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View Full Version : Long-term results from Lumbar Spinal Fusion




maw1953
09-30-2006, 09:44 AM
I am scheduled for a 2 level (L4-S1) anterior/posterior fusion with instrumentation on Nov 1st, 2006. I was curious as to those who had spinal fusion surgery what your long term results have been. After 1-3 years how many had additional surgery due to stress on the next level? What kinds of problems arise and what kind of medical results were given in your cases? Thank you in advance.




Hoosier Mama?
09-30-2006, 10:30 AM
I had my first lumbar fusion at age 10 ('68), then another at higher levels two years later with instrumentation (this additional surgery was anticipated, as I have scoliosis...it wasn't so much because of any additional stress on the vertebrae above the fusion). This served me well for 20 years, and probably would've went longer if a group of surgeons hadn't seen all the hardware and dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes.:rolleyes:

In the interim, I was quite active...running three miles a day and working in a furniture factory. Ahhhh....but I was young then.;)

marmar
10-02-2006, 05:29 AM
Hi there. I just wanted to say that most, if not all, responses here will be negative since we are all here for support because we are still in pain.

I had 5 surgeries to date. The 3rd one did work, a fusion of L4/L5. All was fine for a couple of years and then L3/L4 went and I had stenosis at that level. I heard later on that stabilizing one level may cause extra stress on the level above. I had surgery for the stenosis, but it did not work.

Have you explored the artificial disk at all? I have heard better results with that.

Not to scare you, but have you considered the fact that there are an extreme amount of cases of hospital staph infection? I am one of those cases, unfortunately. I contracted MRSA during my last surgery and had to have another surgery to fix the problem. AND, the doctor nicked the dura which caused a spinal fluid leak which was another fix during that second surgery.

I know that a majority of surgeries come out fine, and I pray that yours is one of those. If the surgery is medically necessary to fix a neurological condition and there are no other options, then you have to hope for the best. Chances are - if you are having the surgery to get rid of pain only, you will be disappointed. Ask your surgeon what percentage of pain relief you can expect.

Wishing you all the best. Maryanne

simby
10-02-2006, 08:06 AM
hi maw,
i can't give you long term results as i am only 15 months post-op for a l4/5 fusion. I am just now beginning to be able to function at about 80%. Its a long, slow process.
It is true about the levels above and below taking over for the fused part. I have learned to do things without engaging my back, but its tough.
i squat rather then bend. Or kneel. And,if i do bend, i bend from the hips. I don't know if this will save the rest of the back from damage. But i try.

good luck.
sims

Fancylady_2006
10-03-2006, 02:38 AM
Hi maw, Three weeks ago i had surgery on L2/L3 and also on L5/S1. I have had these same surgeries before once before. I had donated my own bone and it just crumbled so they used donor bone this time. So far I have had 6 back surgeries. Most have not been sucessful. In time they break down and the pain sets in. Then I get severe stenosis ans Spondilolisthesis, and I need decompression. I am a mess on the inside, but thats no sign you will be. Our bodies are all different and respond in different ways.

Try not to get to discouraged, if you need the surgery I would go ahead and do it. The pain will drive you to it anyway.
Best Wishes,
Fancylady:)

Hoosier Mama?
10-03-2006, 12:41 PM
Fancylady_2006 wrote: I had donated my own bone and it just crumbled so they used donor bone this time.

They used something called artificial bone with my last fusion. Apparently, it hardens denser than human bone...although there is some risk with rejection, since it's a foreign substance, but I haven't had any problems so far...knock on wood!

Fancylady_2006
10-08-2006, 08:19 PM
Yes, my doc used artificial too in one or more area's too. I have had just about everything else done and it failed. He told me it could take up to a year to heal also. It feels different and by that I think it is solid. It actully hurts more at the time being. If it heals good, I won't complain.

I have had my own pelvis bone fused in and you would think it would take care of things, not so. Five Dr's planned this surgery. I keep thinking never another one. They all are very painful. I also just fill with scar tissue
or spinal stenosis.
Blessings,
BC:)

GJZH
10-08-2006, 08:35 PM
I had my first lumbar surgery in January of 2005. It was a lumbar laminectomy L3 to S2 to help with spinal stenosis. It did not help and as soon as I came off the pain medications all of the pain came back to my legs and feet.

I have seen many, many surgeons about the problems with my spine. I have extensive spinal problems. I think when you ask us for outcomes it is difficult to compare us to you. You have to keep in mind that each of us is different and each has a different set of problems and pain. I decided after much searching and listening to go with a surgeon in NYC and had L 1 to S1 fused in April of 2006. At my last visit in August I was told I had not yet started to fuse. I am still in considerable pain. I still have much of my presurgical pain. My legs and feet still hurt. My hips hurt and my lower back hurts. I cannot walk very far without being in considerable pain.

This is all very different from the cervica fusion I had done in August of 2005. I fused at about two and half months from that surgery. The pain was gone almost immediately, but here again I have started to have problems again with the cervical spine. I have extensive problems with arthritis though throughout my body in many joints...so to compare yourself to me or think you are going to experience the same thing is silly....You may have surgery and have a positive experience and never have to visit these boards ever again....We hope you will be one of the lucky ones...I was told from the very beginning though that they could never make me pain free so I was aware of that going in...I just thought it would be a little better than it is....Good luck!

MrsG1030
01-14-2007, 04:03 PM
Hi. I just joined this site, and I read your post. Your surgery on 4/06 sounds exactly like my husbands. He is going in on Jan. 29, 2007 for a second one. How are you doing now? Do you feel the last surgery was a success? As for the staph infection, I, too, fell victim during one of my own surgeries (8 on my shoulder last being a fusion). We spoke at great length about this problem with the neurosurgeon, and he feels that a prophyllactic dose of Vancomycin will hopefully prevent any infections. We are getting more nervous by the minute...to be expected, right?

