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Infection post-op--G's story

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've been meaning to share my story in hopes it may help someone out there with new information.

I had a two level lumbar fusion on July 9th. post-op pain was downright brutal.

two weeks later I developed a "seroma"-- swelling where fluid accumulates... right under the entire length of the 5 inch incision. I got it checked out. doc said to apply heat. if it didn't go down, they'd drain it in a couple days. had it drained. they tested the fluid. by now I had a fever of over 102 three nights in a row. pain got worse. the tests came back with crazy numbers... and the MRSA bug- HA (hospital acquired--- not the CA (community acquired which is the one where you get boils on your skin). I had surgery immediately the next morning after the results came back. they'd have done it the same day but I'd already eaten lunch.

they found the MRSA-HA bacteria not only in the seroma, but also deep by the rods and the screws. thank God it didn't spread.

the second surgery (August 3rd) also required a 5 day hospital stay. I was given a "pick-line" (sp?) which is an iv/catheter type thing that goes from my elbow 43 centimeters til it gets to the aorta... right before the heart. the heart distributes the vancomyacin antibiotics throughout my body. it's apparently too hard for the veins to handle. that's why they install the iv with the two plastic lines leading to the aorta. I have two treatments a day. each is 1.5 hours long. thankfully it doesn't hurt.

after that second surgery, my incision had a really hard time healing. this past monday I went to see my neurosurgeon again. he told me he felt he needed to open it back up and clean it out and re-sew it. so, for the 3rd time in 7 weeks, Tuesday I had surgery again. thankfully it was just one night. I had it cleaned out. I have had way more nerve pain post-op in my back than ever, but now they've been messed with 3 times and so that's expected.

I fully expect this will be it and I am finally on the road to lasting recovery.

oh... the treatments will continue through my IV til September 12th. I am beyond grateful it didn't kill me, as it does kill people every year.

through it all, my husband has been amazing and I haven't lost my mind!

so... if you have any signs of a seroma after surgery, (it's very rare but it does happen obviously!) please have it checked out ASAP and have it tested for any bacteria.



  • Thanks for posting your story. It's a reminder that we really have to be careful in hospitals--just where you expect to be safe and sterile, just the opposite can happen! God bless--Mazy
  • "G"

    Glad that everything worked out good and that your surgeon was on top of things. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Wow, so glad you are getting better. How scarey! Infection is one of those surgical risks we all take when we go under the knife. MRSA is a huge problem in the hospital and in the community. I hope and pray that your antibiotics work and clear you of this infection. Sue
  • what were your first symptoms? I have a 9" scar-at the bottom it is more swollen-I have no fever but it is more painful at the bottom. Do you think that is ok?
  • I didn't get a fever right away. I had the seroma for over a week, maybe even two weeks, before I got a fever. It was warmer to the touch. it hurt. it got bigger. it was soft (fluid under the skin). If it were me, I'd call my neurosurgeon and tell him or his nurse. and when you see him, ask him if it's a seroma. and if it is, I'd insist on him draining some of it right away and having it sent to a lab for testing. I wouldn't be afraid of "overreacting". hopefully it's just swelling but you can't be too careful!
  • Mazy, Sue, "C"... thanks for your responses. the second surgery to clean up the infection was so much easier physically than the fusion surgery was... but emotionally it was much tougher. I was trying to be the perfect patient after the fusion. so for everything seemingly to go wrong was a huge disappointment. plus I had like one night's warning. not much time to mentally prepare. thank God that's all behind me. but yeah... you can't take for granted, unfortunately, that you'll be in good hands. my neurosurgeons are great surgeons. I was in a spine-specialty hospital. they've only have 2 other cases of a staph infection since they opened 6 years ago. so, unfortunately, I was the exception. thankfully I am young (37) and in otherwise good health. the second stay in the hospital... I lost 5 pounds in 5 days. (I didn't really need to) I was so weak. infections can be brutal. I can hardly wait for physical therapy and to be able to get back in the pool. I can't do that til this thing is taken out of my arm in mid-sept. but when I can, wow, it'll be so great to feel strong again.
    like I told my friend the other day... I'm just happy to still be around to whine about all this. :)
  • G, God what an awful experience but i am so glad you have come through bright and breezy. OK maybe not so bright and breezy just yet but it wont be long. :))(
    Thanks for reminding us of the complication, even thoguh they are rare, they are there.

    Blessings Sara
  • G,

    Sorry for your tough time. The fusion should have been enough. I too had a similat infection, only my infection led to my surgeries. I had an infection in my spine, of unknown origin, causing me high fevers, body convulsions, and intense pain in the back. After finding the infection and having surgery to clean it out, I too had a Pic line and 2 months of vancomyacin antibiotics along with Leviquin. The combination of these two potent drugs caused a permanent hearing loss, about 25%, enough to cause aggravation but no hearing aid.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • G, your story makes my heart ache! What you went thru! Oh my! PLEASE take it easy now, after all that cutting, etc...

