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Swelling next to incision site

Shell74SShell74 Posts: 299
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have a roundish swelling next to my incision about midway(L5-S1 PLIF), it goes up and down a bit during the day and is painfull. I have been sick for the last few weeks, horrible headaches, neck pain and stiffness, sinuses etc, but the PCP said everything was fine. I did 2 weeks of antibiotics for bronchitis/sinisitis as well.

I do have my 15 week appointment with my OS on Wednesday but I was just wondering if anyone had a swelling like this start so far out from surgery? Seems it is smaller in the morning and gets bigger towards the evening. Any questions for the doctor would be appreciated too.



  • ..this if you continue to have the horrible headaches, neck stiffness & neck pain, as a spinal fluid leak includes these symptoms, along w/ the painful seroma near the incision site...Mind you, I am not making a DX or anything, just mentioning that a "horrible" headache (like no other) was my 1st symptom b4 the other symptoms.

    My leak started 6 days post-op from my 1st lammy..

    Just be careful. Question: is your headache positional? Does it feel better when you lie down?

    See your doc, as you are planning to do. Ask him about why it gets bigger/smaller, etc. Ask what he plans to do about it: leave it alone, wait for it go subside/absorb, etc. Mine started out small, got bigger & bigger, but would abate when I lay down. Was also smaller in the AM, after lying down all night & got bigger during the day, etc as it collected.

    Keep us posted!! Did you do a lot of coughing w/ your bronchitis? Could that effort have "torn" your dural membrane? You could also ask him that?

  • my surgery was july 31..so it is 4 months for me..my incision site is extremely painful and numb and at times it appears to be swollen. I am sore from my incision all the way up to my chin. I did not mention it to OS at my last visit; but am seeing my internist tomorrow and bring it to her attention.
    It is good that you are seeing your surgeon this week..hopefully he will have some answers for you. sorry you feel like crap for so long. Donna
  • Lakeside said:
    Mine started out small, got bigger & bigger, but would abate when I lay down. Was also smaller in the AM, after lying down all night & got bigger during the day, etc as it collected.
    Boy that sounds familiar! That is just how I would describe what this area does. I would say I had a worse headache 2 times in my life, once was when my BP shot to 220/180 and was dx'd with a very small TIA and another when I was hospitalized with eclampsia while pregnant.

    Fortunetely I dont always have the headache, but the stiff neck, blurry vision and neck pain pretty much has been constant for the past few weeks. I also have many sinus issues so those symptoms wouldnt be to out of the ordinary for a sinus flare up as well.

    My headache definetely calms down when I lay down and in the morning it is not so bad. I never thought about the coughing causing something like that. I was sent to the ER at that point due to the pain in my back from coughing but they never thought it was an issue.

    Who knows, I wont jump to any conclusions. I will be sure to take those questions along to ask. I always write a list, so I dont forget anything. They try and rush you in and out so fast its hard to get all your thoughts and concerns out,lol.

    Thanks a bunch,
  • concerned at all, dont hesitate to call the Dr. It may be nothing but it is not worth getting upset about.
    If may be a spinal leak, it may be just lymph fluid collecting, it could be any of a dozen things but worth getting checked.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • Thanks Sara,

    If I call tomorrow they wont get back to me till the evening anyway. Then it would only be the PA to ask questions, then she would check with the doc and maybe get back to me the afternoon after my appointment,lol. Since my appointment is Wednesday at 8, I can corner the doctor with my list of questions and concerns, bypass the PA all together, stand in front of the door if I have to!

    Take Care,
  • ..let us know how your doc appt comes out. I'm still concerned that your headache abates when you lie down & that you have the vision problems, stiff neck & headache every day, as you say, along with ( I preseume yet) the seroma...

    I was very violently nauseated after my 1st lammy for days & my NS thinks that's what caused the leak, post-op..if you had bouts of extreme coughing w/ your bronchitis & then had these symptoms develop...well...

    Dural leaks are serious. So is resulant meningitis, as you know: if your dural membrae is breached, it's a direct line into your whole central nervous system.

    PLEASE let us know how your appt goes! I'm worried about you! A spinal headache is the Mother of them all---you'd know that & if that's what you have, don't be rushed outta the office!

  • Hi Lakeside,

    I will let you know how it goes. Can they give a definitive "yes or no" for leaks without an MRI or CT? Just wondering, for my reference. I wouldnt consider my headache the "mother of all" by no means. But it is definetely positional and consistant. When I have my brace on I can feel stabbing pressure at the area and then it burns and throbs when I take it off. After about 2 hours of the brace off, while I am reclined, it gets really swollen then pretty much goes away after I lay down (on my side) for the night.

    My appointment is early, then my brother has an appointment for 5-6 hour neuropsych testing. We live about an hour away so its not worth coming home only to pick him back up in the afternoon. Maybe a nap at my Grandmothers apartment will be in order,lol. At least since it is so far, I have a ride and I wont be driving and can take my meds, YEAH.

    Thanks a bunch everyone,

  • All is OK. The OS does not feel that the swelling could be coming from a leak or infection. He says the area is more than likely just a muscle/tissue swelling and not to worry about it. Of course it was very small at 8 am,lol. He ordered my hubby to massage the area 3 times per day. He said if the headache got worse he would send me for the MRI. I agree, since I have the sinus issues that could very well be the cause of the headache/neck pain etc....

    I had the 4 view xray, the first flexion and extension since surgery. OMG, I fr@@@ing hurt. I have had very bad pain since then. I have really been in tears since this morning. My mom had to pull me up out of the car.

    I am at 15 weeks, I have no bone growth and the cadaver bone/marrow mix is now gone, I have an empty little plastic cage with the markers. All hardware is in place. I can start PT tomorrow, I hope that goes well.