Lisa Bertsch
01-16-2007, 04:27 PM
I hope your surgery has gone well. I had a fusion in 2004 (L2 to T12) as a result of a burst fracture at L1 and have been trying for years to get a sense of what I would experience in the future. What I have found is that there is such a wide range due to many factors. It seems that there is always a chance that there will be degradation above and below the fusion (I've never been able to find stats on that.) I was 24 when I got the fusion and have done extremely well, that is not to say that it hasn't changed my life, but I have had no problems with the fusion healing etc.... I had extremely good doctors, with the newest proceedures. There are support systems out there if you need them, so don't be afraid to ask around and ask a lot of questions, the better you understand your body the better you can care for yourself. If you have a doctor you don't like, find one that you do. Take care of yourself in every way you can, the healthier you are in general the better. Best of Luck!

marijo
01-27-2007, 10:32 PM
IO had lumbar fusion in 2003. Since then I have had all, every single one of my internal abdominal organs try to part company with me. Bladder bowel, and reproductive organs. So I have had a hysterectomy, and a repair job to the bladder, and large and small bowel. Then one year later I have had, (Nov 2006) major repair to my large bowel, and half of it was removed. This has now been put down to spinal cord damage. Presently I am undergoing a trial for sacral nerve implant, I have wires going into my spine, and attached to an external machine a bit like a Tens unit, to see if my bowel can be kick started to work again. Unfortunately it hasnt worked. I have one more week of the trial, and then I think I am back to the drawing board. I asked my original spinal surgeon to forward me the results of my scans that were done last year. I got them, but without the radiographers reports. However it looks as though one of the screws is very crooked, possibly even broken. This could be the seat of all my probs. My final word is, if you can get by without the surgery, try to do so. I have been in constant and unrelenting pain ever since, and am now on duragesic (fentanyl) patches, which still does not do a whole lot for the pain.:grouphug:

NyGuy
02-24-2007, 04:51 AM
I had my first back surgery in 2002,for spinal stenosis.I hate to say it, but it was the most painful experience ever after surgery.The surgeon did not prescribe the necessary pain killers, and it was hell till I was transferred to a hospital that new what was necessary to stop the pain, and they brought it under control in 2 days.Unfortunately it did nothing to help with back pain and I had to have a spinal fusion at L4/L5,L5/S1.with a cage a year later. Then I was told I had failed back syndrome. A spinal cord stimulator was put in and it had helped to a degree.I also have been taking percocet 10/325 4 or 5 times a day with fentanyl patches 200mg every 2 days.They recently added lyreca,without much success.
Now Im told they have to fuse L2,L3 and insert another cage.
After reading the reponses here it doesnt sound very encouraging,but I dont know if there is any other options.I can barely walk without shooting pains in my legs and severe weakness from the knees down .
I know everyone is going to say just because it didnt work for them,doesnt mean it wont work for me.but trust me,I am always one of those who it doesnt work well for in the long run.:confused:
But what other options are there.I tried therapy,have had several steroid injections, and the pain killers aren't doing the job anymore, and the pain is getting worse.
Was it less painful after the surgery for those who have had this surgery or about the same.
My wife is against another surgery because I now have diabetes and 2 stents in my heart and there is risk invovled with another operation.I am 64 years old.Thanks for any responses.
NyGuy

kiwimike
03-12-2007, 05:01 PM
I am scheduled for a 2 level (L4-S1) anterior/posterior fusion with instrumentation on Nov 1st, 2006. I was curious as to those who had spinal fusion surgery what your long term results have been. After 1-3 years how many had additional surgery due to stress on the next level? What kinds of problems arise and what kind of medical results were given in your cases? Thank you in advance.

Hey , its abit late, but i wanted to share my experience with you, i have had done exactly what you are getting done (or may already have it now). Let me know if its worked out for you or if anyone else wants to know about it.

In a nut shell, it hurt like you won't believe, but now its sweet and after suffering for 10 years with very bad back pain, i can now run again and play soccer and all the things i love to do without pain!. I wish i had done it years ago. Please feel free to contact me if you waant more details on what i had done.

Hope this helps

Cheers
Mike :winky:

kjoshi
04-07-2007, 10:54 AM
I am 42 now and had a fusion of L5 to S1 at the age of 24. It was done with Steffee Plates and healed very quickly. It also nearly completely eliminated all pain. But to be truthful, it also eliminated my prior ability to enjoy running or to really ever run again (without a great deal of pain). My post surgical life has been for the most part very good. Although I did run into severe pain when I took a "standing" oriented job at age 30 (that quickly debiltated me with pain). So much so I decided to take the plates out (which it had been determined had caused destruction of the next level above at L4 which has now fused on its own to L5...a very long and painful process which I chose over jumping into another fusion). This was likely a result of being a very active (golf and biking) individual. But one has to live... My overall thoughts of these surgies now is that you will trade one problem for another. The intention, however, is to trade the worse problem in for one which is far less of a problem. Point in case, I traded continuous low back pain in for only intermitant pain. This is a very different life than my doctors lead me to believe I'd be living. Two pieces of advice I have for you are (i) once you've identified a problem that you are seriously thinking about having surgery on, WAIT one year. I have done this numerous times and learned that most of time - usually several months later - the problem subsides, and (ii) it is best to avoid surgery if you're only doing it to get rid of pain and have no other neurological issues (unless rule 1 above applies and the pain has simply been unbearable for a year or more. Then, you have no other choice). Oh, and one more thing. You "will" get through this. The body eventually finds equilibriums (and you can continue them by taking care of your self). I find riding a stationery bike for 30-45 minutes not only keeps my body fit, it keeps my mind off occassional pain and frequently pushes me through it. Hope by now your issue has past. Look forward to seeing/hearing a message posted from you on how you're doing.

