As one of the most-performed surgeries in the U.S., fusion spine surgery is statistically reliable. Since it’s a two-part operation involving installation of hardware to stabilize the spine and the application of bone graft material, fusion surgery is also highly dependent on multiple factors for success. For this reason, there are several possible reasons why a failed fusion (pseudarthrosis) may occur.
Poor Bone Healing
A successful fusion depends on how the affected bones heal. This may happen if the adjacent bones are structurally weak or if an infection occurs after surgery. Bone healing can also be affected by:
- Lack of sufficient nutrients
- Underlying conditions like diabetes
- Excess weight
If the spine itself wasn’t properly aligned during spine surgery, uneven pressure could be placed on the affected area of the spine. This added stress can make it difficult for a fusion to form or result in unintentional motion if the hardware wasn’t aligned right.
Chronic Nerve Injury or Irritation
Assuming there are no issues with alignment and the fusion appears to be successful, nerve damage may be the source of ongoing pain. In some cases, nerves that were previously compressed or pinched may have sustained permanent damage that can’t be corrected simply by alleviating pressure or nerves may still be irritated by another source within the same area.
There is some degree of guesswork involved with any type of spine surgery, meaning strategies aren’t fail-proof. For instance, a fusion may fail if the spine was also structurally weak in another location that wasn’t detected prior to surgery.
Failure to Follow Post-Op Instructions
There’s a reason why patients are given very specific instructions following surgery. Even something as seemingly minor as taking a shower before given the okay to do so could result in an infection.
It’s not always easy to determine if a fusion has failed. It can take anywhere from 2-3 months to a year or so after surgery for a solid fusion to form. Before considering fusion surgery, or any type of spine surgery, be certain you’ve exhausted all non-surgical options, including any treatments you may not have considered.
Wondering what options are available for back pain relief? Turn to Dr. Hyun Bae and his team at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Specializing in both fusion and non-fusion spine surgeries, we can help you determine the right path to a pain-free lifestyle. Call our office today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule a consultation.