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how weak is our immune system after surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:23 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
well, quick re-cap: I had my 2 level PLIF July 9. got an infection... surgery again on Aug 3 to clean out the infection, and again on Aug. 19 because the wound wasn't healing. just got off the MRSA-HA antibiotics two weeks ago. just got my first sinus infection this week. uugh! I am taking vitamins. I am wondering if those of you who had surgeries like mine ended up getting sick a lot the following months? usually a sinus infection is a headache and a sore throat for me. I have felt awful for two days... like my whole body hurts. so my husband called my neurosurgeon today and he called me in a zpack. anyway... I'm just hoping badly this is not the way it's gonna be for a few months post-op. especially going into the colder months.
I see my neurosurgeon in the a.m. I will ask him for sure. but I sometimes prefer answers from people who've been there, you know? thanks for any input.


  • I had a middle ear infection (viral) about 6 weeks prior to surgery and as I was falling all over the place had to take stemitil to help it.
    The about 4 days post op I started getting dizzy again but put it down to the meds. It got worse and we realised that I had the Middle ear infection again. So more stemitil and all was fine.

    I rarely get sick 1 cold in 20 years but I do get the odd sinus infection especially in spring and autumn.

    I tend to agree with Paul. quote "I don't know if your immune system is compromised by having surgery. i would imagine it would because you are drained from the surgery."
    and you are in a hospital with more germs around you.

    The recovery process is long and tedious and our immune system is concentrating on assisting the area that was operated on so the rest of our bodies are more open to viruses, infections etc.
    SO really we do have to keep as fit as possible, rest, take the vitamins etc to keep us healthy. Dont overdo it as your body is saying I am not ready yet.! :))(

    Hope you feel better soon.
    Sara O:)
  • Omg I had a vestibular neuronitis too. The didn't think mine was viral but it hit me two weeks after surgery and a week after I got home from hospital.it was SO awful - they ended up rehospitalising me cos the stemetil just made me worse and they took me off ALL my meds cos they were worried they were effecting me so I was in agony. Took me a month to recover.

    So yes G I think your immune system is downed by surgery. Its well known that anaesthetic can hang round in your body for up to a year and that stuff is terrible. Your body is drained from the surgery and you are more susceptible.


  • I believe that our immune system is run down from surgery and the recovery thereof, caused by both the physical and psychological aspects - as Clarissa pointed out, stress can really run down our immune system. As an example, shingles is a common illness triggered when our immune system is low (and you have had chicken pox before).

    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • G.- Your body takes a toll from stress. Surgery and recoverying really can stress you at. Stress alone can really weaken your immune system. Try and relax and take it easy.

    Hospitals are very dirty places. MRSA takes a long time to heal from. The antibiotic (all antibiotics) you got really lowers your immune system because they also kill good immune cells.

    The vitamins are a great choice. Also try and eat right and drink a lot of water. Don't forget to walk and stretch. #1 Wash your hands always. This is why you got the MRSA in the first place. Someone didn't wash there hands when they where taking care of you in the hospital or you touched something there and didn't wash your hands. Drs are infamous for not washing there hands. Make sure now that you mention this everytime you get medical help and you don't see your caregiver washing their hands before touching you. Don't touch your face with dirty hands. There are a lot of things that you are going to have to do to help strengthen your immune system.

