story short, I have a broken screw on C7!!! The head is coming out toward my esophagus.
I called the nurse and she said the neurosurgeon was out of town but would look at the x rays. They scheduled an MRI for Dec. 31st. Good thing, because I met my out of pocket this year because I had two knee replacements this last summer. I am a basket case! I don't want another surgery!!! I am afraid the screw is going to come out all of the way and hit into my esophagus in the meantime!
The nurse asked me if I had fallen or was active. I have never fallen these last two years and have been very careful because of my knees. Do you think it is a faulty screw? Is my doctor at fault? He is suppose to be a good surgeon. How does a titanium screw break? I don't know if I can live through another surgery!!! Help!!!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
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  • and they were replaced with new, larger screws. It is unusual for that to occur but it can and does.
    The good news is that the recovery from the second surgery was easier since I already knew what to expect as far as recovery went.
    I'm sorry but if I were you, I would find a new surgeon since you don't seem to be getting much of a response for a problem in your hardware.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    The surgeon was afraid if the screw came out any further it would puncture my esophagus so it had to come out. Hopefully yours is not to that point. They actually could not get the whole screw out so they cut the screw to the bone to avoid any damage to the esophagus. I had alot of the other issues going on at the same time so surgery was a must,
    Good luck

  • Thank you for your comments. I still can't believe screws breaking or coming out is normal, but it sounds like it happens a lot. I was made to think that this was a life time fix; I heard nothing about other levels going out or screws might break or plate might shift. But I guess I had no choice but to have the surgery. I live close to Salt Lake, about 2 1/2 hours. Maybe I will have this redone in Salt Lake. My question is should I trust my same neurosurgeon to fix the screw or go to Salt Lake and have it done. My neurosurgeon told me when I had C4-7 fused that to him fusion was a "piece of cake" operation (I guess because he does it all the time). Surgery on the neck area to me shouldn't be classified as a piece of cake surgery!
    To me it is dangerous territory to be working on because anything might happen where you could be paralyzed. This MRI tomorrow has me pretty nervous. I know they are going to find something wrong because I have too many signs and symptoms. Really hard to sleep at night because of the pain. Thanks everyone for your support!
  • so unless you have some other reason not to feel that he is working for your best interests, then there is no reason not to let him repair the issue.
    Sometimes, it is simply that we ourselves put too much stress on an area . The hardware the surgeons put in is only there as a framework per se to allow the fusion process to take place, it is not meant to be solely responsible for supporting our spines indefinately. That is the purpose of the fusion, is to allow new bone to grow between the vertebre, so that that becomes the new joint, rather than putting undue stress on the metal framework.
    Once that process is complete, the hardware is not really necessary anymore.
  • Thank you everyone for your responses; they have eased my fears. I had the MRI but of course the technician couldn't tell me anything. I have an appointment next Thursday with my neurosurgeon to go over the results. I almost think the level under C7 is going out as well, besides the broken screw at C7. We will see; I will let you know next week. Hope I'm tough enough to handle the news if it's another surgery. I appreciate the support. Hope its just the hardware that needs to be taken out and the fusion has taken place. Can't believe a broken screw can cause this neck pain. I have to really pamper my neck.
  • Sorry to hear you are having troubles. I hope that the MRI shows you are ok and have fused well so they can just remove/replace the screw causing the issue. I am having my surgery in Feb. and this is something that does concern me. The thought of having instumentation in my neck kind of freaks me out:) But, at this point I have no other option. I am curious where your surgery was done and who your surgeon was. I sent you a PM. If you don't mind would you PM me back.
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