    I brought my hubby along for support, so when it came to the job topic he handled that. My hubby doesnt want to see any kids at school hurt me. The doctor asked us if we could afford another 3 months off and then we would re evaluate the situation at that point. For those that havent read other posts of mine, I need to lift 50 pound children from wheelchairs to tables and deal with aggressive kids that sometimes physically need to be restrained). At least I feel better about the work situation now. I applaude people that can go back to work within a few weeks, I just havent bounced back as quickly as I had hoped. Maybe I will go to therapy and quickly loosen up, I just dont know.

    Just trying to keep :)))


  • Shell that is great news both about the swelling not being a problem and about your work situation.
    I am relieved that you are not having to go back to work just yet.
    Be gentle on yourself for the next few days but remember to keep walking. I think a combination of these and some heat packs will help your back.
    Thanks for updating us.
    Blessings Sara O:)
  • I am glad the incision issue is not something to worry about. Hopefully the headaches will stop soon as well!
    As usual, I understand about work :))) We are like work "twins"! both dealing with the same type of kids, but different surgeries! Like everyone said: take as much time as you need. As much as you want to work, it is not worth risking getting hurt! I feel your frustration!!!
  • dbullwinkel said:
    As usual, I understand about work :))) We are like work "twins"! both dealing with the same type of kids, but different surgeries! Like everyone said: take as much time as you need. As much as you want to work, it is not worth risking getting hurt! I feel your frustration!!!
    I worry my co workers may feel I am taking advantage of the situation. They havent seen me to really know how I am doing, why I cant get that thought out of my head is beyond me. Most of my students are being seen now, the other therapists are just swamped with kids. My hubby yells at me, "it is not your fault, it is the supervisors responsbility".

    The doctor was funny about it, he said if they decide they want to let me go because of the extended leave, he will make sure his office hires me when I am ready. I need to read my contract for the exact wording, but I think they must give me 12 months of income protection. I can work as an OT in schools, hospitals, therapy clinics, mental health etc.... I had 2 other job offers while recovering, they just said to call when I am ready. I am very lucky in this economy, I can find a job pretty much anywhere, therapists are in so much demand right now.

    Anyway, yes I do hope the headache goes away, it has been with me for weeks now waxing and waneing, I guess a call to the PCP is in order since he feels it is not related to the back.

    Oh man, the infomercials dont stop!!!! I though 6 AM they would stop, I dont want to get up and find the remote,lol. This one is 12 minute solution to stop back pain! Yeah OK, I feel like smacking these people.

    I will go to therapy today, thankfully its only 5 minutes from my house, and next door to my PM doc. I know my insurance doesnt allow massage but maybe I can beg them to give me a few minutes here and there,lol.

  • ...you saw your doc & he feels all is well in the headache/dural leak dept...

    But don't be shy about calling him if your symptoms persist...and MRI would be conclusive re a leak as it shows up as a hyper-uptake region after they give your that contrast----so keep vigilant. Only YOU know how you really feel!

    Take your time recovering! As an OT, you are truly in demand! And the potential damage to you, lifting 50# & the unpredictability of the children...just be careful! You are forver changed after an fusion, or any major back surger & must take that into account for the rest of your life.

    But rest now! And a GENTLE massage can help a lot, if your doc approves. Just stay away from the trauma site & work more on those wrecked muscles surrounding your spine (like those hacked-up multifidis group) They, also, will never be the same & get more sore as you heal, as they try to take over "loads" they were never really meant to bear.

    All the best, Shelly! Please take care of yourself!

  • Just a quick update. Finally got rid of that headache, yeah. Its been 2 days without it, OMG that was over 4 weeks. The area on my back has seemed pretty flat lately, who knows if it was something or not, but like I said the doctor felt it was unlikely. I have been taking it very easy, pretty much laying down, due to the fact that I fell last week (again) when my leg gave out, I landed with all of my weight on my knee and gave myself a tiny hairline fracture of my patella. My leg is immoblized. Pretty sure there is a little cartilage/meniscus damage (been there done that twice with the other knee)but I havent gone for the MRI yet. I guess I need to make the call tomorrow. I want my Mobic!!!

    I am still going for PT (water only), we do alot in the deep end, of course keeping the knee straightened,lol. Got to just go with the flow I guess. It goes OK, however I have so many tingles and loss of sensation from groin to toes and new sudden pains along with the soreness, I am finding it hard to walk very far anymore. I have been told though it gets worse before it gets better,lol.

    Employer is also giving me a hard time, now they want a doctors appointment every 30 days. They say they wont approve any script that is for longer. This is a new "policy" for "us people" that are out on extended leave (those were her exact words). I do understand why, but its just a pain in the backside because its an hour and 15 minutes to the doctor and I cant drive that far yet, so I need to find a ride each time.

    No sense in complaining to much it doesnt help anything! Happy Holidays to all!


  • I am sorry to hear that you fell down! Please do take care of that knee and get an MRI. I fell at work about 5 years ago and got a hairline fracture. I was supposed to go get an MRI (workmans comp) but I had too many other things to do. I now take better care of myself but it is too late for that knee. I have permanent nerve damage there. It is the strangest thing but if you touch my knee cap I feel the touch on the right side of my knee. Twilight Zone stuff, lol. :) Anyway just hang in there and take care of you. Try not to worry too much about work and everything else, ok?

    One Love,

  • Thanks Stephanie,

    This is the second major fall I haven take since surgery, usually I can catch myself on a wall or chair before I hit the floor,lol. I just was hopeing that the familiar meniscus pain would go away after the week of rest, no such luck.

    The good news is that even though I have the nerve pain everywhere from the waist down, I am starting to twist and bend, and it is not causing acute pain, Yippy. That makes me feel like I am getting somwhere.

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