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Hardware Pain

I had fusion of L4/5 S/1  more than 18 months ago. My surgeon said I was good to go, do anything I used to do before.  I was however numb on my whole left side, which was supposed to eventually go away.  After six months (yes, months not weeks) of PT my pain had subsided to the point, I thought it was as good as it was going to be.  I resumed working out, walking and a little golf. Eight months ago I pulled a hamstring playing golf and spent 3 months on an ice bag.  Being unable to exercise without chronic pain, I gradually started feeling more pain at the fusion level.  I had another MRI and everything was supposedly OK.  There is however, the possibility I am not fused (no one can say for sure).  I tried caudal injections for the pain but there was no relief.   It hurts to do anything now, especially sit.  The doctor says another level could be causing the leg pain but there is no explanation for the other.  

My question, can your hardware hurt?  If I am not fused, does it hurt?   I have fibromyalgia and am on the highest dosage of tramadol you can take; same with gabapentin.  That controls the fibro but not the surgical part.  Muscle relaxers help a little.

By the way, I am still numb on the left side; there is obviously nerve damage from the surgery.  

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Comments

  • Simple x-rays can normally give doctors the images they need to determine if you are fused or not.  That's a little weird to say they don't know.  Here's the thing about MRI's when you have hardware in your back; the metal reflects signals and can cause some distortion in the views from where the rods and screws are located.  It does make it more challenging for a doctor to see everything clearly.  Your hardware can't hurt since it's not part of your body.  But it can be causing muscles or nerves to be irritated and causing your pain.  Some folks have had broken hardware, but they felt the pain of the hardware poking muscle tissue in the same area.  Some people also have been allergic to the metal implants.   That's pretty rare though.

    I used to play golf post surgery, but a few years ago, it began to hurt too much and had to stop.  I would suggest that you keep your doctor informed of what triggers the pain and what makes it feel better.  He/She may choose to do further tests.  Have you tried a TENS unit to see if that would help?   

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • Not sure whether you want to go down this route or not, but if you are very concerned about the fusion status, a CT scan is the gold standard for determining that.

    Kevin

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  • BitzicatBBitzicat PhoenixPosts: 70

    Had a CT too.  Same answer.

  • BitzicatBBitzicat PhoenixPosts: 70

    Just had CT Myleogram.  I am not fused.  Waiting for resolution; new doctor.

  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 971
    edited 08/18/2018 - 10:30 PM

    Patricia

    My experience is a little bit like yours...  At 18 months after an L4-S1 PLIF fusion surgery they discovered I had a broken screw and a failed fusion at the L5-S1 level.   I don't think the hardware itself was a source of my sciatic pain  at the time... but for sure the fusion hardware can cause nerve pain if it's impinging on your spinal nerves in some way.  Shortly thereafter I had a redo of the fusion surgery and they installed new hardware.  The recovery from the second surgery was pretty tough and took almost 2 years... but I'm now 3 years out and doing pretty well.  Failed fusion sucks both physically and emotionally... but you can overcome it and get back to normal... it's just a long road.   If you are a smoker or take NSAIDS you should talk to your new doctor about it as they both can potentially contribute to a failed fusion.     

    Harry - 65 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
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