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Non-union of lumbar L4/L5 fusion ; continued pain

troylholmesttroylholmes Posts: 2
edited 01/08/2016 - 9:59 PM in Lower Back Pain
Hello. I have been using this forum as a place to find very valuable information regarding spine treatments and aftercare. A little history before I ask my question might be useful. Keep in mind that I was a very active person. I exercise 6 days a week, I am an avid cyclist, a runner, weight lifter, etc. I still do some of those things, but less so. I am a Beachbody coach, so I lead challenge groups with people looking to better their fitness and nutrition. I started having significant back and leg pain. So, I started seeking doctors to help me with my pain so I could continue with the things I love to do.

In February 2007, I had a fusion of L5/S1. Unfortunately, that fusion was botched and had to be redone. The original fusion hardware was misplaced and other issues with the surgery were done incorrectly. So, I searched high and low for a new surgeon. I did a ton of research and finally found a surgeon that I felt comfortable with and felt good about his skills. So, that surgeon completed a revision of the original fusion. It addressed my continued pain for a number of years. I started having similar pain that escalated over time. I went back to the surgeon who did the revision. They concluded that I had nerve impingement because my body tends to grow more bone than the average person. Lucky me! Or, at least that is what they told me.

About three years later, I started having the same sort of pain and I chose to ignore it hoping that it would get better. I know, it never does. I sought out natural solutions - chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, stretching, yoga, pilates, etc. Nothing was working, so I finally gave in and went back to my back surgeon. Sure enough, he tells me that the disc above it dehydrated, cracking, has tears, and is bulging and needs to come out. So, in February of 2015, I had a fusion of L4/L5. Following the fusion surgery, I had a lot of pain in my back (bilaterally) that wraps around my waist on the right side, goes down into my thigh and on down to the second toe and the top of my foot. Keep in mind that I have my first toe on the right foot that is fused from all the running I have done. That was done in 2014. The pain continued after physical therapy and months of trying different things to address the pain. So, the surgeon suggested that we do a nerve decompression surgery. That was completed and now I have worse pain than where I started.

Now, finally my question. Thanks for sticking with me on this! I recently had an MRI and CT scan and this morning I had an inflexion X-ray. The MRI and CT scan show that the L4/L5 fusion has not fused and it is nearly a year since that surgery took place. For the pain, I am taking a muscle relaxer three times a day and an anti-depressant that I take to help me sleep. The pain across by lower back and down my right leg into my foot still exists. In addition, the imaging shows nerve impingement at L4 - S1 (even though I had a nerve decompression in June of 2015).

I have been seeing a pain management doctor for three months or so. He has done platelet injections, epidural injections, and stem cell treatments and nothing has worked. In fact, in some cases, the pain has become worse. I don't know where to turn now. Because the fusion at L4/L5 has not fused completely, does this mean it has to be redone? A couple of other doctors have told me that a laminectomy at L4 through S1 will address my pain. Others have proposed solutions such as a spinal cord stimulator or a pain medication pump. I don't like any of these solutions. The pain keeps me from doing anything meaningful for more than a few minutes at a time. I go to the grocery store and I have to come home and ice because being on my feet causes extreme pain in my back, my right leg, and my right foot. I have difficulty standing, bending, twisting, or really sitting for any period of time. I have to get up and walk around frequently.

I am really back at square one. Not sure where to turn, so I am hoping that there are doctors or nurses or patients with a similar experience that have found solutions to their pain like mine. I have an appt with another back surgeon in a couple of weeks and I am also working with a practice in Dallas, TX who does laser treatments to determine if I am a candidate for minimally invasive techniques. My original surgeon who did the L4/L5 fusion is recommending the spinal cord stimulator and others are swearing by the laminectomy.

HELP! Do you have experience that you can share that I might check into that is minimally invasive? I am not opposed to doing another surgery if it will address my pain once and for all. Thanks for your help!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and growing.
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    Liz -Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Gosh sorry to hear about what you have experienced. It must be difficult being restrained from all the activity you are used to doing. Are you still doing some activities?
    I don't have experience to share with you as I have experienced some lower back pain but at this stage I am hoping it is not too serious. It has not proven to be too serious yet.
    I am wondering how you ended up causing the injury do you think?
    If you are saying the surgeon botched the surgery that is pretty awful. Have you thought about taking legal action against them?
  • Thanks, wittyname. I am trying to do what I can - mostly yoga and stretching. Docs are all in agreement now that the only course of action is a spinal cord stimulator. I'm not considering a lawsuit. What's the point. That surgeon is no longer practicing medicine. The cause? They say "overuse." Ha! I can't very well leave it at home! Any experience with SCSs, anyone?
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Hello troy......
    If you use the search on this site, upper right on page, you will be led to much information on SCS.
    It has a section of its own. Many members involved in discussions.

    Besides being led to current or older discussions, you may be led to the medical side with articles and videos.
    Very informative!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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