Dani84
05-02-2007, 10:56 PM
Hi, my name is Dani & i was just reading your post...... I was wondering if you had any advice for me. I'm 22 y/o and just has a fusion of L4/5,L5/S1. I've previously had two other lower back Op's when i was 18 and 21.

It's only been 6 weeks post op from the fusion but i'm still in heaps of pain & was just wondering how long it took you to get over the post op pain and back to some sort of normality!

Cheers :)

mustafa
05-16-2007, 04:32 PM
Hello Every One There,
I Am Suffering From Spondilolisthesis,
I Take A Few Pain Killers For The Relief,
But I Know Its Not The Permanent Solution To The Problem I Have?
Can Anyone Guide Me What To Do For Its Cure?

mustafa
05-16-2007, 04:35 PM
:mad: Hello Every One There,
I Am Suffering From Spondilolisthesis,
I Take A Few Pain Killers For The Relief,
But I Know Its Not The Permanent Solution To The Problem I Have?
Can Anyone Guide Me What To Do For Its Cure?

I AM SUFFERING FOR THE L5 OVER S1....

Curious
05-16-2007, 04:38 PM
hi mustafa

i also have spondylolisthesis. no cure except surgery. fusioin. if you have stabilty problems, then a brace will help.

Jenmedic
05-18-2007, 04:11 AM
I agree with curious, mustafa. Fusion is the only real answer. You can do different physical therapies to help with the pain, but if the vertebra are slipped, they need to be stabilized.

To answer the original thread question, I've had a fusion of L4/5 L5-S1. Solid as a rock. Worked as a medic about 6 months out from surgery. It has now been about 5 years. (wow! that long, already?) No other lumbar- level damage. I actually had l5-S1 blow because of the strain of not having l4/l5 fused. I hope everything turned out ok...

bschra3
12-17-2007, 08:50 AM
I am 20 years old and had my first surgery in December2006, i had laminectomy at L3-L4,L4-L5,and L5-S1. I was going good for the first 10 months but i woke up one day and the pain started just like it did the first time. I'm going for an epidural injection in about a week, but I've tried 3 before my first surgery and am not too hopeful that it will work. I don't know what to do, I'm busy with school and it's very frustrating that I can't join my friends without being in immense pain. I have to stay home like an old man. My surgeon said to try another surgery and if that didnt work to try fusion. I dont want to try fusion because I'm too young and I hear that it is a terrible recovery. Does anyone have advice for someone my age? I can't keep living like this, and I can't keep taking pain meds.

kiwimike
12-22-2007, 08:56 AM
Hi there. I just wanted to say that most, if not all, responses here will be negative since we are all here for support because we are still in pain.

I had 5 surgeries to date. The 3rd one did work, a fusion of L4/L5. All was fine for a couple of years and then L3/L4 went and I had stenosis at that level. I heard later on that stabilizing one level may cause extra stress on the level above. I had surgery for the stenosis, but it did not work.

Have you explored the artificial disk at all? I have heard better results with that.

Not to scare you, but have you considered the fact that there are an extreme amount of cases of hospital staph infection? I am one of those cases, unfortunately. I contracted MRSA during my last surgery and had to have another surgery to fix the problem. AND, the doctor nicked the dura which caused a spinal fluid leak which was another fix during that second surgery.

I know that a majority of surgeries come out fine, and I pray that yours is one of those. If the surgery is medically necessary to fix a neurological condition and there are no other options, then you have to hope for the best. Chances are - if you are having the surgery to get rid of pain only, you will be disappointed. Ask your surgeon what percentage of pain relief you can expect.

Wishing you all the best. Maryanne

Hey mate, i had a L4 - S1 fusion with instrumentation 1 year ago and its been fantastic!, i have posted my story here because when i researched this before my op. all i read about were horror stories and it freaked me out, so i wanted to post a positive story to encourage those who are researching like i was, as i say its been one year with no stress issues on anything else... i'm back to my old self again! , it does feel weird some days, like someone has there hand around my spine inside me, but its a good feeling , a secure feeling and no pain! check out my story

http://neurotalk.psychcentral.com/thread15857.html , hope it helps

Michael

Lyndylou
01-05-2008, 09:26 PM
Hey mate, i had a L4 - S1 fusion with instrumentation 1 year ago and its been fantastic!, i have posted my story here because when i researched this before my op. all i read about were horror stories and it freaked me out, so i wanted to post a positive story to encourage those who are researching like i was, as i say its been one year with no stress issues on anything else... i'm back to my old self again! , it does feel weird some days, like someone has there hand around my spine inside me, but its a good feeling , a secure feeling and no pain! check out my story

Michael

Hi Mike. A fellow Kiwi here. I would love some details on where you had your surgery in New Zealand. I am an incomplete paraplegic of 38 years duration who is suffering from spinal stenosis. Surgeons have said they would operate if I insist but no promises of reducing the pain and no improvement in walking as being a para for such a long time, I should expect to end up in a chair. I don't accept that because I am deteriorating because I can't walk far because of the pain. I'm highly motivated, healthy, work fulltime, garden, renovate my house etc. etc. I try to exercise and keep core strength up but that too is limited because of the pain.
What other options did you look at before surgery. What about steroidal injections? I just can't accept that I should sit in a wheelchair when I have muscle strength that can be utilised just as it has been for the last 38 years!!
Look forward to your or anyone's suggestions.

