Saturday, May 30, 2015

Surgery on My Neck: Post-Op

I ended my last blog post talking about the pain in my neck along with my surgery options. Well, let’s just say things didn’t go quite as planned. As I wrote before, I opted for the larger surgery because of the long-term benefits and decided not to go ahead with the small surgery. Surgery was on May 6 although my stay in the hospital was more than the initial intended time of 3 to 5 days. I got home from the hospital May 13 and have been in the recovery mode. I spent a little over a week in the hospital due to a few setbacks during the procedure. 
The two surgeons that were working on me were an orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon, I couldn’t have asked for a better team. The problem came across when they opened me up and saw that the bone spur was bigger than they expected. The team was also worried about spinal fluid leakage along with baclofen leaking because that’s right around the area that the catheter sits for my baclofen pump. After removing the spur, they put the "plug" in place as planned and then instead of doing the larger surgery they did the smaller one (both surgeries explained in previous post). I spent 4 hours in surgery as opposed to the 12 originally set aside.

This is what the bone spur looked like from a CT scan. It's the white pointed spot between C4-C5 (towards the middle of the picture) that was facing towards my spinal cord. Since they've removed it, I've had significant less spasms and pain relief even though things didn't go as planned.

The surgery for the actual fusion (originally planned in the first one) from C4-T3 has yet to be rescheduled. I’m still recovering from this one, especially only being 3 ½ weeks postop. I have to wear a neck brace 24/7 hopefully only until my postop appointment on June 23. I missed my first appointment on May 18 because I wasn’t able to sit in my wheelchair for more than a couple hours. I’m still working towards being in my wheelchair for the length of time I used to (about 10-12 hours) but it’s a slow process. My body can only handle so long before I have to get back into bed. Right now though I am up to about 6 and I’m slowly increasing every day.

This is the view from my patio that was recently built. The picture also shows the neck brace I have to wear.

Recovery and rehab time/process afterwards is always unknown in these situations but I’m hoping it won’t be too much longer before I’m back to normal. I've been trying to get outside when it's nice even if it's just sitting on my patio. Although, my dog Brody sure loves his walks so I've been taking it slow rolling down the streets with him! Like I stated above I’m not sure when I’m going to have the actual fusion; I guess I’ll have to decide that at my postop. I appreciate all of your thoughts, prayers, and concerns. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions and I hope to fill in more details as they come along.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Surgery on my Neck

It is common for many individuals with SCI to experience chronic or acute pain. Given our situations, we usually require the use of a wheelchair. This means lack of movement, possible curvature of the spine, along with pain resulting in posture and positioning.

For a long time I’ve had this pain on the left side of my neck between my spine and my shoulder blade. Sometimes it aches, but most of the time it’s a very sharp, deep feeling. For the past several months my pain has increased into my right shoulder/neck, my arm pits, and along my spine. Although my spinal cord injury is at C-1 C-2, it is incomplete. I’ve been told that I have incomplete sensory and motor (some feeling and movement) below the level of my injury. Some people have one or the other or neither depending on their injury. In my case, I can feel pain in my neck and back; it’s good because then I know when something’s wrong but it’s bad because it hurts. I do have a high tolerance for pain because it isn’t at a full affect.

We had been trying to locate the source of my pain, linking it to muscle tightness. Last year I saw a neurosurgeon to see if I could get some answers. He suggested a CT scan so he could see what the bones were doing. From the results, he determined that I have a bone spur. Because my spine is already fused from C-1 to C-4, it’s counted as one vertebrae instead of four. The pressure from it is pressing down on C-5. Ultimately C-4 and C-5 are trying to fuse themselves together creating a spur. 

In order to fix the problem and take the pain away, the doctor gave me a few options. One would be to leave it alone and try to manage it with medication and/or more therapy. The other two involve surgery; one small or one large. The small surgery would consist of taking out the bone spur and then putting a "plug" in place of it. Then a metal plate would be attached to help keep the plug in place. The surgery would only take a couple of hours and I would be in the hospital just a few days. 

The larger surgery includes the exact same procedure, but afterwards he would fuse a larger section (C-4 to T-3). This would prevent the same thing from happening in the future. The downside is the larger surgery is that I wouldn’t be able to move my neck. Having limited mobility in my neck already, this doesn’t really concern me. The upside is that it should take the pain completely away and also straighten my neck (my spine also curves and my head tilts to the left).
After some careful thinking, I opted for the larger surgery because of the long-term benefits. I told that doing the small surgery could result in a catastrophic failure and that’s the last thing I want to happen. My surgery is scheduled for May 6th and will last about 12 hours. I’ll probably be in the hospital anywhere from 3 to 7 days. Recovery and rehab time/process afterwards is unknown at this time but I’m hoping it won’t be too long! I’ll keep you updated as things move on afterword and how I’m feeling.