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Spinal Fluid Leak 4 weeks after L4L5 discectomy

crashhccrashh Posts: 40
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:23 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
X( So I have been calling and calling my doctor about the swelling at my incision he saw me 2weeks after surgery said it was normal. then today he finally said I have a Spinal Fluid leak. He says the leak is from me straining to go to the bathroom on week 1 post-op. I do not believe that, how does a spinal leak occur. I have had a headache for 3 weeks now. Neck pain. Nausea. NO FEVER though. Not to mention the leg pain is getting worse and my back is in alot of pain. He gave me lyrica to take. Also he said I need to push on the incision to move the spinal fluid away from that area. Then wrap it very tight and wear a corset. Then I am to go back in 2 weeks.WTF!!! is this doctor doing. I need some advice peeps. Does this sound very bad do I need a second opinion or should I follow the docs orders and give it till friday to see what happens.

thanks in advance


  • Did they check for a spinal fluid leak???????? Did they do any testing for it?????
    Or did the surgeon just say that over the phone or in the office????
    I kinda lost ya in the post. Not sure if you had another appt today etc.

    So sorry your going through all of that!!
    I would say if your in pain, and your not satisfied w/ your Drs answer I would go to the E.R. At least there they will run tests etc.

    Let us know how you make out. ;)
  • Hello Crashh,

    Welcome to Spine Health. I am sorry I can't give you any advise, because I have not experienced the same problem. I have never heard that starining could cause spinal fluid leak, but then I am not a doctor. But I would think the doctor could tell you what to do to get rid of your headache. Did he tell you not to lay flat in the bed, as that may make the headache worse? Did he give you something to ease your headache? If he did not tell you what to do, call the office again, and tell them you would really need some help.

    I wish you could find relief soon.

  • Your doc is giving you exactly the same advice that my doc did when I had a CSF leak.

    The way it was explained to me, that the reason your pain is getting worse, is because now you have something pressing on the areas that were just operated on. The corset is to keep the CSF from creating a pocket.

    It took several months for me to get help with this since my doc was deployed shortly after I had surgery. The other NS here didn't believe I had a problem until there was a large enough pocket to see visibly and on an MRI. Not too mention an email from my doc to TAKE CARE OF IT ! ! ! At that point it was drained. (almost 3 months post op)

    However since the source of the leak was not repaired, over the next couple of weeks it built up again. By the time my doc got back, I had a pocket that even when drained and surgically tacked down, it continued to fill.

    Eventually my body contained the leak within the muscles, however the pocket remained and my body continued to fill it with lymphatic fluid. No matter how the surgeons tried to close this pocket, (surgically, drains, pressure wraps) my body would fill it again with lymphatic fluid. Finally they opened the pocket and burned it with silver nitrate and then it was stuffed with guaze twice a day and the guaze was ripped out each time. The wound was left open so it would "fill" itself in. Took 9 weeks.

    The absorption pads had to be changed so frequently that they put this contraption on that allowed the covering to be unlaced and opened and you just pull out the old stuff and put in the new. Wasn't much fun. image

    The reason I'm telling you about all of this, is so that you take your doc seriously and use the compression strap!!! You have caught it early enough you should be able to avoid all of the junk I had to go through. Follow his directions and keep a pain log.

    If you have more questions you can PM me

    Hang in there!

  • My CSF leak was not caused by the surgery, however the surgery gave the leak the "release" it needed to "have fun". The leak was caused by a lumbar puncture done 2 years prior, that was done incorrectly and never scarred over completely.

  • Sounds like you have recieved some really good advice and explinations here. So give yourself a break and calm down.
    Just do as the Dr asked and if it doesn't improve in a week go to the ER.
    I have just started Lyrica and it did take a few days to kick in so dont get ratty if it takes a bit of time.

    I hope things improve for you soon.