Junie
01-07-2008, 06:41 PM
I have had back pain since the end of 99 when I was rear ended by a passenger van and after much pain and 10-15 Dr's I found one that would do the fusion (a 3 level, l1-l2 and l3 and he promised me at least a 50% decrease in pain so I had it and now when I hear the word surgery I run like the wind (only in my mind of course) instead of 4 days in hosp it was 12 and NS slipped and cut my spinal cord twice and I bled into my spinal fluid which gave me Arachnoiditsis, a condition with no cure....I only thought I knew what pain was before, now I would give it all to turn back time. I take morphine (long acting) 100mg 3x day and 15mg fast acting 2 x day, Valium 10mg 10mg 3 times a day if I want to urinate (it left me with paralysis of bladder and bowel , my left arm is numb and the numbness travels everywhere except for from the waist to the thighs and my left arm is constant .I feel nothing other then the constant pain that all the meds in the world will never make it go away! I fall all the time without any warning. I have no friends and even family avoids me either because they think I am a junkie or because I won't give them any and friends are out of the question because it takes everything in me to just survive the day. I wished I had researched more and listened to all the Dr's that said no. I wish you the best, but be very careful because what they left me with is for life. They tried to talk me into having surgery on left arm and I said Hell No!! Never again for me.....I used to be a nurse before this and look at me now:(
I am not trying to scare you off, just sharing my story, my surgery was 6-15-06.

kiwimike
01-08-2008, 12:05 PM
Hi Mike. A fellow Kiwi here. I would love some details on where you had your surgery in New Zealand. I am an incomplete paraplegic of 38 years duration who is suffering from spinal stenosis. Surgeons have said they would operate if I insist but no promises of reducing the pain and no improvement in walking as being a para for such a long time, I should expect to end up in a chair. I don't accept that because I am deteriorating because I can't walk far because of the pain. I'm highly motivated, healthy, work fulltime, garden, renovate my house etc. etc. I try to exercise and keep core strength up but that too is limited because of the pain.
What other options did you look at before surgery. What about steroidal injections? I just can't accept that I should sit in a wheelchair when I have muscle strength that can be utilised just as it has been for the last 38 years!!
Look forward to your or anyone's suggestions.

Hey Mate, no problem, i had the operation at Mercy Hospital in Auckland with Dr Barnes (his office is near ponsonby/new market) he is one of 2 surgeons suggested to me of which both are 10+ years doing spinal surgery, i think they are pretty much the top 2 in NZ for this kind of op. from what i found out when i did my research. Hope that helps and all the best!

Cheers
Mike

esoxtails
01-08-2008, 04:11 PM
I had spinal fusion in 2002 dec 16th st marys hospital milwaukee wi.
It has left me disabled and in no better condition now than 5 yrs ago.
I was ok for the first 2 yrs or so with moderate leg pain and leg spasms.
Now im at a loss as what to do. I take heavy doses of pain meds daily just to take the edge off.My Doctor suggested a pain pump but i dont think i want anyone ever cutting on me again.!I have read talk of getting the steel removed from ur body but my surgeon says no way that can happen ! has anybody ever actually had this done and what is ur results?
Thx James

lookingup58
01-09-2008, 10:25 AM
MAW

I can not tell you that I had this done but I too have been faced with having this operation. I know many people have mentioned the negative things but that is what we are asking...what was your experince and or knowledge. I am happy for all who had a positive experience too. I am grateful for all of you who shared what it was like for you. It gives me things to consider I may not have thought about otherwise. I like Neurotalk Community because I can learn and share experinces. Doctors do not always have the time to share everything. I like to research the subject and make an informed decision for many of us it is a very big decision. For each one of us it depends on considering our physical issues.
I have Low back issues, stenosis, MP, a slipping disc., etc. I need to consider the outcome of of not relieving the compression of nerves in my spine. I thank all of you who share here.

Blessings
Lookingup58 :grouphug:

MikeHT
02-02-2010, 05:33 PM
I am scheduled for a 2 level (L4-S1) anterior/posterior fusion with instrumentation on Nov 1st, 2006. I was curious as to those who had spinal fusion surgery what your long term results have been. After 1-3 years how many had additional surgery due to stress on the next level? What kinds of problems arise and what kind of medical results were given in your cases? Thank you in advance.

I had L5-S1 fused 10 years ago and am now facing the same problem at L4-S5. This time though I am not doing a 'hard fusion' with bone graphs or disk removal. They are going to use flexible scient'x isobar rods which are supposed to take the weight off the disk yet allow for movement in the joint. I'm wondering if anyone has had this done. They have only been available in the States for about 5 years.

Laurie Montgomery
02-13-2010, 06:50 PM
I had my first lumbar fusion at age 10 ('68), then another at higher levels two years later with instrumentation (this additional surgery was anticipated, as I have scoliosis...it wasn't so much because of any additional stress on the vertebrae above the fusion). This served me well for 20 years, and probably would've went longer if a group of surgeons hadn't seen all the hardware and dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes.:rolleyes:

In the interim, I was quite active...running three miles a day and working in a furniture factory. Ahhhh....but I was young then.;)

I am in a similar situation - after two back surgeries L23,5 and again L5 to remove what they thought was pressure on the nerve causing my left leg pain. only to find out that my left hip was totally dislocated due to the scoliosis and tilted pelvis - doctors are considering a totol top to bottom fusion - I would be at least 4 inches taller - cool - but the 10 hour surgery then the hip replacement scares me to death - no to mention to loss of confidence in the medical community - I am 49 and want to to return to a fully active life style. I am searching for the best surgeon to consult with - I will go anyplace. that may be the best strategy for you. I wish you well.

