Calling all spinal fusions Help for my 17 year old son

Cackling Hen

Just Scratching Around
10 Years
Apr 21, 2009
Port Angeles Wa
Hi last year my 16 year old son was diognosied with spondylitis. They went ahead and gave him the surgery. Rods screws and bone donar to replace his missing peice of Vertabra. All was good for maybe 3 months after surgery. Then the pain and suffering begins So back to surgeon we went he ordered MRI we went in office he looked at my son and said your fine it lookes fine and away we went. I have taken my son to 4 diff Doctors. One Dr gave him ZOLOFT for his pain The others say deal with it. Well all you MOTHERS know when your child is crying screaming not moving THERE IS something wrong I just knew it.... So last Friday I tryed one more dr.... orthopedictic surgeon he takes a look at my sons MRI the same MRI the surgeon looked at and comes in the room and it says it plain as day on the MRI cant miss it. I have some bad news the fusion didnt take . I went silent my son went silent I cryed FINALLY an answer.... My son thought he was going crazy maybe it was in his head...
So my question to you all is should I write a letter to all these DR's???? You let my son suffer for 8 months walking on bone to bone now he has to go through another surgery......Im just so mad they though he was lying? Was he looking for pain meds??? You gave him Zoloft yeah when you hurt you get depressed but come on now Im just so hurt and mad he lost his quality of life already. Hes not the same fun outgoing young boy I know
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I would not only write them letters but let the state medical licensing board have copies of them. And file a complaint against every single one of those doctors. That kind of malpractice needs to be stopped.
You need to find a GOOD Neurosurgeon! My mom has had 2 fusions, one was back in 2001. Second one, same surgeon but because she was on Medicare on second, they sent her to MD, then to Chiro, they nearly paralyzed her before insurance would send her back to Neuro. He took one look at her MRI and she was in the operating room again.

Playing with someones back is nothing to be taken lightly. I would personally also find a good attorney, you may not be able to build a case for negligence, but an attorney on your side now will be beneficial, your son will likely have some degree of disability and be able to get assistance. Set yourself up now for what may come down the road.

And yes, first document everything, see if the the Ortho would write a letter documenting what he saw on the MRI, you may need that later as well. Then write letters to everyone including Licensing Board.
From the description it appears it was a very obvious and simple case of 'we did not do our job'.

Any time anyone has a fusion, it's possible the bones don't mend properly. And that can cause a lot of pain.

When someone says, 'I am 2 months post op from a big spinal surgery for scoliosis and my back hurts', gosh, I would be thinking they would be taking an awful lot of pictures.

THERE IS ONE POSSIBILITY....I am not 100% sure that fusion failures always show that easily on an xray. I think that they take some time themselves, just to appear on an xray. I am not making any excuses for the doctors; only saying that it might be how a failure could be missed....FOR A FEW WEEKS....beyond that, I am just as shocked as you are. Because I would think there would be some way to see a failure brewing BEFORE it shows on an xray, maybe a bone scint? I don't know. I am really treading water on these complex issues.

As far as the antidepressant, they actually do help with nerve pain, are prescribed for many types of pain and really do seem to work. When nerves are irritated by arthritis, for example, antidepressants can just normalize the signals coming from irritated nerve cells. It's as if nerve cells sometimes get hyper-active because they have been getting irritated for a long tme. Of course it's a different dose than for depression. But I can sort of imagine a doctor just assuming the nerves are beat up and tired from the surgery.

Of course the doctor might have thought your son was depressed, too; that does often go along with pain.

I'm only mentioning that for general information purposes, though. The doctors clearly dropped the ball. They should have seen the failed fusion. It's a given that a fusion could fail. And I would assume that after carefully reviewing your son's medical history, a doctor would know which xray views to take, to find out if the fusion had taken or not.

I'm not at all convinced it was 'just one of those things'.

If there was anything really tough to work on in your son's back the surgeon should have pointed that out to you before the surgery. He should have given you information about the unique surgery your son would get.