  • I think a lot depends on your pre op state.
    If you are healthy,not overweight and do not have a chronic illness(diabetes,heart disease) you should not be immuno compromised after routine elective surgery.
    However if your post op course is prolonged with inablility to eat or become mobile your imminity may be weakened.
    It would probably take 6 weeks for this to occur.
    Hospital acquired infections are a major problem that is becoming more frequent the past several years.
    A Canadian study showed that hospitals with exclusively private rooms had much lower hospital acquired infections.(MacLeans magazine).
  • well, that's a tricky question. my pre-op state. I looked healthy. but I was in bad chronic pain for so long, I really think I went into the surgeries completely worn out. it is my main complaint now, which is better than serious pain of course! I am sooo tired still. I need so much sleep. I'm 37. 2 kids. work part time from the comfort of my bed. my stress level is low. there's no other reason I could be so tired other than 3 surgeries & the MRSA the past 2 1/2 months. it's very very annoying. I take vitamins, do my PT diligently every day. I'm just yapping now. sorry. I'm ready to feel energetic. surely that will come back someday. I used to be VERY energetic. once upon a time! ok... gonna lie down for a few! could be much much much much worse. I'll take the fatigue for now & hopefully I'll keep getting stronger.
  • didn't know antibiotics kill good immune cells. I was on super duper antibiotics 3 hours a day for 6 weeks. lovely. thanks for the info. that could explain the fatigue for sure.
  • stress... definitely too much of it in 7 weeks this summer. I'm past the stress thank God. but yeah... left so worn out. I'm trying to do all the right things, trust me! I guess you can't speed up some things.
  • I had a multi-level PLIF on 6/12/08 which was amazingly successful. I needed pain meds through September and in early October I returned to work. This weekend, I developed a rash on my back which was incredibly itchy. I went to the doctor 3 days later & learned that I had shingles. At 28 years old, I have shingles. The best was to learn that the trauma of the surgery coupled with the meds which drastically lowered my immune system played a part in the disease but the doc said that the physical stress of returning to work was the catalyst in activating the virus. I personally was completely blindsided by the diagnosis. I just thought I had gotten a rash or bitten by something that I was allergic to or that I had gotten some sort of fungus from going to PT. I was completely unprepared for the doc to say shingles. My advice would be to do everything possible to keep your immune system as high as possible because it's a b*tch to get successfully through the pain of surgery with all the hope in the world that you can resume a pain-free life only to be diagnosed with an extremely painful disease caused by the surgery.
  • I have returned to teaching after a TLIF L3-L4, and have developed a sore threat, coughing, laryngitis, headache, and sinus problems. I have always been very healthy, and have not missed a single day of teaching in many years because of illness, even with my severe back pain. I don't even catch colds! I always bragged about how my teaching, by keeping me exposed to everything that came down the pike, bolstered my immune system. I attribute my problems now to a lowered immune response due to the surgery. One thing is certain, I'll be so glad when I return to my old self!

  • wow... so sorry to hear of your new problems caused by the surgery. I felt so let down... went in for a major surgery, came out with a huge infection. but... gotta go one, right? sometimes it really sucks... but one day at a time we make it. :)
  • Hi hope someone can help. I am 67 and have Spondylolisthesis which started giving trouble 7 years ago and for the past 7 years I have done core exercises and worn a back brace mostly on than off. Now however over the past few months the pain has suddenly escalated to such a degree that I need to use a crutch to limp from point A to B and only find relief by lying flat on my back with a pillow under my knees or sitting for a while. I am also unable to walk with shoes on unless they are totally flat and even then it heightens my back pain ( does anyone know why this is?) Anyhow at last I have been referred to an Orthopedic surgeon at a large academic hospital in Cape Town ( one of the best) and he has put my name down for urgent surgery ( a laminectomy & fusion ) sometime during the beginning of the new year. My questions are is this major surgery, what are the prospects of success ( the doctor told me 90% less backache and 100% no leg and foot pain) is this true? Are there others out there that can give me feedback on this type of surgery? I live alone up 2 long flights of stairs so will need to go to one of my 2 sons homes to recuperate which of cause I am finding unsettling not because I am ungrateful but because I would have preferred the comfort of my own home....however there is no money for someone from a healthcare to come in and help me. How long will it take before I am able to be back on my feet...so to speak? I am also worried as though I am not diabetic I have found that little cuts or scratches always seem to become infected so obviously this is a worry regarding the actual surgery cut which I forgot to share with the doctor. I would also like to know how could I prepare my body for surgery ie by boosting my immune system? Unfortunately I am unable to eat any green veg or others that cause gas because it sets my IBS off. I am also feeling very down and depressed is this natural for pre surgery and of cause living alone does not help. My daughters both live overseas and my sister a long distance away and I have been without a car for 4 months now living on a high mountain road.....but thank God I should have a car by next week. I really hope there is someone out there who will be able to maybe put my mind at rest and walk mr through the surgery and let me know what to expect. Thank you in anticipation.
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