TucsonGrandma
07-01-2010, 12:35 AM
Wow. Where do you live??? I live In Tucson AZ and just was told I need a 3 fusion with a metal rod put in--cervial Stenosis--C4-6....getting a 2nd opinion first and am VERY interested in the Flexible rod! that totally makes sense. and if they use "plastic" for the disks, why can't they use it for the rod??? Please let me know if you did have it done and how it is....

sugarpum
02-20-2011, 03:43 AM
Hello I'm a 31 years old and i need some help i have DDD and i have been this way for near on 6 years now and i have been told i will be having a spinal fusion on L5/S1 i have had 3 surgeries Discectomies already and by what i have read on this site that's nothing :) the first operation worked fine until i fell :( then it was back to square one since then i have had the same pain when i have woke up from the operations i have 2 children ok there not baby's at 14 and 12 but i still have a house to run and children and a husband to care for and i DONT want to be on these Medications no more there awful what i am asking is is this the right thing to do i know i don't know any of you out there but my doctors say yes then no then maybe my friends think its up to me as do my family i just need someone out there who is in the same boat that's had the op and is doing well yes i know that there are some horror stories out there as well and i am happy to here both sides please anyone help me rest my mind
thank you so much for you time take care and hope your not in to much pain x :grouphug:

Memej
04-26-2011, 09:18 AM
Would like to hear some thoughts by others who have had this surgery and thoughts on post surgery recovery. Thank you, memej
I had my first lumbar surgery in January of 2005. It was a lumbar laminectomy L3 to S2 to help with spinal stenosis. It did not help and as soon as I came off the pain medications all of the pain came back to my legs and feet.

I have seen many, many surgeons about the problems with my spine. I have extensive spinal problems. I think when you ask us for outcomes it is difficult to compare us to you. You have to keep in mind that each of us is different and each has a different set of problems and pain. I decided after much searching and listening to go with a surgeon in NYC and had L 1 to S1 fused in April of 2006. At my last visit in August I was told I had not yet started to fuse. I am still in considerable pain. I still have much of my presurgical pain. My legs and feet still hurt. My hips hurt and my lower back hurts. I cannot walk very far without being in considerable pain.

This is all very different from the cervica fusion I had done in August of 2005. I fused at about two and half months from that surgery. The pain was gone almost immediately, but here again I have started to have problems again with the cervical spine. I have extensive problems with arthritis though throughout my body in many joints...so to compare yourself to me or think you are going to experience the same thing is silly....You may have surgery and have a positive experience and never have to visit these boards ever again....We hope you will be one of the lucky ones...I was told from the very beginning though that they could never make me pain free so I was aware of that going in...I just thought it would be a little better than it is....Good luck!

bshiller
05-02-2011, 03:19 PM
I had a successful bi-level ALIF/PLIF (L4 to S1) in summer, 2008 and have been virtually pain-free since. This followed a failed laminectomy/laminotomy at the same levels in 2007. The symptoms returned six weeks, to the day, after that initial surgery.

The fusion itself isn't fun. For me, it was done in two separate installments separated by months. The anterior portion was worse immediately (more post-operative discomfort) but I recovered faster than the posterior procedure, which was far more painful in the immediate weeks afterward.

My surgeon had me wear a fusion-stimulation device for several hours a day, for three months. (an appliance, sort of like a back brace, easily tolerated during sleep). He said it increased the odds of a successful bone graft, so the inconvenience was easily worth it.

My internist says I'm a somewhat unusual case, having almost no pain since the fusions were completed. I worry a little about the possibility of additional disc levels becoming a problem, but so far things are great. I returned to work eight weeks after the last surgery (I also worked between each surgery, not wanting to become dependent on pain meds and determined to maintain a normal life as much as was possible).

Most important thing is to find a surgeon you trust and believe in. I sought several opinions before finding the right guy. Do not be intimidated by any surgeons trying to hurry you along. This is a huge decision, and you're ultimately going to be the one living with the result.

Good luck.

TheBridge
08-23-2011, 07:12 PM
I received a L3/L4/L5 fusion in 1963. Highly successful.

Even survived a 100+mph motorcycle accident. Walked away from it.

But now it appears that I've arrived at being old & have thoracic degeneration "issues" that are giving me leg problems.

I'm seeking information on what happens when the lumbar area has been immobilized & those lumbar forces now get pushed into the thoracic area. After a while (48 years) I suspect the poor ol' thoracic guys are a tad over stressed.

Where do I look for information?

6yrslater
07-01-2012, 03:35 PM
Hi! I had a full spinal fusion back in 06...i was in pain for about 4 yrs after surgery and I finally found out what was going on after yrs of doctors appoinents. I ended up having an infection and had to have another surgery to remove the hardware. I feel a lot better now, but was wondering if any of you had to same problem? My doctor who preformed the surgery said that paitents have been coming back more and more with infection 3-5 yrs afyer the rods have been put in. I also want to know if anyone has heard of any recalls on the titanium rods and screw bc of infection rate? Thank you for your time on reading about my surgery problems.

ger715
07-01-2012, 07:18 PM
Hi! I had a full spinal fusion back in 06...i was in pain for about 4 yrs after surgery and I finally found out what was going on after yrs of doctors appoinents. I ended up having an infection and had to have another surgery to remove the hardware. I feel a lot better now, but was wondering if any of you had to same problem? My doctor who preformed the surgery said that paitents have been coming back more and more with infection 3-5 yrs afyer the rods have been put in. I also want to know if anyone has heard of any recalls on the titanium rods and screw bc of infection rate? Thank you for your time on reading about my surgery problems.


