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Avatar universal

Spinal pain 30 years after Harrington rod surgery for scoliosis and MRI results

2 months ago - pain radiating down left arm and almost a feeling of my rod broken (it is in the thorac area) and terrible pain in my neck and upper back.  Curious as to what MRI results really mean - I am afraid I could end up with revision surgery because I believe that my rod is causing all my problems.  1st MRI done of thoracic and LUmbar - too difficult to read the Thoracic due to the rod.  Noted some Modic type 2 degenerative changes involving endplates and marginal spur formation and minor disk bulges on portions they could see.  Lumbar - loss of disk height at L5-S and degrees of disk dehydration at L3-L4 and L4-L5. Also, mild disk space narrowing at L4-L5.  Broad based disc bulges at L4-L5 and L5-S1 resulting in mild and bilateral nerual foraminal narrowing these assoiciated with facet hypertrophy.  Impression reads:  Broad based disck bulges at L4-L5 and L5-S1 resulting in mild and bilateral nerual foraminal narrowing.

Two weeks later went back for Cspine MRI - results are:  Degrees of loss of disk height and hydration at C3-C4 through C7-T1, most pronounced at C5-C6 and C6-C7.  These are associated w/broad based disk bulge and end plate spur formation, which is more pronounced at C5-C6 and C6-C7 resulting in mild and questionable abutment of the cord and mild and bilateral neural foraminal narrowing.  Broad based disk bulge at T1-T2 visualized on sagittal view resulting in flattening of thecal sac. Impression:  Spondylosis of Cspine most pronounced at C5-C6 & C6-C7, associated w/mild and bilateral neural foraminal narrowing and abutment of cord at C6-C7.
32 Responses
Avatar universal
Unfortunately when there is metal in thebody (such as spine instrumentation), the MRI signal in this area is distorted and one cannot tell what is really going on there. There may be less distortion with a CT myelogram, and even less with a conventional xray myelogram - these test involve injection of dye into the spinal fluid surrounding the spinal cord and nerves, then imaging the fluid by CT or xray - any blockages or pinched nerve roots show up well.

Loss of disc height, dehydration, and modic changes are common as we age in the general population. Minor disc bulges may or more usually not cause any symptoms. Spur formation if bad enough can pinch nerve roots in their foramina (holes that they go through) causing pain that radiates down an arm or leg. Abutment or flattening of the thecal sac means that there is less room in the spinal fluid for the spinal cord, but the spinal cord is not necesarily compromised. A plain xray may help show the integrity of the rod inrelation to the surroinding bony stuctures. An EMG study of the arm can sometimes tell if there is any nerve root irriatation from a pinched nerve root.

As I have not seen the actual images this advice is general and may not apply to your specific case.

Good luck
Avatar universal
Hi Lisa,

I had herrington rods installed(thoracic) 27 years ago so it suprised me to read that. I had cervical fusion c-4 to c-7 in 2004.

I'm not a Dr., but the mri sounds like you have some stuff goin on in the neck that will at least need therapy, maybe more. Thats what causes the arm pain most likely. It also can cause upper back/shoulder/neck pain as well.

Do you have any symptoms in the legs or lower back? The lumbar MRI doesnt sound too healthy either, but like I said, Dont take it from me!!!

I had my rods removed a year after surgery.

Hope you feel better soon. Take it easy on your neck, dont look up or down too far if you dont have to. I was told looking up was the worst.

Take it slow...Mike
Avatar universal
I could have been reading my story and my results of the MRI.  I had Harrington rods put in in 1966 and now I am 54 years of age.  They are still in and the pain I have been in for the past 9 years has been terrible.
I have been to specialists and the only thing they can do now is take about 2 and a half centremetres off the top of the rod and fuse the rest of the lumbar spine.  My rods start at T4 and end at L3. No guarantee even then of no pain so I have opted not to have that done.
I feel so sorry for you as my life has changed so much.  I try so hard to keep a positive attitude and am a member of scoliosis sites on the net to try and help others, but honestly it does get hard.  Exercise does not help. nor swimming, nor physio, nor chiropractors, in fact they run if they see me coming.
I probably have made you feel worse but that was not my intention I just want you to know you are not alone in this.

Keep smiling regardless!!
Avatar universal
Hello all.  This is my first crack at reserching about scoliosis. I had my Harrington rods put in 1983 and because of constant neck pain, I finally went to a doctor who advised that my rods were to long and causing me neck pain.  We schedule surgery to cut the rod down but during surgery the realized that it would be best to just remove the rods.  I never really had a lot of pain until 12 years after my first surgery and more after having 4 kids.  I would get lower back spasms, and lots of pain were they took bone from my hip to fuse it to my back.  I feel now as I get older, it has become harder to deal with the pain, even with no rods.  I constantly have lower back pain and when I sleep my arms go numb all the time.  No matter what position I'm in.  I have been having ankle pain but nothing is wrong with my ankle as far as the bone goes.  I feel that It was might have something to do with the neurological aspect of the surgery.  That is why I started to research more on this subject.  I am thankful though I had surgery at such an early age and that I had the Harrington rods. My mother and brother both have had recent surgery in the past 5 years for scoliosis.  They have both been in constant pain since they have had surgery.  And my brother just had reconstructive surgery because the rod they used deteriorated a disk in is spine.  I would like to hear more from those that are having neurological systems cause by surgery.
I know now that it is all about pain management now.
Avatar universal
Wow.  I'm reading my own story... and I thought I was the only one!!  I had ONE harrington rod placed in 1980 (a mere 26 years ago this November).  This crosses over my lower thoracic and upper lumbar area, completely negating any lumbar curve I should have; therefore I walk with my trunk flexed in a forward position because I can't straighten up.  At 44 years of age, I can stand straigh and not only touch my fingers to the floor in front of me, I can get my palms completely flat on the floor without bending my knees.  I have no disc space left between L5, S1 and am in increasing pain.  The funny thing is, I work for a physical therapist who has done wonders for our patients.  I know that exercise is the key to a lot (not to mention weight loss), it's just so very difficult for me personally to get 'past the pain' when it comes to exercising.  I exercise a little and am in a tremendous amount of pain for days.  Quite disheartening and very embarrassing.  Pretty sure any surgery is out of the question (they would have to catch me first - that first one was a hum-dinger).  Would be nice to hear any advise or support.
Avatar universal
I had spinal fusion and instrumentation 15 years ago.  Since then I have had nothing but pain and problems.  I have constant back, neck and hip pain.  I had surgery again 10 years ago to remove a small portion of one of the harrington rods because it was sticking in the muscle between my shoulder blades and I couldn't move my arms without a great deal of pain.  Because of the constant pain after my first surgery I spent a lot of time on bedrest and as a result I developed osteoporosis.  I now have osteoarthritis.  Some days the pain in my back and hip are so bad I han hardly walk or even stand up.  I had a baby just a year ago and the pain in my hip and back were so bad the last 2 months of pregnancy that I couldn't walk without assistance.  I ended up having to be induced 2 weeks early because I couldn't take the pain anymore.  I have been to multiple doctors but no one seems to have any answers as far as what to do.  One doctor told me that they could remove one of the rods but that I probably wouldn't see any real improvement form the surgery.  He also told me that the risks would be too great for me because my osteo is very advanced.  I do not know anyone else who has had this surgery so, I was very glad to find this sight and see that I'm not alone.  Thank you to everone who has posted their story.  I don't feel so alone anymore!
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