Once fused - Is it possible to unfuse?

hilaryshhilarys LouisianaPosts: 1
My husband was in an auto accident in May of 2013 which required a 4-level cervical fusion (including bone graft, plate, & 6 screws) in October 2013.  He was released 6 months later.  "Go back to doing whatever you were doing before your accident," the doctor said!  After 6 months back at work on the oil rig - he couldn't perform the duties, so he took a less physically demanding job as a diesel tech, however six months after that - couldn't do that either.  Pain Management recommended that we go ahead and start the disability process.  His condition continued to decline and Pain Management now wanted to see new imaging, but no job = no money & no insurance - We could barely afford to see her and fill prescriptions, which we had to pay out of pocket for.  In April of this year (2016) she gave us an ultimatum - We could contact the doctor who did the surgery to see if he would see us without insurance or she was sending us to the ER.  The surgeon agreed to see us (although we ended up only seeing his PA) and did x-rays.  Upon pulling the x-ray up on the computer, his response was, " Oh [edit], that's not good!" - The 2 top screws were clearly broken!  So now I'm panicking!  We took a hardship withdrawal from 401K, so we could get a 2nd opinion.  The new surgeon orders a myleogram and the results are...It never healed!  Bottom line - The surgery was unsuccessful!  So now I have all of these questions as to why and all I'm getting is, "Well, I'm not exactly sure, but I can do this to fix it."  I want to know why it never healed?  Why the screws broke?  ...and why the heck was he released to go back to work if it never healed?  I mean, is it possible that it fused and then unfused?  Was the surgeon unaware that it did not fuse?  Clearly you wouldn't send someone back to work with basically a broke neck, right?  ...and if you don't have enough knowledge to know all of this why are you performing said surgery to begin with?  Has this ever happened to anyone out there?  Were you told everything was fine only to find out the opposite later down the road?  Oh...and just in case your wondering, the surgery recommended to fix this mess would require going up a level AND down a level making it a 6-level fusion, as well as, front AND back with plates - ultimately leaving him with no range of motion!  So we went from, "Everything's great!  Go back to doing whatever you were doing before your accident." - to basically never being able to work or provide for your family again!

Comment edited by Liz, Spine-health Moderator To remove inappropriate langiuage



  • LizLiz Posts: 2,269
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 809
    edited 08/29/2016 - 4:25 AM


    That sinks...!!!!  It sounds like your husband never fused.  The screws most likely broke because he didn't fuse... that is the screws are not meant to take the stresses and loads forever... only for about 6-12 months until the bone fusion is complete.  If the screws have to take the loads for longer periods then they will likely break.   Non fusion happens... it happened to me on my first L5-S1 fusion and I had to have a complete redo at 18 months.  One of the screws at that level also broke around 17 months.  There are wide range of reasons why fusion doesn't take... but a doctor which releases a patient who is not fused is just being careless and sloppy.

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  • MagistraMarlaMMagistraMarla San Antonio, TexasPosts: 78
    Hi Hilary,
    I had a similar experience, but mine was in the lumbar area.  My surgeon lifted all restrictions after three months, which I felt was pretty crazy after reading here and on other sites about fusion surgery.  He also prescribed Ibuprophen 800 immediately after surgeyr, which people here and other surgeons warn against.
    At my six month check up, I was complaining of returning pain, but he just prescribed more Ibuprophen. 
    One thing that I took notice of is this - the radiologist kept having me to do a standing x-ray, and then the surgeon would say that the x-ray was a bit unclear, but it looked like I was fusing.
    When I had my x-ray for the one year check-up, I insisted on lying down for it, and sure enough, it was a very clear x-ray.  I got much the same response that your husband got.  It was very clear that L3/L4 had not fused at all, with very loose hardware, and that the fusion at L4/L5 was weak.  The surgeon proposed a very quick revision surgery.  I walked out and never returned.
    I googled "best surgeon for revision surgery in Texas" and three popped up, all in the Dallas area.  I'm now being scheduled for a revision surgery with one of those docs, and it will include L5/S1, which seems to have been a major source of pain for me all along, but the first surgeon ignored it.
    I hope that you are able to find a surgeon who will do it right this time.  I don't know if the lying-down x-ray would be better for your husband, but it might be something to ask.  It works for me, since I'm more able to stay still, rather than swaying, which I do when I'm standing.
  • I am so sorry your husband has to go through this. I have had a similar situation. I had a disc replacement 3/14. Ended up back in surgery 7 days later due to an infection. Was placed on a PIC line. My pain never went away. Found out I had an allergy to nickel so they had to remove it and then fused it with my hip bone. 11 months later it never fused and I tried to go back to work. I was only able to do it for 5 weeks. I was told everything looked good and that the bone was starting to fuse. Now it is 13 months after they put plates and screws in and just found out I have even more issues than I had before. Now they have to remove the fuse at C4-C5 then fuse 4 through 7 together. I do not know how or why a fuse won't take. I was told it was one of the risks. Makes  me wonder if it is my body causing the issues or not. This will be my 5th neck surgery is less than 3 years and my 11 surgery all togetjer in less than 3 years. I also have Ulnar nerve issues and carpal tunnel. Again I am so sorry you all have to go through this. I know this ordeal has been very trying on me and my family as well. Gentle hugs to you all. Please let us know what the outcome is.

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    hello julespcw !
    Welcome to Veritas Health Forumplease click on link for helpful information!
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