    Blessings Sara
  • Thank you sooo much for all your comments and advice on this matter. I have a somewhat a homemade wrap going here, to put pressure on the incision as per my doctor. I figure I will give it to friday and see what happens.
  • Go to a sporting goods store and they have neoprene wraps with velcro so you can adjust it to you and your comfort level. I just sent you a picture of what I'm talking about.

    Hang in there.

  • It is Dec. so I hope you are still reading comments. I had surgery on L5 and L6. My L4 is slightly bulging. Anyway, I too had the swelling, but no pain. I kept calling my doctor and even saw him once. After a month, I went to the emergency room. A large vial of pure spinal fluid was drawn from my incision site. They immediately confined me the bed (bedpan in hand). I was not allowed to get up at all until a surgery to repair my spinal cord was done. I had no symptoms other than swelling. I was told that I should have debilating spinal menigitis symptoms.I had the surgery, which involved a blood patch being put over two or three holes that were in my spinal cord. I'm not sure exactly how many tears I had, as the doctor who performed the original also performed the repair. Apparently, he left two rather large disk fragments floating in my back the first time he did surgery.
    I'm sure your problem has been resolved by now. I was hoping that if you had any surgery to repair the leak that you could tell me how you feel now. I HAD THIS DONE 3 years ago and I constantly experience soreness around the incision site (like a gaint bruise)and I absolutely can not send anyone to touch that area with out feeling like I'm going to be sick. Are you experiencing anything similar? I'd just like to know.
    Thanks and I hope all is well for you now,
  • I had a spinal fluid leak that was chased around over the course of 6 surgeries. It was finally repaired and I have no problem with the incision area or open wound area being touched. It feels like pressure on any other area of my back ... in other words, it feels normal.

  • Well. Yes I still have a fluid leak but my new doc thinks it may be blood. I go for tests week of dec 8,2008. I need a fusion but my new surgeon wont operate until we figure out what the swelling is and aspirate the fluid or blood and test it. This is very frustrating. The people here at spine health help me keep my head on straight. Yes I am still in great pain in my lower back. I had my only surgery aug 11, 2008. It sucks you have been going for 3 years i am coming on 1 year now in jan 09 Good luck to you and stick around.
    I have never used a msg board B4, so I am unsure if I have posted this in the right place! I am a 50-year-old female with scoliosis. On 12/9/08 I had a micro laminectomy on L5 S1. Immediately following surgery I felt GREAT (no leg pain, not a lot of post-op pain). About 3-5 days ago my leg pain returned in the EXTREME. Explained this to the nurse and she said this was normal. I have now developed some "bumps" around my incision site, and today I feel just awful (nausea, neck pain/stiffness, sorta headachy, jaw/teeth irritation, no fever yet, but feel one coming on). I'm thinking I have a spinal fluid leak. Calling my doc when I finish this post. MY QUESTION: on another site it was recommended that patients contact doc if bumps or pimples occur around incision site. I have these, too, but I cannot find an explanation regarding the bumps. Can anyone expand on this? Thanks!
    I have never used a msg board B4, so I am unsure if I have posted this in the right place (and I think I've posted it more than once!) I am a 50-year-old female with scoliosis. On 12/9/08 I had a micro laminectomy on L5 S1. Immediately following surgery I felt GREAT (no leg pain, not a lot of post-op pain). About 3-5 days ago my leg pain returned in the EXTREME. Explained this to the nurse and she said this was within normal limits. I have now developed some "bumps" around my incision site, and today I feel just awful (nausea, dizzy, neck pain/stiffness, sorta headachy, jaw/teeth irritation, no fever yet, but feel one coming on). I'm thinking I have a spinal fluid leak. Calling my doc when I finish this post. MY QUESTION: on another site it was recommended that patients contact doc if bumps or pimples occur around incision site. I have these, too, but I cannot find an explanation regarding the bumps. Can anyone expand on this? Thanks!
  • The internet is amazing. My husband had surgery for a benign tumor in the back of the brain, near where the spinal column attacheds to the head. 2 days post-op he was good. We went to Thanksgiving dinner at friends' house.

