a screw with a spine on it with metal signs of lightning bolts and a flame behind it

Spinal Surgery Complications: I Have a Loose AS Screw

Ouch, that hurt. That was what I told my back surgeon recently when he touched one of those spots that ache constantly. You may recall that in 2019, just as the pandemic was taking hold, I had back surgery to correct severe kyphosis. I knew then that there might be a possibility of needing additional surgery in the future.  Well, the future is near.

Some screws and brackets at the bottom of the surgery have loosened, and I will likely need a tightening up. Precisely when has not been determined, and thankfully it should be nothing as extensive as the first round. A poke here, a ratchet turn there, a cut back there, and bam, it should be easy peasy. Or so says the surgeon.  

I have the final MRI in May; from there, we will determine the final surgical approach. Right now, I know it will at least involve my lower spine, and we are checking some of the complaints I am having mid-back and in my neck. These may or may not be associated with the original spine surgery and may or may not be something to be corrected on this round. So what caused me to go back now? Here is my list of factors that impacted my decision to call the surgeon for an appointment; admittedly, some are more severe than most people might put up with, and some are less.

It hurts, a lot

The bottom line is: could I stand the pain? I do not use opioids because of their impact on my gastrointestinal function (I can barely poop without them, but with opioids, it is not a s$%t show at all.)  So I manage my pain with Tylenol, which is also frowned upon by my glucose sensor company. To be clear, I am not allowed to use NSAIDs because of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). So I use the least bad option. At any rate, until now, my back pain has been manageable, but at some point last fall, it crossed a threshold, and I admitted to myself, it was time to see the back surgeon again. Gosh, he was happy to see me (not).

I can feel the hardware moving

Talk about freaky. I can feel the hardware shift slightly when I walk, sit, stand, or lie down. At first, I thought I had an extra worldly feeling when lying on my back. It turns out I could replicate it by simply standing up.

I know; stop doing that if you can feel it moving. Well, something about standing seems sort of fundamental. I mean, call me old-fashioned, but standing seems kind of an essential function. So, I let it go, and it got worse (surprise, not). 

So with it worsening, I knew it was time to see the surgeon. He promptly x-rayed it and said oh yeah, I see that. You have loose hardware. Oh great, once again, I have a screw loose. Look, my teacher always thought I had a loose screw, but now I really do.

The base of my neck hurts in the back

I do not know if this is related to the back surgery or if anything is structurally wrong. It may be because I am 65, and that will be how it will be.  Let’s face it, who knows what I might have done to it along the way? (Yes, 8-year-old Rick could put his neck in there and 8 year old Clint could not; Rick wins...I mean, maybe)

The pending MRI will determine all of this, and of course, the surgeon will know if he has something to fix long before surgery. While it may be nothing, it does hurt, and it is right where the surgery ended last time. So It makes sense to look things over.

Right in the middle of my back, a pop happens

This happens about 80% of the time when I lie down. Sometimes I can hear it, and other times I feel it. This is not new. It has been present immediately after surgery. The surgeon says he cannot see anything on the X-rays and CT-Scan, so I doubt anything will be resolved, but then again, those pictures are not taken as I lay down. 

I know my spine shifts into and out of place as I lie down or stand up. I regard it as a different piece of loose hardware, but we will see. So far, nothing has shown up that looks like it needs to be fixed.

Scheduled soon

Ultimately, I will take a surgical pit stop this spring (I am channeling the Indianapolis 500 there). But it will be a short one. 

Have you ever had revision surgery? This revisionist wants to know. Tell me all about it.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.