I read your post and have been taken by surprise!!!! I had lumbar spinal fusion in "06" as well. Had material used to grow bone for fusion. I had gone to see the surgeon for visits with xrays until 2 years after the surgery. The pain never ceased. About a year after the surgery, the doctor suggested looking into the possibility of a spinal cord stimulator.

The surgeon would tell me he could see bone growing and pointing this out in the xrays. I guess I just assumed I fused. Lately, I've been reading about some that never fused. I did see another spine ortopaedic surgeon a little over three years ago, (he was the one I originally wanted; but had to wait a couple of months to see him at the time and the pain was horrible; went to Rush Medical Center, Chicago,IL for the fusion/laminectomy). This doctor did a myleogram and also said no more could be done and referred me to a Pain Specialist.

I have been in terrible pain and take Oxycontin and Oxycodone, vallium and Ambien Cr. Eventually had problem with PN; burning feet, ankles and pain in legs got even worse. Spine pain never went away. Even with a pretty high dose of OxyContin the pain is still really bad. (Did do a failed trial stimulator a little over 2 years ago.

As I mentioned....I was surprised by your post about infection. Never thought an infection was possible; especially this long after surgery. I have not seen a doctor specializing in orthopaedic spine surgery in over 3 years. The Pain Specialist has done several procedures (injections, etc., trial stimulator) but he does not specialize in anything other than pain.

Again, I am taken by surprise and wonder what type of pain you had and how was this infection discovered??? I would appreciate hearing more regarding your experience. Thanks.

Gerry

6yrslater
07-01-2012, 08:24 PM
I went throught the same thing for years! No one could figure out what was wrong...i was always in pain..sharp pain, dull pain, you name it I had it,also very tired all the time..i was taking pretty much all the same pills as you. Plus physical theapy. The way they found out it was infdction was an absess at the site of insion. I had it drained and packed. Then the drained site wouldnt heal bc a cyst was protruting out of the drainage insision. They still didnt know untill I went to get the cyst removed at the UofM in michigan. They found my surgen that prformed my surgery at the UofM and she came down to see me...looked right at it and poked around..and said you need those rods out now, they are infected. Then a day later I had to have my hardware removal surgery.

Also I was tested for infection 1 yr. Before and they never found anything...but the infextion was indeed there, they said for a few years. When they took out the rods they were all eaten up by the infection.

ger715
07-02-2012, 10:12 AM
I went throught the same thing for years! No one could figure out what was wrong...i was always in pain..sharp pain, dull pain, you name it I had it,also very tired all the time..i was taking pretty much all the same pills as you. Plus physical theapy. The way they found out it was infdction was an absess at the site of insion. I had it drained and packed. Then the drained site wouldnt heal bc a cyst was protruting out of the drainage insision. They still didnt know untill I went to get the cyst removed at the UofM in michigan. They found my surgen that prformed my surgery at the UofM and she came down to see me...looked right at it and poked around..and said you need those rods out now, they are infected. Then a day later I had to have my hardware removal surgery.

Also I was tested for infection 1 yr. Before and they never found anything...but the infextion was indeed there, they said for a few years. When they took out the rods they were all eaten up by the infection.


Appreciate your response. In your case, the absess at the incision site was an indicator of problems. I have no such things going on. Everything seems to be healed. Tender areas; but nothing to indicate a problem.

The pain has never quit and when I saw your post this sounded like a possible reason for all this pain. I'm glad you were able to get relief; but that's awful what the infection did to the rods.

Other than getting an xray to see if rods are still in place, which might show if rods have deterioated, is probably the way to go. When I had the Myleogram a few years ago, done by the doctor I had originally wanted, showed that one of the screws was close to a vein and should come out because there could eventually be a problem. He told me to go back to the surgeon that performed the fusion.

I did bring the original surgeon CDs of the myleogram. There were two myleograms...one with dye and one witout. It was obvious the surgeon was having a problem even using the CD. I guess he is accustomed to putting an xray on the lighted board and that's about it. The only thing he did finally say was he didn't see that to be a problem and nothing would probably happen. He saw no reason to remove screw. That was over 3 years ago. Have only been to Pain Specialist since then.

Thanks again for your post. Really appreciate your taking the time.

Gerry

Dr. Smith
07-02-2012, 11:48 AM
Also I was tested for infection 1 yr. Before and they never found anything...but the infextion was indeed there, they said for a few years. When they took out the rods they were all eaten up by the infection.

I was going to ask about the blood test for infection. :Hum:

I'm also kind of surprised the rods would have deteriorated (much less caused an infection). I just did some digging, and it turns out that the titanium rods used for surgical implants are actually alloys of Titanium (90%), Aluminum (6%), and Vanadium (4%).
http://www.supraalloys.com/medical-titanium.php

Digging a bit further, I came across this discussion between some doctors on the subject a few years ago:
http://www.fixscoliosis.com/archive/index.php/t-90.html

Apparently, these rods/implants are only expected to have a life expectancy (the rods -- not the patients) of ~20 years. What's supposed to happen after that....? In your case, it wasn't even that long.

From the link above, it appears there may be some studies out there, but why aren't things changing, or patients being fully informed, or a dozen other questions I could think of?

Thanks for the 411. It's something we may be hearing more about with the aging of the Boomers...