    Then for the next 3 weeks -- intense headache pain, nausea, etc. just as you all have been describing. At week 3 I suggested to the doctor that his body might be rejecting the patch to close the cerebral incision. Nonsense I wsas told. It was not tissue and would not be rejected.

    At 4 weeks, doc finally said their was a problem... a leak (duh!) and said the only way to fix the problem was another surgery. So, 4-weeks post op my husband was having another surgery. The only problem this time was that with 4 weeks of the symptoms he had lost 17 pounds. He didn't have even 5 pounds to lose (let alone 17).

    1st day post op --- awesome! 2nd day, the symptoms were back. I was on the phone so quickly, I wasn't going to TRUST the docs again. The pain, sufferning, and mental anguish we have gone through... especially at this time of year has been a lot to deal with. So... if you have ANYTHING like this happening... push the docs until they respond. Don't give up!

    Now a week later, he is starting to be OK... and being off work for 6 weeks (in this economy) when he thought it would be 1-2 is difficult.

    Good luck to all... and Happy 2009!
  • My surgeon said that I should prepare myself after my surgery on Tuesday (10/30) to have to go back in and repair a spinal fluid leak. Wonder why some docs go back in and some tell you to wait?
  • I had a major back surgery on Aug 26 09 I am 41 years old and this is my third surgery since 05 this last surgery was a mess Had spinal stenoess from s1 to L-1 Had a rupture at L-3-4 rupture at L=1=2 bone spurs and caluicum deposit also I have had so much pain since this last surgery my leg pain is gone but my back is killing me went back to Dr yesterday had a xray done and he said something didnt look right so had MRI done today the guy who did the MRI I know him well and he told me that I had a lot of fluid around my spine so could I have a puncture or something got to go back to back Dr on 11-10 should I call or wait my pain level is high pain meds not working head hurts like crazy any boby got any answer on whats going on thanks a bunch for your help I am lost for words thought this surgery was going to help but looks like a nother failure again thank you
  • Does anyone know if spinal fluid leakage can cause dizziness? I had my procedure for L4-L5 done on 9/24. I had sever headaches beginning a week afterward, that the doctor said was tension. He saw nothing on the new MRI to indicate anything wrong. I started PT just a week ago, because the wound popped open at the bottom and has finally healed over. Though there was clear fluid leaking, they acted like it was no big deal. After my 3rd PT, I got up and was so dizzy it was hard to drive home, 34 miles. I got up today and am still suffering vertigo. I am asking the forum because I know it may be inner ear, and will go to my regular doctor, but was just wondering. Sometimes I think these minimal invasive guys are operating more like an assembly line chop shop. Once they are done, they are done. Comments are appreciated.
  • Hello bgwtexas,

    Most defiantly it can cause dizziness! I know I did I had a massive spinal leak back in 1999 which for me led to major complications!

    If you have clear fluid coming out of your incision with a headache or dizziness I would call the Dr ASAP.

    I don't want to scare you but if it's fluid you want it checked you do not want an infection..

    Other symptoms of a CSF leak can be nausea severe headache while standing, you can feel the headach worse after exercise,a vibrating feeling in your head or you may just not feel right! If you don't get anywhere with your surgeon call your Primary Care Dr or go to the ER..I don't want to scare you but I had very bad experience with this. Keep me posted hope everything works out for you.