    I had my 1st 2 lammys only 2 weeks apart (1st one for a cystic tumor, 2nd one for a post-op occult spinal fluid leak) & I hear ya...OMG, the pain from two bg surgeries so close together...as you said, you have mega pain now after being opened 3 times (as was I)....it will take you a LONG time to heal all those poor muslces & ticked-off nerves, so go easy on yourself! It just seems to take forever for things to settle down, so don't get discouraged, etc.

    We, also, are glad you are around to tell us about this--& it's NOT whining! You've been thru the mill &then some!

    Will be thinking of you --- please keep us posted, but REST now & let your body start to heal. And may this be the LAST time anyone ever again has to go back "in there"---!

    Take good care!


  • Thanks! I will be sure to ask the nurse the next time she comes to my house!
  • i had 2 level fusion on 7/28. Recovery was going great{managable pain}. a week later i woke up in the morning w/ a fever and almost incoherent. i was rushed to the nearest hospital, then taken immediately to the city hospital where my surgery was performed. The next morning my surgeon went back in and cleaned out the drain canal. i was told i had a staph infection and would have to take antiobiotics for a couple of days. after 5 days in the hospital, i was sent home with a pick line and put on 3 bags of vancomycin. i was released from the hospital om 8/11. On 8/22 i met with an Infectios disease specialist. I mentioned that it seemed like i was prescribed a large dosage of antibiotic. She said "well, Vancomycin is one of the only drugs that can treat MRSA" This was the first time anyone had even mentioned MRSA. Not my NA, none of my nurses, not the infectious disease Dr in the hospital.
    Needless to say I have been on the web since i got home and some of the information is scary as hell.

    i would appreciate some feedback positive or negative. i just want to get a handle on what i am dealing with.

    already going to get some other 2nd and 3rd proffesional opinions. just wanted some feedback from others in similiar predicaments
  • Hi Martini, sorry for your unfortunately experience with a post op infection. MRSA is Staph. It stands for "methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus". Where as used-to staph infections were sensitive to(could be killed by) simple penicillin type drugs, MRSA is a mutated breed that cannot be killed easily by penicillin or many other drugs. Vancomycin is a very potent antibiotic that so far is still working for MRSA. Good Luck with your recovery, Sue
  • all I'd ever heard about MRSA was the CA type (community acquired that is very infectious and where you get the skin boils) what you and I got was HA (hospital acquired). it could have killed us for sure. (I'm sure you've read that) I have no idea why no one told you you had that. have you gone back to ask? so far, my numbers are coming down nicely every week I've been on vancomycin. I'm sure you are having blood drawn just as I am every week and sent to the lab. I, too, had an infectious disease specialist. he adjusted my vanco while in the hospital and he gets my reports every week from the lab. if your numbers are coming down every week, that should give you peace of mind things are getting back to normal.
    my doc told me over the phone I had MRSA and that's why I needed surgery right away. I didn't know much about it, but my husband, who works in news and had heard plenty in recent months, knew it was very serious.
    good luck & let me know if your numbers are coming down.
  • i'm actually trying to get my 2nd blood test results right now. (not so easy to get docts on the phone)

    Good luck w/ yours
  • I've been away from this board because Dave was back in the hospital with sepsis!!

    He had a 2 level ADCF on July 24. After that, he had a UTI from the catheter. We thought it had cleared up. A week ago, he didn't feel well, but wouldn't let me take him back to the hospital. His temp wasn't too bad, but steadily rising. At 5:30 a.m. it was 102, so we went to the hospital. At that point, his BP was 70/40.

    I am really unclear about what he has for sure. The infectious disease guy told me his blood cultures were negative, but the bacteria is enterococcus. However, the home nurse IV instructions say septicemia, and pneumonia. He is on vancomycin every 24 hrs. He seems to be doing better. His white count was going down in the hospital. He will be on this for 3 weeks, maybe 6.

    Other than that, the surgery part is perfect. No pain etc.

    Linda MI
  • G, Martini, Dave, etc. My thoughts are with you. You are living one of my worst nightmare, a post-surgical infection. Hope all of you are receiving the proper care and the best antibiotics to get rid of your infection.

    I will keep you in my thoughts.

    Wishing you the best,

  • You said it Kin- what a round of terrible nasties you three picked up - the ever present dangers of surgery.

    I'll be thinking of you all and wishing you the best of recoveries.
  • thanks for the good thoughts/prayers. I am 8 weeks post op from my 2 level PLIF. and am sooo behind because of two post op surgeries. I wish I could start PT tomorrow. I'm waiting for my incision to heal from surgery last tuesday. I can't even believe it was only one week ago. and I'm having nerve pain like never before. my neurosurgeon today over the phone suggested Lyrica. my husband picked up the prescription for me. I'm frustrated to try a new med NOW when I thought by now I'd be weaned from most of my meds. I searched Lyrica out on this board and found a lot of people have liked it. I will try it I guess.
    yeah, you hear horror stories and you never think that will be you. I went in all positive and ready to be the perfect patient and was totally set up for failure. but, 8 weeks into this saga... I have to remind myself the fusion is healing. that all looks good. my incision is healing and looks good, too. it just all seems so surreal. so freakin twilight zone sometimes. hopefully I can drive next week.
    tonight I cooked for my family for the first time since July 8th! that's progress for sure. :)
    REALLY looking forward to PT and being able to get in the pool. we have a pool for the first time in my life (moved here 6 months ago) and it's killing me to not be able to use it for therapy til I get this pick line outta my arm sept. 12. thankfully I live in a HOT state where it's still summer in september.
    thanks for letting me ramble.
  • Ramble all you want G. You have earned that right. If it makes you feel better, that is what we are here for.

