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How do I know if I have a failed fusion?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,008
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:23 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
On July 18, 2008 (~11 weeks ago) I had spinal fusion from T3-L1. I feel great but get mild pain in different parts of the fusion areas, and also feel my back crack (like small chiropractic adjustments, or when you crack your knuckles) when I first lay down at night.

Is this a symptom of a failed fusion?
Should I have a lot of pain if this is the case?
Is it too early to make a judgement, and when should the back stop cracking (b/c it should be stabilized and not move)?

I'm just concerned because I'm 27yo and until my surgery was a very active, athletic individual. I know I won't be the same, but I would hate to live my life going in and out of surgery. Please advise. Thanks everyone.


  • Dubose, welcome to SH. This is a great site full of a wealth and information and support. We are not doctors however, just fellow Spineys gathering to support each other. If you are concerned please do contact your surgeon. Have you had any xrays to check for fusion yet? Generally your surgeon will monitor fusion with pa/lat xrays or ct scans. Fusions can take months to years to be complete. At 8 weeks I do not have any sign of fusion between my L4-5 yet. NS says not to expect it until 4-7 months. I too have an occassional pop sensation in my low back, it does not cause pain. I have read other posts of Spineys experiencing this. If you are having frequent pops/crunching do talk with your MD. Are you following your restrictions, no bending, lifting, twisting? Good luck to you and keep us updated on how you are doing. >:D< Sue
  • welcome to sh,

    yes i do believe it is way to early to think you are having (fbss) failed back surgery syndrome. a good definition is found at

    i have been diagnosed with this because of fibrosis, lesions and pain. my fusions are solid even though hardware has moved.

    you are so early in the healing process. i would suggest you always go with that gut feeling and call your doctors office if you think something is wrong or too uncomfortable.

    take care of you.

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  • hi there,
    im a year on from L4/5 PLIF - the only way to know if your bone is growing/fusing is by x ray, i get clicks and clonks in my back around the fusion area, and yes they are annoying because it makes you feel that somethings not quite right. i reckon that if you have regular post op xrays you will see the new bone forming across the vertebral space, your surgeon will point it out to you - this should make you feel happier about things, i have only just in this last few months become feeling even stronger - it is a long and VERY slow recovery for some, and can take up to 2 years for the bone to be fully formed and as strong as the rest of your bones.hope this has helped some. i am by no means a medical expert - im just trying to put how it was for me across.
    take care
    AJ x
  • Don't worry - it way early days yet and to worry that it may have failed is a waste of your healing time!!

    Like they say above, can take 12-24 mths for a solid union to occur and you may have hiccups in between.
    Your fusion is higher than the usual lower segments so you may well take longer simply because I know my own restrictions and the higher up would mean more, for me anyhow.

    Good luck and worry not.
  • Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in :D Everyone pretty much told you it all.
    Your still early out in your recovery hun.
    This is a long journey. Your going to have odd and end pains. Odd pops , sounds.
    I was scared the first time it started happening to me.
    There was no pain involved when it happened. Just a weird feeling.

    Juat keep up on your drs instructions. If you have any increased pain or new pain that was never there then yeah give your dr a call and let them know whats going on.

    I had a failed fusion and well you will know..
    I was almost to my year anniversery and started having pain again. I had no bone growth at all. It does happen. But not alot.

    Your life will get back to normal, its just going to take awhile. YOur body just went through a major trauma.
    It can take months to a year or more to mabye feel like you did before surgery.

    I was dancing last year 6 months after surgery. SO YOU WILL GET THERE <:P ;)
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  • the snap crackle pop that u will hear is tendons and ligaments. i was pertrified when i started hearing these noises from my surgical area!!

    i still here these noises and i am 6 weeks post op. mostly hear them when i am out walking or repositioning at night.

    mind u i am still in the neck brace.

    i just turn my ipod up real loud so i can't hear them.

    as i have been told . . . .u will creak and crack more as u get older!!

    ps i was to really athletic . .was training for a marathon before i fell.
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