    spondylolisthesis at L4-5; stenosis,
    Lumbar surgeries 1999 L4-L5
    severe spinal leak in 99 hospitalized for 3 months
    Lumbar staph infection 1999-2000"
    Meningitis x5 in 1999-2001
    Brain shunt 2000"
    Brain shunt removed 20001"
    ALIF/PLIF fusion 8/5/09
    Failed fusion and Failed Hardware
    PLIF Fusion scheduled for 10/29/10
  • I also am experiencing ythe same i have spinal fluid leakage i am po almost 2 es from 2nd back surgery, nad had this time l-@ L-3 L-4 L-5 and the worst S-! i am also 2 months posct op from cervical C-4C-5 C-6 C-7, it really doesnot hurt but the bump on my back scares ot to mention a T-12 L-1 messed up pd wants to implant a spinal stimultoR in my back that reacheds to my neck, and told me not to worry of the lealage, now how do u not worry, what next , sitting here or walking drve me nuts and yhe cold weather does not help, now i had to use my oen insurance for the neck surgeries, un believable, because the 2 back surgeries are work related i bekive and the docs agree it id a work comp claime i cintinue ti=o send the bills inn w no reults mind u this is almost 7 yr okd, i was working in prm lite duty rill my 2nd back surgery , nowI BELIEVE IT IS RELATED TO THE JOB IT IS MY SPINE, IT IS NOT THE MONEY THE BILL R KILLING ME!!!
  • THANKS MLTO1! You're quick response is SO welcome. I went to an Urgent Care facility. They think it may be diabetes. My family is known for late onset. I'll know more tomorrow when he gets the results from the hemoglobin A1C. However, he said that, if the results are normal, he'd suggest I see another surgeon to get an MRI to check for fluid leak.

    I'll post what I find out. You have really had it rough. Did you change doctors throughout this experience. My prayers are with you that you get the healing help you deserve. Keep me posted on what happens with you going forward.
  • Hello bgwtexas,

    Why would they think diabetes??? I understand the family history I to have it really bad in my family..

    What made the Dr think that? I did changed Dr's there was allot of stuff that I went through basically a big cover up about the bone infection and the fragments left in my back. Could make a lifetime movie!

    I ended up having about 24 surgeries from back, spinal leak repair, meningitis 5 times, shunts, shunts revisions ect and now 2 spinal fusion since 2009.

    Whenever I here spinal leak I cringe because I know how bad it can get!!

    I hope you get answers soon keep me in touch!

    Maria :)

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    When I had my L4-S1 fusion in 1993 the surgeon nicked the dura mater which is the area around the cord that holds the fluid in. It was fixed and all was fine. Then about 6 wk later I had massive headaches. Thought it was too much caffeine, maybe too little, too much down time, too much up time, etc. And of course if I was in my brace and laying down I felt better. I went to the doctor and he used a large syringe to pull out the fluid and said "it's CSF fluid" (cerebrospinal fluid) and I asked if he was sure. He showed it to me and it was clear fluid, no signs of blood. He allowed me to go home and pack some stuff and admitted me to the hospital. My insurance had changed and he was no longer a provider so when admitted he personally guaranteed the hospital he'd pay all fees if insurance would not. They inserted a spinal thecal catheter and I was in for 10 days and they were just about to schedule surgery when it appears the tear again healed itself. For the next year anytime I had a headache I'd freak out. But all was well. Insurance did end up covering it under "continuity of care" from the doctor who did the surgery. I appreciated his "I'm sorry and I'll guarantee payment". Insurance covered it all and my parents paid my rent, etc so no financial loss for me.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • To MLTO1: They say I have Type 2 diabetes because the Hemoglobin A1C bloodtest shows your sugar level average over the past 6 months. Wow, huh? I had asked my old doctor to run it and he blew me off. Anyway, I am still not certain all that I am experiencing is from that. Seems weird that I was just fine until I went to PT and was working my spine. I am going to try to get into see and internal medicine doctor. Family Practice doctors see way too many patients of all ages to keep up. Will let you know. Can't drive now and will be working from home. I need the $$ after surgery. LOL.
  • I haven't had the headache since the first couple of weeks after surgery. So, maybe that is not what it is. I don't know, but I do know that no one could give me a reason 'not' to assume it 'could' be, as far as doctors go. The leakage I had, that was clear as water...the doctor just smiled and said it wasn't SFL. (whatever) No testing, no nothing.
  • I have had a very similar problem maybe a little more severe I just posted my problem on the surgery recovery i believe it was. I just came back from my doc have been leaking probably a total of 5 weeks now with a brief of no ooze for a few days. My doc however did not give me the same advice mine pushed on my incision draining the fluid and told me to rest i am in pain but the ass said to take ibuprofen. However today he is sending me in for an MRI and told me that he will probably end up doing surgery asap to clean the excess fluid out and put in some kind of drain system im like you WTF? he also mentioned sending me to the infectious control doc but has been telling me I don't have an infection so yeah I too would like some of pp ls input on this nonsense
  • Hello. I was reading about your case of dizziness. I was wondering if you ever figured out if it was caused from spinal leakage. I had a c-section with a spinal 13 months ago. I have had headaches and dizziness ever since. I need to find out some answers quick. Hope you are feeling better.

