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Frustrated in Seattle

Feb. 28th, 2012 I underwent ACDF in Seattle. One day post-op, I noticed numbing in my upper thigh, well below the graft site. I was told it would go away. Upon doing some of my own research, I discovered that there was either pressure or damage to my right lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Almost 1 year out, and several specialists seen, I now know that I have permanent damage from the auto-graft site on the iliac crest. Fine, I can deal...right? It's just numb and I will be prone to occasional bursitus. Better than constant neck pain. But, 2 months ago, my neck pain resurfaced. It was not until Friday that I was ready to admit that there must be some issue with my fusion. I contacted my PCP, because I DO NOT want to revisit either my original pain specialist or my original surgeon. So, here I go again! My life is on hold, my pain debilitating. I am a 44 year old married mother or 2 teenage boys. Life requires my participation, people need me yet here I sit, in pain, trying to 'carry on' when all I want to do is cry out, "This is totaly & completely screwed up! Will somebody PLEASE help me!"


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Unfortunately you are not alone in still having issues post fusion. Sure there are some who the surgery works perfect and they never need anything else done. However there are those of us that is just not the reality. You don't say how many levels you had fused, so I assume one? But no matter there is a condition called adjacent disc disease which you could be suffering from. Basically that means that once they fuse the one level the stress from that level is now placed on the other levels and begins to cause issues. Now of course it could also be you never fused, and have a condition called psuedoarthrosis. But the only way you are going to find out what truly is going on, is by means of a new MRI and or CT scan.

    As far as the issue with lateral femoral cutanous nerve I know exactly what you are dealing with as I to have that from a illiac crest harvest. Like you I thought I was going nuts trying to find out what was causing the pain. and I stumbled across a nerve surgeon, and he easily diagnosed. There is a surgery they can do to release it, however there is no test that can be done to confirm it, other than a doctors clinical exam. However the clinical exam, in my case was spot on, as when they hit it, I almost feel to the floor, and the pain was excruciating. Although I have choose for now to deal with it versus another surgery.

    Back to your neck, because you are in pain again, don't assume that surgery is a must. If you have suffered another blown disc they can treat it conservatively at first, and see if that will help. However if it is psuedo, typically surgery at this point is the only thing that is going to correct it. As I said the only way to diagnose it is, through imaging. I know it is not what you want to hear, like you, I had some what the same issue, and it was pseudo, not to be confused with a non-union. I always caution people if it is another blown disc to try the conservative measures first. My life started with what should have been one surgery, me using my bone, to heal faster to 7 years latter and 6 surgeries under my belt, to living in serious pain. My issue is now the damage that had been done, along with scar tissue. Which why I caution others on the number of surgeries, as in the cervical spine, there just isn't alot of room, so scar tissue can become a issue.

    You might want to look at a dermatone map and see if you can follow any of the pain patterns to see if it is your existing fusion or another level.

    But know one thing you have reached a place your not alone and we all understand. So feel free to vent away, as we do get it. Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to the forums. So once again welcome, and keep us updated on what you find out.
  • Thanks so much for your response, Tamtam! I am sorry to hear that you have been through so much. But, it does indeed help to know that I am not alone. I have never heard of a dermatone map but right after I finish this comment you can bet on me finding one! I am switching pain specialists and have an appointment on the 30th. I plan on asking my PC to order some imaging prior to that appointment so they can get things moving more quickly. At this point, my pain is not managed and I spend most days close to home alternating heat (thank God for our hot tub) and ice. I am afraid of ibuprohen as the surgeon told me it inhibits bone growth. I thank you again for your reponse. It helps so much speaking with others who understand my frustration and pain! I wish you all the best of luck in your recovery. Here's to the New Year, which I truly hope brings us all good fortune and mostly, good health!
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