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Treatment for Non-Union/Non-Fusion

Hello :)

I'm not sure which forum is most appropriate for my post...I hope this is the correct one?

I'm constantly reading these forums for information and inspiration....and am currently looking for a little of 'both' :)

My most recent surgery was, April 05, 2012 (approx 10 months ago) - L5/S1 PLIF with bilateral foraminotomy. The surgery was preformed for : DDD w/right leg radiculopathy and spondylosis.

Just prior to surgery, the procedure was explained.....the disc space is too narrow to have a cage placed, but titanium rods/screws were placed on either side of this level for stabilization....and from my understanding the bone/bone graft materials were placed alongside/around these rods.

My neurosurgeon made it clear to me, prior to surgery that a fusion would not help with the low back pain (at least until the bone fused) but should definitely relieve some of the right leg pain I was suffering, He told me at that time, I was looking at up to a year for good relief of pain in my back.

At 2-3 months intervals, I have continued to see my neurosurgeon...each time explaining to him that I'm still having pain in both in my low back and now both legs. The back pain is more intense than it was prior to surgery...and while much of the right leg pain is the same, there is a new deep 'ache' in both legs that is almost breathtaking sometimes. At each appointment, my neurosurgeon tells me "this is normal"...and he pushes my 'recovery date' out another three to six months. I went to see him again in Nov. (2012) at which point he ordered an MRI just to make sure everything looked ok. The MRI looked "good" he said. He showed me the muscles on the surgery level, which appeared bright white and said he felt that all of my pain is just due to the muscles being irritated. (This did NOT sit well with me.......there is a definite difference between muscle pain and the deep, grinding/aching pain I now have- with those sharp stabbing pains each time my back 'catches') He said he'd like to have a CT just to make sure the hardware is intact and to see the amount of bone growth. I had that CT and he advised me that the hardware looks "great". I asked him how much bone growth he was able to see and he said he wasn't seeing "much" bone growth yet. At that time, my fusion surgery was almost 8 months prior. I told him I was concerned that there wasn't much bone growth yet, but he assured me it could take up to 2 years for a solid fusion. We went from an original time period of 1 year, now to 2 years.

As per my Pain Management Specialist, I went for a second opinion. Last Thursday I saw a doctor who is a professor in the department of orthopaedics and sports medicine and the department of neurological surgery at one of our state universities. With my films and records in hand, he ordered a new set of xrays (standing, flexion and extension X-rays) which clearly show motion at the surgery level. After viewing the MRI, CT and this new set of xrays, the newest doctor stated he sees no evidence of bone growth at all. He ordered two additional tests to verify the bone growth (or lack of) and to get a better look at the nerves: CT myelogram and a nuclear bone scan. He said we'd discuss the options once he has the results of these two tests.

So....my questions are these:

1) I've tried to find out what options/treatments are available for lack of fusion and have only found a few things, one being a bone growth simulator. Does anyone know if a simulator is used this long after a fusion? (It will be 11 months by the time I have these two tests) Is it possible it will kick start the needed bone growth for the fusion? Have you had similar issues and what info can you share about your bone growth simulator?

2) How long did your fusion take to start? Have you had treatment because of your fusion surgery not fusing? If so...what?

My test are scheduled for March 6th so in the meantime, I'm wondering what he MAY offer as a treatment option. I KNOW the bones haven't fused yet, I can feel the movement at various times during the day/night. I wasn't surprised when my neurosurgeon told me he didn't see 'much' bone growth....but I was disappointed when the newest doc told me he can't see any bone growth starting yet.

Hope somebody has advice or info they are willing to pass along.....and I hope all of you who may be suffering right now, find comfort <3 Thanks for reading....
L5-S1 Laminectomy/Discectomy - 04/17/2011
L5-S1 PLIF w/Bi-lateral Foraminotomy 04/05/2012


  • Hi, your story sounds all to familiar to several of us on here. If you use the search box at top of the page type in "Non-union" you will get all kinds of information.

    I had a non-union with loose hardware and at 12 or 13 months started wearing a BGS for a year trying to avoid a revision surgery. Sadly the BGS didn't work for me and I ended up having revision surgery with additional hardware added.

    I can now say that I am fused, just not symptom free as of yet, I'm still working on that part.
  • Thank you for your reply, I appreciate your response. It's encouraging to hear that they did try a stimulator so long after surgery - it's just unfortunate it didn't work for you. I searched around for non-union, there are quite a few posts regarding this issue.......lol....now I'm filled with more questions. My next appt. can't come fast enough...I just really want to feel like I'm actually heading in the direction of healing!! Great to hear you're fused now....good luck on becoming symptom free, hope you eventually do!
    L5-S1 Laminectomy/Discectomy - 04/17/2011
    L5-S1 PLIF w/Bi-lateral Foraminotomy 04/05/2012
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