Doc

ginnie
07-02-2012, 12:39 PM
Welcome to Neuro Talk. That is great that you are questioning everything before you do your surgery. The long range issues with me were a factor. I had C6-7 done 7 years ago. I had the domino effect during those inbetween years where my neck got worse. Two years ago, I had C3-7 fused, redoing #6-7. I did not ask the questions that you are. I didn't know I had damage other than the first one at C6-7. I did have trouble and pain right out of surgery, which the doctor didn't believe me. Got my records years later to find out indeed I did have other indications of damage above the site and below. Make sure that you do not have any weakness in the verterbre above and below the surgical site. Your spine has to be strong enough for the hardware. I do wish you all the best. ginni

Dr. Smith
07-03-2012, 08:09 AM
Hi! I had a full spinal fusion back in 06...i was in pain for about 4 yrs after surgery and I finally found out what was going on after yrs of doctors appoinents. I ended up having an infection and had to have another surgery to remove the hardware. I feel a lot better now, but was wondering if any of you had to same problem? My doctor who preformed the surgery said that paitents have been coming back more and more with infection 3-5 yrs afyer the rods have been put in. I also want to know if anyone has heard of any recalls on the titanium rods and screw bc of infection rate? Thank you for your time on reading about my surgery problems.

6yrslater,

I want to thank you for your post too. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this whole issue (for very long) since I first read it, which tells me there may be something more to it.

I can't guess how many cases I've read about here and elsewhere of spinal surgery patients experiencing unaccountable pain after their surgeries. Now I can't help but wonder if this surgical titanium is all its cracked up to be, and may be responsible for a good number of them.

Further study is in order, but they can't just start opening people up to take a look at all the hardware. There's another option, but it's kinda ghoulish (if medically appropriate).

Doc

ginnie
07-03-2012, 08:26 AM
I hope to God that this is not the case with the metal that is put in our bodies. I already have immune problems out the yin yang. Read both the articles and was horrified. I asked my surgeon about this and he said titanium is good for life. So did he just not know or is it a case of not telling the patient all the information? I am prone to infection as it is, and I sure don't want any problems down the line with this. It was painful enough to get it put in, much less having to deal with taking it out. It makes you wonder about the consequenses that might occur. I think doctors need to present this information. What I read about it prior to my surgery, said nothing about this at all. I got the name of the device to be used on me, and did look it up.
Information came from the company who makes the device. Hummmm.....not good. ginnie:(

Dr. Smith
07-03-2012, 09:11 AM
I didn't mean to alarm anyone or cause any fear/panic. I was thinking aloud, as folks often do here. There are a zillion possibilities for post-operative pain -- I think the most likely being nerve damage that was there prior to any surgery.

I do not think your (or anyone's) doctor kept anything from them. This may be news to most surgeons as well. They go on the best information they have or can get. Besides, at this point in time, I know of nothing better than titanium for this purpose.

It's also possible that this phenomenon happens in only a small number of people due to some sensitivity, genetic difference, contamination of the hardware.... Infections can start many ways, and may just use the titanium as a path of least resistance - like lightning. I can't even figure out WHY infection would attack or effect titanium in this way! :Dunno:

I don't have any solid answers. I'm just going on the same information as you, that makes me think... "Hmmm... I wonder?" :Hum: :Ponder:
Like I said, it deserves study, but no-one should convince themselves they have an infection festering inside them from titanium implants; it's not logical or warranted at this point.

Concerns should be addressed to doctors/surgeons; not fueled by some guy on the internet musing aloud.

Doc

6yrslater
07-03-2012, 11:40 AM
Yes, I do think that there is something up with the titanium rods, and the fact that they are still using them knowing they dont last as long as they thought is wrong. When they told me I had to have my 1st surgery the doctors told me I would never have to take them out...then I come back 6 years later and im lucky the bars didnt just break in half.


Gerry, I would definitely talk to your doctor who preformed your sugery and talk about possible infection, also having the bars removed.
Before they figured out it was infection, my surgen wanted to take them out 2 years before I had to have surgey again..she said it was 50/50, I would feel better or I wouldnt.
I feel a whole lot better now. I wouldnt doubt it if infection is your problem too.

ginnie
07-03-2012, 12:17 PM
I pray that you do not have an infection. I am not panicked or anything, but maybe a bit worried, as my pain level has been consistant since my surgery too. After reading the posts, and the articles I had no idea either that this kind of possiblity of infection could happen. I hope you go see your surgeon to rule this out. Your pain has been severe all along. So sorry that you have that to deal with that. Your faith keeps you strong. ginnie:hug:

ger715
07-03-2012, 07:32 PM
Yes, I do think that there is something up with the titanium rods, and the fact that they are still using them knowing they dont last as long as they thought is wrong. When they told me I had to have my 1st surgery the doctors told me I would never have to take them out...then I come back 6 years later and im lucky the bars didnt just break in half.


Gerry, I would definitely talk to your doctor who preformed your sugery and talk about possible infection, also having the bars removed.
Before they figured out it was infection, my surgen wanted to take them out 2 years before I had to have surgey again..she said it was 50/50, I would feel better or I wouldnt.
I feel a whole lot better now. I wouldnt doubt it if infection is your problem too.


I'm confused because the material used to grown bone would allow, if wanted or needed, screws and rods to be removed once fusion has taken place. One of the articles Doc gave us to view; stated that the bone and titaniaum might possibly fuse together.

If the rods and screws were removed, it would seem that the bone fusing to the rods and screws would have been removed as well, thereby causing the fusion to be removed along with the rods and screws. Not sure I am making my point here; again this is all so confusing. You really brought something up that most of us never suspected. It would seem that possibly you are no longer fused.

Gerry

Dr. Smith
07-03-2012, 10:49 PM
It would seem that possibly you are no longer fused.


If s/he's feeling better and not in as much pain as before, does that matter?

We're kind of guessing our way around this issue, as none of us are surgeons. I spoze it's possible that the fusion covers enough surface area that removing a portion of it to remove hardware would still leave enough intact to stabilize the spine.

Also, in some of these procedures, it may not necessarily be the hardware that fuses, but the cage that replaces the disc, which may be (and often is from what I've read) of a different material than the hardware.