  • I had surgery over a month ago on L5-S1. During the surgery the dr. tore my dura. He put 2 stitches in it a gave me a blood patch and confined me to bed rest for 3 days. When I first got up within 15 minutes I had the worst headache ever at the base of the back of my neck and could barley move my head from side to side.Dr. Has performed 4 surgeries in last 2 weeks. I can now get up and walk around for hours without headaches, still feel somewhat light headed though. I have a huge pouch at the surgery site and it is putting alot of pressure on my nerves. Here's my problem. I 'm in Hudson Fl. at the Bonati Spine Institute where I have had my back surgery but I live in Syracuse, N.Y. I here in an out patient situation so I'm racking up a large hotel bill and renting a car. I do not trust my Dr. here anymore as I have caught him in several lies and he can' fix the problem after 4 additional surgeries? Would it helped if they drained whatever the fluid is out of the big pouch on my back to relieve the pressure? And most importantly if I go home to Syracuse and go to an ER will I given treatment and appointed a neurosurgeon? My wife and daughter are driving down from N.Y. this weekend to get me as I now can't fly. Please, any advice would be so much appreciated.
  • Your situation sounds very similar to what I went through for several years. The pouch I had next to the incision site, was filled with CSF. Until the actual leak site was found and patched, the neurosurgeon would drain the pouch by sticking a needle and syringe into it and drawing out the fluid. Unfortunately my body decided that the pouch needed to be filled once the CSF was gone and it started filling it with lymphatic fluid. The doc tried burning the inside of the pocket, stitching it down, etc ... and it would still refill with fluid. Then he installed a couple of drains. For a week I was in the hospital connected to a vacuum system and then I was sent home with a bulb attached to the drain.

    After numerous attempts to get this resolved, he finally opened the pocket up, burned the inside and packed it with wet gauze. For the next 9 weeks I had the packing pulled out and replaced twice a day, until my body healed the wound from the inside out.

    Not a fun time, but it got the job done and today I have only scars and the memory of it.

    I would recommend seeing either a neurosurgeon close to home or a general surgeon familiar with wound care.

    Best wishes,

  • Gunisha ShaGGunisha Sha Posts: 1
    edited 10/18/2015 - 12:16 PM
    hi my father went through a lumbar L3,L4 and L5surgery last month on 17th and it was successful. But after four to five days when his blood drain was removed suddenly fluid started leaking doctor said that its normal and that will stop after few days and that did not happen. Doc then inclined his bed i.e his head was little down and his toes was up and that therapy worked and his fluid was stopped. After few days he was dischagred. But when his stitches was open then after thre days again fluid was collected there we called the doctor and then he removed the fluid with 18mm needle and again it was normal but this was not enough again after some days fluid again started collecting near the wound and doctor is saying that it will heel on its own and will take atleast one month. Can u plz tell me whether its normal or we have to go for another surgery coz the wound is getting very big some times.......plz suggest me some thing coz i really love my father and cant see him like this plz

    There are no medical professionals on the forum side of this site. Therefore everything you read is based on the personal experiences and/or research done by the individual member. Comments should never be taken as pure medical facts. You need to discuss this with your doctor. They are the only ones that can provide you with detailed information about you, the patient.

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