    But maybe the worst is over for you. Hopefully Lyrica will help. The important thing is that you are healing and started to be able to do normal things, like cooking. Just don't overdo it!

    Take care and keep on recovering.

  • After having my first surgery in 2006 and after they cured my mystery infection, I developed another infection called
    Vancomyacin Resistant Bacteria. This little beauty sits inside me, never harming me, waiting to infect someone whose immune system is weak. I of course picked this up in the hospital. If I am in the hospital again, doctors and nurses treating me must be gloved and gowned or they could spread the bacteria. Ain't life grand.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Dick,
    that sounds lovely. stay away from me, ok? :D
  • Kin,
    you da bomb. such nice people here!
    Lyrica... not sure it helped my pain, but wow did it knock me OUT. I slept 8 straight hours. don't remember last time that happened. seriously, after finals in college???!!!
    so I slept great... but I woke up after 8 hours of no meds. I could hardly walk. my back/hip/leg hurt so bad. I crawled back in bed and started to cry. my husband deserves a medal for being so loving. through all this I've realized even more how blessed I am. I thank God quite often I'm not going to bed in a hospital bed. friends have been amazing.
    so... it's a much better day today than yesterday. :)
    time to chill in bed!
  • Thought I'd jump on the infection wagon.I got one in the disk space at L4/L5.From there it spread to the adjacent vertebrae.
    It all started a month after my MicroD.Took the doc's more than a month to diagnose b/c I had no symptoms whatsoever.No fever,normal WBC count,negative cultures.They even biopsied tne disk.It came back negative.Only MRI showed it.
    So,PICC Line with 1g of Vancox2 a day for five weeks.The only one effect of the antibiotic was that it wiped out my immune system.My WBC count went down to 2,300. Doc stopped it and put me on anti fungal med(Diflucan).Finally we got the right med.
    All this started 7 months ago.4 of them I spent in my bed, unable to walk.Intractable pain during Jan,18-May,25.I still experience some neuropathy,muscle pain,etc.It's going to be a long recovery.I'll be seeing my NS in 6-8 weeks for another MRI.Got to make sure the damage to the vertebrae has not become permanent....
    So G,you must really stay on the top of it.Especially after the fusion.The operated levels are weaker now,and these "suckers" love weak spots in the body.Don't let anybody tell you that it's in your head or nonsense like that.
    I'm glad that you feel better already.

  • All of this confuses the heck out of me. I thought that meant a person who had that could pick up some "super bug". One of Dave's nurse's told him to stay out of malls.

    Linda MI
  • So far blood tests are looking good and Infectious disease specialist is pleased. I am on 1gram of vancomycin 3x per day for 6wks. Then i will be taking an oral antibiotic. Feeling much better since getting more feedback from docs. Could be much worse.

  • G here. I was wondering the other day how this staph infection and the treatments might affect my health in the future. I know the obvious, my immune system is weak. I asked my NS what the chances are of the MRSA being dormant in me and then one day decide to come out and party again. he said very little chance, but it could happen.
    so you're saying I should insist on MRI's for a while after I'm officially "clean" of the bug? I was thinking for sure I'd insist on blood work for a while. sure would be nice to NOT have to worry about any of this once my numbers are back to normal.
  • :D :D Was registered 8 days earlier.
    Hey G,just kidding.Blood work may be enough for you.In my case
    all tests were negative.Only MRI revealed it.My vertebrae were lit up like a Christmas tree.There was bone destruction,muscle and nerve damage.That's why I need another MRI.Dig this,they never found out the culprit.It wasn't bacterial so,they tried with anti fungal meds.I started feeling better,but still not sure was it the med or my body.
    I say you were lucky it was only in the incision.Still,stay on the top of it.It turned my life into hell for 4 months,and I still don't feel like myself.Afraid never will again.
    Get better soon!

  • G2,
    what a freakin nightmare for you. I'm so sorry. my MRSA was in the seroma right under the incision, and then a second place, deeper right next to my rods & screws. it was contained like in a pocket. my docs were shocked it hadn't spread like wildfire. seriously, one more day and who knows what would've happened.
    good luck to you G!
    p.s. I am G the first & don't forget it. :D
  • You guys that sounds really awful, I am sorry yo went through such a rough time.

    I go in for rear hardware removal surgery in a few hours....at 6:15AM here in Los Angeles......I am gonna bear all of this in mind and really mind my Dr's orders to not get the incision wet and all. Is this infection from within? Dang that sounds scary.......got me worried......I am gld you are all okay.

    All the best.
  • Linda,

    There is no treatment for this. I am a carrier. I picked this bug up probably while in the first Rehab Hospital I was at in 2006.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
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