Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 25, 2018
Pseudarthrosis is a spinal condition that is the result of a non-union of a spinal fusion procedure, but it can cause varying symptoms based on the location of the issue. Today, we take a closer look at the causes, risk factors and treatment options for pseudarthrosis of the spine.
Causes and Symptoms of Pseudarthrosis
As we noted in the intro, pseudarthrosis is a condition that can occur in any place in your back where a spinal fusion operation was previously attempted. The goal of a spinal fusion operation is to weld together pieces of bone into one solid piece. There are a couple different ways surgeons can attempt to fuse the bones together, but if the weld isn’t perfect, then motion can continue in the area.
The more severe the motion, the more likely you are to experience symptoms. The most common symptom is pain in the area of pseudarthrosis, but you can also experience pain that radiates down your arm or leg. Some patients may also experience stiffness or numbness in the area. It’s also worth noting that if pseudarthrosis is minimal and symptoms are minor or nonexistent, treatment may not be necessary.
Patients with certain health conditions and other risk factors may have an increased chance of developing motion at the fusion site. Patients with metabolic disorders, diabetics, steroid users and individuals with certain chronic pain conditions may be at an elevated risk for developing pseudarthrosis. However, the most common and preventable risk factor for pseudarthrosis is whether or not the patient is a smoker or tobacco user. In fact, research shows that smokers have a 33 percent decreased likelihood of a successful fusion, so try to give up the habit if you have been told a spinal fusion may be in your future.
One of the unfortunate things about the onset of pseudarthrosis is that conservative care isn’t going to be able to strengthen your fusion site, which is why treatment for moderate or severe pseudarthrosis almost always involves a second fusion attempt. The surgeon may attempt to use different instrumentation to complete the fusion or readdress the hardware used in the first surgery. The exact course of treatment will depend on the specific circumstances.
The good news is that as medical technology has continued to advance and hardware and grafts have become more precise, the number of cases of pseudarthrosis has dropped dramatically, and we see no reason why that trend won’t continue. Dr. Sinicropi uses a specific and individualized process to help protect against pseudarthrosis in his patients, and he’d provide you with the same level of care. For more information, or to talk to him about your spine pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s clinic today.