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Updated February 10, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.


Pseudoarthrosis is an area of broken bone that does not heal, causing a joint (space between two bones) to form. Pseudoarthritis literally means "false joint."

Pseudoarthrosis may occur after a spinal fusion procedure that did not take. When a fusion doesn’t take, it is called a "non-union."

What happens in a non-union is that movement is introduced to the joint during the post-surgical healing period or blood flow to the area is limited (or both), causing the fusion to fail. Non-union often results in pseudoarthrosis, a movement in one or more areas in your vertebrae that is not supposed to occur.

Diagnosing a Pseudoarthrosis

Doctors often have a difficult time diagnosing a pseudoarthrosis. One reason for this is that no one can say for sure how long after your spinal fusion surgery any related pain or other symptoms may occur. You may feel pain from a pseudoarthrosis months or even years after your surgery.

Another reason getting a diagnosis is difficult is that a pseudoarthrosis may be just a very tiny crack in the bone that is hard to see on films.

Factors for Pseudoarthrosis

A number of factors may contribute to a pseudoarthrosis. They range from metabolic factors; the type of hardware the surgeon implants in your spine; and the type of bone graft material used.

Your lifestyle may also contribute to an increased risk of pseudoarthrosis. If you smoke, are obese or are malnourished your risk is higher. The same is true if you have osteoporosis, diabetes, chronic illness, you’ve had a pseudoarthrosis before or you use steroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications regularly.

Treatment for Pseudoarthrosis

Treatment for pseudoarthrosis will likely start with conservative treatment such as medication, physical therapy or pain management. If that fails to satisfactorily relieve your symptoms, your doctor may suggest revision surgery.
Also Known As: non-union
Common Misspellings: pseduoarthritis
Pseudoarthrosis is a joint that develops where a fracture in the bone is located.
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