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4-Level Fusion & Serious Complication Afterward (Blood Clots)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
August 28, 2009; I had a spinal fusion of L2-S1. Surgery was long and very bloody, but went well. Incision was 10+ inches in length, from just below my shoulder blades to about 1" in my crack.

Also, I received about 6 pints of whole blood and a bag of platelets, almost 3 pints of whole blood during surgery and another 3 pints the day after surgery.

After 6 days I was released from the hospital and went home. I followed instructions, walked every day, rested, and then walked more. I had to use a walker and spinal brace along with the associated raised toilet lid/potty chair. Dignity becomes a word used in the past tense.

I was home 9 days before I got a massive blood clot. The ER physician said it was the largest blood clot he had ever seen. Actually, the blood clot ran from my lower left calf, past the knee, though the groin, and continued up the central vein until it grew "through" an inferior vena cava filter, located between my kidneys and installed the week before surgery to "catch" any blood clot from becoming a pulmonary embolism. The blood clot also grew down my right leg as well.

This was serious. While I was in CV ICU, my wife was told it would be touch and go, no expectations offered.

My first vascular surgeon was unable to remove the blood clot due to it growing through the Greenfield Filter. Another surgeon, who had just performed this surgery once and that was the week before, was called in to perform the surgery.

During this time I was given another 5 pints of whole blood & 2 bags of platelets. Total, 11 pints whole blood and 3 bags of platelets.

Hooray! I have lived to tell the tale, but I spent the next several weeks, flat of my back, in the hospital. A total of 4 weeks with the last week in rehab, detoxing from the narcotics, learning how to walk along with all the little things like - bathing, toilet use, getting out of soft chairs, balance, and core strengthening exercises.

It's been 8 weeks from surgery and 3 weeks from coming home for the second time. I still have problems with my left leg quad muscle and the left foot being numb, which occurred during my first stay at home from surgery.

I'm in physical therapy now. The PT thinks one of my nerves has shortened causing the pain, but I have no problem with my right leg and foot. Even though PT is minimal and I have had spinal massages, the pain and numbness is a constant.

I fell tonight, missed the chair and landed hard on the floor. At least the fusion and hardware held. My backs seems okay. It's just this wooden leg feeling getting me down. Also, I deal with depression and moodiness daily, without the use of psychotropic medication. They say you can take on some of the character traits of those whose blood and bony bits come from, umh! Makes me wonder as I'm pretty much all male, but I am bound by crying spells!


  • Wow! That's quite a story. Glad to have you on the board. You have been through more than most of us on here, but if you have questions pertaining to your recovery, there are many of us who have been through fusion and many have had several/multiple surgeries.

    Despite all you've been through, eight weeks is still very early in recovery from fusion, even if you had not had all the other problems. You can have nerve pain and still recover from it even one to two years after surgery -- nerves heal very slowly, and it is frustrating because the patient really never knows if the nerve is regenerating or you're just marking time, hoping it is healing. I'm 22 months out from a one level fusion and my nerve is still regenerating...so you just have to have a lot of patience and faith and not give up!

    Unless you are completely against the use of medication, you might want to talk with your doctor about getting on one of the meds that is an anti-depressant and also works for pain. IMHO there is no reason to suffer needlessly. I have no medical training but I know that people can end up feeling very depressed after surgery. There are changes in the brain from anesthesia and some of the pain meds that we are given during surgery and after, during recovery. You might want to try taking something for a few months while you are going through the most difficult part of the healing process.

    Please realize that you are early in your recovery. You will continue to make improvements, but they may not be noticeable by the day...more like by the week, and sometimes by the month. There is little one can do to rush the process. The body will pretty much go at its own pace. Those who are in a hurry usually end up doing too much and living to regret it. There is a fine line between doing just enough to challenge yourself and not doing too much to cause a flare.

    I hope you have found a community here that can provide support when you are down, answer questions when you have them and friendship when you just need to vent or talk with someone who understands what it's like to be a spiney.

    xx Gwennie
  • that you are here to tell your story! I went through a somewhat similar situation with my husband 11 years ago. Only he spent 3 months in ICU in a coma on life support. He did have a blood transfusion and he definitely felt that the blood that he received changed some of his personality. But my real point is that it is very normal to be suffering from mood swings and depression after such a traumatic experience. You may need to talk to a doc about medication that may help you as the depression can become severe. When my husband woke up he cried uncontrollably. He had to be put on antidepressents before he left the hospital. His doctors prepared me for this before he woke from the coma but it has really been a long and hard road. Hopefully you will have a much faster recovery and may only need meds short term. Please keep us posted with your progress as I will be tracking it.
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