Lots of variables...

Doc

ger715
07-04-2012, 10:47 AM
If s/he's feeling better and not in as much pain as before, does that matter?

We're kind of guessing our way around this issue, as none of us are surgeons. I spoze it's possible that the fusion covers enough surface area that removing a portion of it to remove hardware would still leave enough intact to stabilize the spine.

Also, in some of these procedures, it may not necessarily be the hardware that fuses, but the cage that replaces the disc, which may be (and often is from what I've read) of a different material than the hardware.

Lots of variables...

Doc


It was my understanding when fusining takes place, rods & screws could be removed; but this puts a whole different thinking about this.
Concerns for myself or others that have been told we could if wanted to go thru another surgery get them removed after fusing.

In my case, the myleogram showed one of the screws is near a vein. I mentioned previously, the doctor that ordered the myleogram said I should take the CD's of the myleogram to the original surgeon and the screw should be removed. He felt this could be a problem. My surgeon, as mentioned, did not look like he could even read the myleogram and never was able to view the CD that had the dye; but said he didn't feel the screw would cause a problem. Should it ever be necessary to remove the screw; if bone adhears to the rods/screws would assume this would be a problem.

Again, until 6yearslater posted; never realized the titanium rods and screws posed this kind of problem. Also, interested if this did remove her bone or were they able to work around the eroded pieces; but still leaving the bone fused. I am glad she is feeling better; but wondering if they were able to leave enough bone in place. Unless, in my case, the screw should pierce the vein; would probably never have hardware removed; but the problem does exist.

You are right though....lots of variables.

Gerry

6yrslater
07-04-2012, 12:14 PM
It was my understanding when fusining takes place, rods & screws could be removed; but this puts a whole different thinking about this.
Concerns for myself or others that have been told we could if wanted to go thru another surgery get them removed after fusing.

In my case, the myleogram showed one of the screws is near a vein. I mentioned previously, the doctor that ordered the myleogram said I should take the CD's of the myleogram to the original surgeon and the screw should be removed. He felt this could be a problem. My surgeon, as mentioned, did not look like he could even read the myleogram and never was able to view the CD that had the dye; but said he didn't feel the screw would cause a problem. Should it ever be necessary to remove the screw; if bone adhears to the rods/screws would assume this would be a problem.

Again, until 6yearslater posted; never realized the titanium rods and screws posed this kind of problem. Also, interested if this did remove her bone or were they able to work around the eroded pieces; but still leaving the bone fused. I am glad she is feeling better; but wondering if they were able to leave enough bone in place. Unless, in my case, the screw should pierce the vein; would probably never have hardware removed; but the problem does exist.

You are right though....lots of variables.

Gerry

Gerry,
My spine is still very much fused. Before they took out the hardwear, there were a few conserns-1. That the fusion might not be fully completed. -2 my spine would move a a little from the fused position that it was in. not nearly as bad as it was when I had the rods put in, bit just a little bit.
If your rods were infected, and you spine wasent fully fused,(witch by now it should be)you would have to recover from the infection then have them put back in to fuse the parts of the spine that did not fuse.

I know that having the surgery again seems scarry, but it was the best tjing I could have ever done...i feel like I have my life back! And if infection is not the problem, maybe getting them taken out would be a good thing...i mean its worth a shot, your in pain now, and if you are still in pain,.at least you tried.

Also, the recovery of having the rods and screws out is wayyy shorter than having them put in...i was back in schoolwithin 3 weeks...feeling great! I wish the best for you and im glad I could help with my story.

ger715
07-07-2012, 08:44 PM
This is information which this site really helps recognize possibilites we never even knew. With one another, we are provided with sources, questions, sites to look into. I think all this is great. I would hope most of us do not panic; but good to know this problem is out there.

(Doc..really do appreciate the info you provide and hope the panic concerns do not outweigh your continued research.)

Hopefully the manufacturers would inform doctors about the possibility, as well as the manufacturer working to resolve as many risks as possible. As we well know...all surgeries are a risk. Whether or not to do so requires much forethought and research.

I really appreciate 6yrslater for providing us with this info. I do believe she is interested in knowing if there are any other fusions that may have had similiar problems. If there are....would be good to hear from them as well.


Gerry

tinamarie64
05-30-2013, 08:00 PM
I am 48 had my first fusion two years ago. Felt fine for awhile and then had to get another. And a year later back at the Dr again. My pain comes and goes however I can honestly say I have no pain at fusion sites. I have degenerative disc disease. Broad disc? Degenerative arthritis and anklyosing spondylitis which I am sure these are the factors that cause me pain. I think it depends on what else is going on in your back.

SanAnnNan
06-22-2014, 01:24 PM
I had successful fusion of L3, 4 and 5 in 1981 (age 23) to treat spinal tumor and I am also seeking info about the effects of age on spinal fusion. Also had 6 weeks of radiation so that might be a player. Not sure.
Sort of assumed I would get arthritis in my spine, but so far so good. I do get achy feeling in my hip when cold damp weather is coming (one of the sites where some bone was harvested to patch up spine), but it's very minor.
Just wishing to be proactive if that is possible.
Thirty plus years from last surgery and still going strong.
Any info greatly appreciated.
Thank you!


I received a L3/L4/L5 fusion in 1963. Highly successful.

Even survived a 100+mph motorcycle accident. Walked away from it.

But now it appears that I've arrived at being old & have thoracic degeneration "issues" that are giving me leg problems.

I'm seeking information on what happens when the lumbar area has been immobilized & those lumbar forces now get pushed into the thoracic area. After a while (48 years) I suspect the poor ol' thoracic guys are a tad over stressed.

Where do I look for information?