I had a spinal fusion at the L45 level. It didn’t heal and the X-ray shows no fusion. Why did this happen?
Failure of a fusion to heal occurs in as many as 35 percent of all patients. When movement occurs after a fusion, it’s called pseudoarthrosis or “false joint.” There are many possible reasons why a solid spinal fusion doesn’t occur. Type of bone graft material used and number of previous operations are two factors. Others include whether screws, plates, or rods are used to hold the bone during healing and number of levels fused. Patients who are smokers, overweight, or have diabetes are at greater risk for nonhealing bone. Some drugs, such as steroids or non-steroidal antiinflammatories delay healing. Research to improve spinal bone fusion is ongoing. Improved surgery has already helped decrease the rate of pseudoarthrosis. Studies using electrical current to improve bone growth report some success.