One thing I would very much to your regular family doctor about why fusions fail, and when the new surgeon goes back in to revise the fusion, have a plan in place for after care. It could be as simple as the original surgeon used the wrong hardware or didn't get it set in there correctly. But you want to be SURE that you have a plan in place and know every single little thing.

When I met with surgeons for my own spinal issues, I found that many of them seemed to be too much hurried to give me a lot of detail. I think it's good to push them and to take notes in every meeting.

I think taking any NSAID-class drugs after a fusion might interfere with the fusion. These are like Aleve, Tolectin, etc - many of these medicines are over the counter and people may not realize their effects. I'll bet there is a whole raft of things that can be done to help the surgery succeed.

You need to discuss it all with your doctor in a lot of detail. When I was going to have a similar surgery, the surgeon's assistants took a lot of time with me explaining what I could and couldn't do after the surgery, what over the counter meds I could and could not take. I was kind of a pain and wrote down many questions for each meeting. Your doc should be providing you with a lot of information on how to make that spinal surgery should the surgeon.
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You should worry more about getting your son in good shape. Document everything in case they caused some damage by misdiagnosing. Sure you can probably find and attorney and go to court. That's one of the reasons our system is so screwed up. My DW has had spinal fusion and it has never been completely right. I have talked to many people that have had t and they are never the same. It interrupts the natural movement of the vertebrae above or below it and eventually you end up with a solid spine from more fusions. Sometimes fusions don't take. The original surgeon should have seen that.

Yes the medical community doesn't give kids the same pain relief they do adults. Kids are more prone to addiction or so they say. It's impossible to tell actual pain unless you are the one experiencing it.

I'm glad that you were able to get a good diagnosis. Many people go for years without a proper diagnosis. Hope your son feels better and is able to lead a comfortable life without pain.
A failed fusion is not necessarily malpractice nor a case of surgeons that "clearly dropped the ball". It may take 6-12 months for it to heal properly even if done right, so to say they waited "too long" is not accurate. And yes, there are a lot of drug seekers out there, so docs tend to be cautious handing out pain meds.

Back surgery is always a dicey procedure, even by the best surgeons in the world, and it does NOT always heal right or end the back pain.

I can tell you that if there is any mention of any lawsuits, you will be hard pressed to get ANY surgeon to work on him. Around here back surgeons will not touch any ones elses "failed" surgery for that reason.
Zoloft is actually good for pain management, especially chronic pain. Stuff like Ibuprofen, Aleve, Naproxen, Advil etc are no-no for post surgery - the inflammation process is needed for healing. That's why the "heavy" drugs like Vicoden etc are mixed with Tylenol - it helps with pain especially when combined with the narcotic drugs. Zoloft works the same way, especially if it's combined with other medication if needed - it increases the efficiency of it if. I was on Zoloft for pain management while pregnant, due to complications from appendicitis and kidney issues.

Doctors "miss" things all the time, they are people. If you give a set of complicated x-rays to 10 different doctors, only a very few will catch the same thing on them. The body changes as well after surgery.

I've had 6 knee surgeries on one knee, the first two by one surgeon, the last 4 by another. It's now finally stable. It wasn't the fault of the surgeons, even though the massive reconstruction I had in July failed badly by January. He had to do a lot more work on it again in February, and so far, I think we're done with it. It wasn't his fault my body didn't respond properly, though I had a lot of folks telling me to sue. The body is complex and doesn't work like a chemistry set. Better to find a doctor who can handle those complexities and keep trying, and use the "wasted" surgeries as learning times.
I know exactly how you feel. My son went to hospital one Friday evening with terrible stomach pains but after examining him they sent him home. He grew worse and my husband took him back on the Sunday evening. Eventually they admitted him and late Monday afternoon decided to do a colposcopy. This revealed a twisted intestine which had started to become gangrenous. He went straight to theatre. I wanted to scream and shout but most of all I just wanted my boy to be alright. He lost 28 pounds in weight and he was only light before the illness. I never let him see how upset I really was because my mum told me, 'in this life you have to roll with the punches, and never feel sorry for yourself.' her wise council kept me from despair and when I see him now, with his lovely wife and little daughter, I thank God for his mercy.

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