Has anyone experienced a fusion failure..???
I’m 62 years old and in May of 2013 I had a double level fusion surgery (PLIF L4-S1) due to severe disc degeneration and spinal stenosis that did not respond to the various less invasive treatments. In the surgery they did the normal decompression, rod and screws bit, and a full laminectomy on L5 and a partial laminectomy on L4. It took almost 12 months before I felt completely normal again but there were no particular complications or issues. That is until month 18… when one day while out walking I noticed a strong pain in my lower right leg. This was something I hadn’t experienced either before or after the surgery. Within a matter of days this pain grew much stronger and spread the full length of my leg starting at my right hip and radiating down the front of my thigh and down to my feet to the point that I could barely walk to the bathroom without crumpling over in pain. I believe this is commonly referred to as sciatic pain.
After doing various X-rays and scans the doctors concluded that I had a herniated L3 disc and that it was badly crushing my spinal cord… and was the source of the sciatic pain. They also discovered that one of the screws in the L5-S1 fusion had broke and the alignment of L5 and S1 has slipped. In-short the fusion had failed… despite all follow-ups and imaging over the previous months had showed the fusion was “OK”. In January of this year they had to go in a redo the L5-S1 fusion from scratch… in addition to performing decompression, discectomy and a partial laminectomy on L3-L4 to resolve the sciatic pain issues.
Despite my repeated requests the doctors offered little to no explanation as to why the screw broke and the fusion failed. Is this a common occurrence for fusion surgery? What I can find/read on-line doesn’t seem to give a clear answer. Has anyone else out there in spine- health experienced a fusion failure and had to have a second surgery? Did the doctors give any explanations???
Harry - 63 year old male...
PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015