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1 year post op - WAS fine but now?

NEBakerNNEBaker Posts: 53
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:48 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
It's been a long time since I've been on the board. But you know how it goes, people with good results tend to stop posting... now I need you guys. I'm experiencing some issues one year post op from my lumbar fusion (L4L5)

Honestly, everything was going great. I followed the advice of the docs, took things easy, didn't overdo activities and was given a clean bill of health 3 months post op. I followed the physical therapy program and was released after 3 months as I was making the right modifications in my life and following the exercises to strengthen the core. I'm still following all the great advice given and the modifications and exercises prescribed by the PT.

So, what's the problem? Six weeks ago, I had the feeling of sleep cramps in my right calf. You know the kind: the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night and your toes are all curled and it's extremely painful. Anyway, I marked that up to diet. I'm busy during the summer and I don't eat right. In fact, I sometimes don't take time to eat meals at all. Thinking it was a potassium problem, I corrected my diet. A day or two later, I took a simple step - no twisting, no stumble, and my calf felt like it popped and then I was sent to the ground. I ended up in the hospital as I was unable to bear any weight at all on my right leg - honestly, I was picked up off the floor by two people, placed in a car and removed from the car by hospital staff... A doppler was done to rule out a blood clot. Everything presented just fine. I was told that I must have a sprain and was sent home. I could not bear weight on my right calf for two days and my ankle swelled to the size of a large grapefruit, but no pain in the ankle. However, my back had been aching for about two weeks but like I said, I've been busy so I kind of ignored the pain.

Now, six weeks later, the back pain is still there and worsening each day. I visited my surgeon's PA and he ordered an x-ray of my spine and said that I'm still 100% fused (of course I am) and that he doesn't see any additional compression. I was given some pain patches and orders to take ibuprofen 4 times a day and call back this week. I'm now at the point where my pain is the same, and sometimes worse, than before surgery to fuse. While the calf pain went away several weeks ago, it is now back...as is my huge ankle. Nothing reduces the swelling, not ice, not heat, not staying off of it, not ibuprofen, nothing. I called my PA again today and he ordered an MRI with contrast of my back for Wednesday and said I should call my GP about my ankle as he sees no relation. My ankle is fine. There is nothing wrong with it other than edema. I think this is related to the back issue. I think I will wait to call my GP until after Wednesday because I think she will refer me to a vascular and then I will have another doctor to deal with.

I can't help but wonder if the back pain, the pain in my right calf and the swelling of my right ankle are all related. I turn to you spineys for some advice. Anything? Please? I hurt and I am scared. I probably should have mentioned that prior to my surgery, there was also some DDD and narrowing at L5/S1 but the decision was made not to fuse that area in hope that the stability of the fusion at L4/L5 would alleviate some of the stress at L5/S1.

If anything pops into your head, or you have had a similar experience, please let me know. Meanwhile, I'm in bed...


  • They didn't think you tore your calf muscle?

    Just wondering. I worked in an orthopedic surgeons office for a while as a RN and have seen torn muscles present similar to what you are describing with the pain, weakness and swelling..

    But, let me say I am just inquiring. I am in no way offering up medical advise. That is for your doctor alone to do.

  • If I recall correctly, yes, they did think that was a possibility but the doppler ruled that out as they saw no pooling of blood. That was what I initially thought it was and even hoping it was - sad to hope for a torn muscle :( Just didn't want it to be anything spine related. Thanks for the reply Tonya.
  • Up front, I have issues (protrusions in my L2/3/4) but no surgery down there. I'm a double fusion spiney for the cervical. With that being said, is this pain, and the symptoms your presenting now, opposite to what they were before by chance? Also have you looked at a dermatome map to see if maybe there are issues now at a level above or below?

    I reherniated between my fusions months ago, and since "pain" was the only issue (no weakness, no numbness), I was told to give it some time to see if it resolves on its own. For the most part, it did. Now with you, you lost function. Any chance you can get more in depth imaging done? Please keep us posted on how it goes, and what you find out. Welcome back! Sorry it's due to new problems. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Well, I'll find out more information tomorrow night. My MRI is scheduled for 4:30pm. My doctor probably will not get back to me until Friday :( however, it's nice to be friends with one of the doctors who owns the imaging center. She's working tomorrow night and will read it and call me tomorrow night. She is the radiologist who interpreted all my other MRIs. She reviewed the study today so the information will be fresh tomorrow. She wonders about a herniation. Oh joy...
  • This is so distressing for you seeing as you were going so well. I wish I could be of help but all I can do is send >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< >:D< and hope that the MRI will show up the cause of your pain.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Thanks Trish. I appreciate the hugs. All I have been doing for the last two hours is drift in and out of crying. I heard from the radiologist last night and the neurosurgeon this afternoon. It appears that nothing is overly wrong. There is some slight bulging at L3/L4 and narrowing at L5/S1 but nothing alarming and nothing that should cause this pain. I was given a scrip for more PT and they told me to work less. This is hard for me because 1.) what I do for a living and 2.) the time of year and 3.) the staffing at my job is less than stellar right now.

    After talking with my doctor, my cardiologist's office called to schedule my annual exam. I mentioned that I wanted to wait to see them until I see my GP tomorrow about the pitting edema in my right ankle. This set of an alarm and the nurse said she will have my electrocardiologist call me immediately. Well, that was two hours ago.

    I didn't want to have anything wrong with my bak, but I was hoping to have some idea what was causing my pain and edema. I'm still without knowledge and still with more pain than before my surgery.
  • Kristin,

    A little over a year post op from my C5/6, I felt a rubber band like "snap" in my neck while yawning of all things, and within 15 or so minutes, the pain was horrendous and then I lost most of the triceps function and strength. I pretty well knew my next level went! It did...

    Internally I knew I lost that level. I had similar happen about 5 or 6 months post op again...and now am losing my next level below that last fusion! I will keep my fingers crossed that you are fine, but I am glad that your friend is kind of thinking the same line of thought. I'll keep my fingers crossed though! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Glad to see "fingers crossed" worked, but bummer that you don't have a solid picture of the pain generator! Was your MRI with you laying down? I'm an odd bird that when they image me that way, not much shows, but when I go to a positional (stand up) MRI, it all shows totally different! If yours was a lay down (recumbent) any chance you can get a stand up MRI? That way they can see you "under load", and maybe yield better answers? Support *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I'm glad that the MRI has shown that L3-4 and L5-S1 don't appear to be causing your pain, but so frustrating trying to find the pain generator.

    Is there someone at work who can help you with the heavy stuff? I understand your situation at work and the time of the year. If I get a bit carried away here at home with any of the heavier jobs, then I pay for it big time, but I've never had edema in my leg.

    Have you heard back from the electrocardiologist yet? Have you had cardio probs in the past or do you see the cardiologist each year as a general check-up?

    I'd have a care with the PT and only do gentle exercises. I do simple Tai Chi workouts at home most days and that's helped my back heaps.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
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