Spinal Cage or Rods

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Regular Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 58
   Posted 12/14/2007 11:06 AM (GMT -6)   
My brother was diagnosed several years ago with a condition called Avascular Necrosis (AVN). His is attributed to excessive steroid use as prescribed by physicians for trauma or what ever. He's not a body builder but has lead an adventurous life! As a result he has already had both hips replaced and his knees will probably be next. Very recently he began experiencing severe back pain unlike any he has ever had before. His x-rays and MRI's show he has severe degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis in his spine (may or may not be related to AVN). His doctor told him that his spine was collapsing to put it simply. Rods and caging have both been mentioned as possible treatments both of which we know nothing about. Can anyone tell us how this will effect his mobility. My brother asked the doc if he would be able to get around or if he would be wheelchair bound. The docs reply was "I don't know". If someone could shed a little light on this subject it would be greatly appreciated. 
Thank You and have a Blessed Day! sad

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 9090
   Posted 12/14/2007 12:27 PM (GMT -6)   

Sorry to hear about your brother's health. I sure hope he can find some relief. I've seen lectures on these procedures on our university channel...University of Washington. Seems the cage is for smaller areas to bridge one bad disc and I would think that would preserve mobility. I sure would be checking it out with people who have had it done tho. I'm not much help but look to a university/teaching hospital in your area and ask them for information. Good luck and keep us posted on his progress...

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Fibromyalgia, Ulcerative Colitis, Insulin dependent diabetic, collapsed disk, dermatitis herpetiformus, osteo arthritis in spine and other locations.

The only difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has it's limits. Albert Einstein: (1879-1955)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 12/14/2007 2:28 PM (GMT -6)   
I just had 2 lumbar disks fused (L4-5,L5-Si) in September and have cages and screws. While my nerve pain has not yet subsided (and may never subside, alhough I'm going to remain hopeful that over months it may at least decrease) I'm fairly impressed with my mobility. I had a neurosurgeon from Univ. of Pittsburgh do a minimally invasive procedure, and I believe that makes a difference. I also had bad disks and severe degenerative disk disease, and my surgeon told me I probably had already lost mobility before the surgery. I actually think he may have been right because although my back muscles are still sore (I've just started physical therapy), I can do some things now that I couldn't before. Still, I'm very cautious about movement. I would definitely emphasize everyone is so different and would encourage you to do a lot of research on your own. In my case it seemed my back was already so degenerated it was going to do nothing but get worse on its own. But the main reason I had surgery was for radiating nerve pain in my legs and the numbness in my feet - and those symptoms haven't improved. I am learning the hard way I may have waited too long to have the surgery (although no one should rush into it). It seems the longer the nerve is damaged or compressed, the less likelihood of it healing. But I will continue to have hope! I do know there are lots of different procedures and techniques and I would definitely suggest you go to a major teaching hospital and to an MD who does these procedures all the time.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2006
Total Posts : 61
   Posted 12/14/2007 5:53 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi Volfan

I had these two procedures explained to me by my Othropod as I understand it the cage is pretty majour surgery I think they might have to enter fron the back and also the front and they basically put a cage around the degenerated spinal area and secure with screws as for movement afterwards I think it is very limited but could be wrong it is pretty majour operation due to entering  fvrom the front and the back to completely access the spine

The rods and screws type fusion I believe they can access from the back only and two rods are placed on either side of the affected spinal area and secured with screws, As for mobility of this area I do not know for sure I would expect limited the spine segments above and possible below the site depending where it is fused take up all the movement and after a period of time also wear out and must be fused and so on and on

The4 screws and even the rods can snap/break or the screws can pull out causing additional surgery to try to fix

A lot of the people I have known who had the fusion wish they never had it done but that is just their opinion all cases are different

When I was at my Orthapedic surgeons office he had a model their that had been fused with rods and screws to illustrate the procedure to his patients as I was looking at this model it really looked like a majour procedure pretty intimidating lookind and I noticed that the screws used on the model had come out or broken off a piece of the vertabra but it was only a model

I would advise to think very very carefully before getting any of these done It would be a very last choice for me before I would go through any of them I had a 3 level Laminectomy done and it was bad enough and offered me very little to NO relief or improvement in pain and it took 7 hours

I am sure others will chime in who know more or more accurate info for you or maybe had one of them done from my knowledge the caging of the spine is the worst and most severe spinal surgery

Best of Luck


Regular Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 58
   Posted 12/15/2007 10:05 PM (GMT -6)   
Thank You Everyone, your right about every thing! Since my last post, brother has gotten an appointment with a specialist but won't see him until mid-January. I will send him a link to this site so he can join in. I think this is a great one and I'm sure he will too. I had cervical fusion with plating and screws in 05 but it has done little to alleviate the major pain in my neck but it did help the arm pain. Fingers still go numb. My injury was from a nasty fall which also tore my rotor cuff. Like PAlady my lumbar surgery did nothing to help the nerve pain and it made low back pain worse. Again, A big Thanks again to YOU ALL!

Have a Blessed Day!

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 13362
   Posted 12/15/2007 11:22 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Volfan, whew your brothr really has some major decisions to make. None sounds good to me. Any time a fusion is involved whether there is hardware used or not, yes, you are going to lose some of your mobility within the spine. I wish the success rate was better on these surgeries where they use screws & hardware. What I mean by that is, its very difficult to trick the body into accepting the foreign materials that was not already there. Alot of folks cannot tolerate the hardware and about a yr down the road they are having it removed because it created so much pain. All you have to do is Google spinal hardware and I bet you can get tons of info. The more research you do on this the better he will be. Susie

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