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Terrible Myelogram Experience - Now Have Intense Lower Back Pain

SarojiniSSarojini Posts: 2
edited 03/28/2014 - 7:19 AM in Chronic Pain
This past Tuesday (3/25/14) I "tried" to have a cervical myelogram (I have an implanted neurostimulator and cannot have MRIs as a result, so my neurologist ordered the myelogram instead)…. and it was botched. The idiot resident and medical student, who were COMPLETELY unsupervised, tried for over an hour to get the spinal tap right - meanwhile, I was completely unsedated and was screaming and crying in pain as electric shocks ran down my back, through my stomach, and down my butt and legs. It was PURE TORTURE. I am serious. I have never, ever felt pain that bad and I hope I never have to again - I cannot even describe the pain other than to say it was about a 15 on the 0-10 pain scale.

WORSE, even after all of that, they managed to inject the contrast wrong so it would not flow to my neck, and they got ZERO useful images… I was never even brought to the CT scanner because they failed so miserably. Only at the end did an attending physician come in and tell me that "the contrast wasn't flowing properly and we would have to stop and do this again another day." I screamed that I was NEVER coming back. I was brought out into the recovery area and my husband was furious because I was crying so hard that I could barely tell him what happened ("didn't work… injected wrong… hurt me so bad!!!" was about all I could manage). He called for the doctor, who explained that "sometimes the contrast will get caught up in the spinal membranes and not flow to the neck." The doctor was apparently VERY nervous, according to the hubby. Meanwhile, I was still in agonizing pain from the puncture site down to my toes, and I was not offered any type of pain control at all, even though I was still sobbing uncontrollably. It got worse when I was told to stand up and walk to the bathroom to put my clothes back on… I developed extremely intense back and leg pain that was like a pressure just waiting to explode. I suspect that is because the mis-injected contrast started pooling in my lower back.

Eventually we were allowed to leave and while I never got a spinal headache (probably because they never punctured the intrathecal space) I have had absolutely awful lower back pain since. Often, it shoots down my left butt cheek and leg. I was essentially in bed for two days after the procedure because I was in so much pain… today I am up and around but still hurting really badly. I cannot bend over, I cannot twist at the waist, and even standing long enough to take a shower feels like a major feat of athleticism.

I had slight lower back pain before this but it is from mild facet joint disease down at L4-L5 and L5-S1 and the quality of that pain is different - I can still tell it apart from this new myelogram-related pain - and it was tolerable with a little ibuprofen. Now I hurt from L2-L3 down, largely on the left side which is where those nincompoops were standing during the injection, and I cannot control the pain. I am not on any pain medication yet - I am not seeing a pain management doc until April 22.

Do you think these xxxx did permanent damage?? If not, how long do you think this new pain is going to last? I'm miserable.

By the way, I emailed the patient services department at the hospital and told them what happened, and they were SO concerned they filed a formal complaint against the doctors that did this on my behalf.

Much love and a pain-free day,

Post edited to remove inappropriate language...Liz spine-health moderator.. Please read the Forum rules
- Jennifer


  • I forgot to mention that the reason for the cervical myelogram is to see the extent of the degenerative changes in my neck. Planar X-rays and a CT scan show degeneration and osteoarthritic bone spurs pretty much from C3-C7, and an EMG suggested a pinched nerve at C6… the radiating pain I get in my right shoulder sometimes also suggests a possible pinched nerve at C4, so they were trying to find all that and determine if surgery was necessary/useful.
    - Jennifer
  • after reading your posts, they tried to perform a myelogram , however they didn't and then injected the contrast into ?
    Medical students and even residents must be supervised, under a senior doctor before performing any procedures, or treatments.....and if they were not able to secure the tap to remove a bit of spinal fluid, how did they inject the contrast into the intrathecal space? Why did the senior/supervising doctor not attempt the myelogram if the students/resident was unable to get it done? Fluroscopes are used to show the imaging in real time, so that it would be obvious that the attempts were or were not working......Something about this whole situation is a bit off, not sure what it is, but if they were unable to get the tap done, then there would be no reason to inject the contrast, and while myelograms are no picnic, they usually don't involve writhing around and pain levels as high as you stated yours were. I have had two so far, and while they weren't my favorite thing to do , they were not as dramatic as yours.
    If you are concerned about permanent damage, it would be wise to contact your surgeon , and discuss your symptoms with him and see what he recommends. Usually the contrast is eliminated within a few hours after the test.
  • MSGMSG Posts: 296
    edited 03/28/2014 - 8:20 AM
    I don't know anything about your procedure, but I am so sorry for all you went through! If it were me I would definetley report this to my insurance company, & the AMA. I'm most definetly not a "sue happy" person, but in this case I'd at least talk to a lawyer.

    I hope you feel better.
    We can't always control the cards we are dealt in life, but we can control how we play the hand
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    or Resident or Intern is going to be allowed to perform procedures without being under the watchful eye of a senior doctor.
    That doesn't mean that every procedure needs to be monitored.

    The myelogram procedure is pretty straight forward. If at any time, the medical professional who was attempting this on you had trouble, the senior medical professional would have jumped in. This happens frequently, especially in Teaching Hospitals.
    At the first notice of a problem using the needle, or your obvious pain warnings, something needed to be done.
    So, I also am a little confused as to how the events happened.

    But putting that behind, there was no test done and you are in the same position as you were before you went in for the procedure. So, what is your next step into having tests done?

    Before you think about getting a lawyer involved, put your focus into finding where you can get the test done without any of the problems and pain you went through. After all, that is your primary concern.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • i had a botched foot surgery when he put in a rod into a broken foot. well he gave me pseudo aneurosym (sp) where i bled all over the floor. i had to go in to get it fixed at a local teaching hospital that is well known and respected nationally. the vascular surgeon watched while a student tried to give me a spinal. he was not successful due to scar tissue in my back and then he tried. they eventually put me out and the surgeon watched as the student put me under. they were all under very strict supervision pre and post op surgery. there were also a number of students standing around watching the procedure. i can't imagine not being supervised by the main surgeon. there would be all sorts of legal issues involved and i would be a very rich guy now and would have retired 10 years ago with a fat wallet. i have never heard of an intern not being supervised under any circumstances.
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • philnoirphilnoir Posts: 52
    edited 03/28/2014 - 8:53 AM
    Was this an EMG or a discogram?
  • even a person doing student teaching has to be under the supervision of a teacher or an administrator. in fact they cannot be left alone in the room with kids unsupervised. some programs like an interim will give you a temporary credential where you can be unsupervised but one needs a credential at all times. lots of professions require supervision not only doctors. but a doctor has the life and death and over all health of the patient which makes it even more important to be supervised.
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • I had a Myelogram about 13 years ago. It was successful as far as injecting the dye, but the dye irritated my compressed nerve because I laid in hospital the night before surgery with intensifying symptoms. My leg hurt so bad I was ready for someone to cut it off. I don't know how long it would have lasted because I had surgery the next day, and the sciatic symptoms improved after.
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • I was getting a 3rd surgical evaluation at a cervical practice associated with a university teaching hospital. The surgeon wanted a Myelogram, but did not send me to the hospital. He thought they should only be done by a team that does a lot of them on a regular basis, so he sent me to another imaging center. It was doing about 25 of us that day using two teams and CTs. Only problem was the CT machine shut down about 25% through. Had to wait 45 minutes strapped to the inclined table in a very uncomfortable position before it could be completed. Otherwise it all went fine. I was impressed with the staff.
    Severe DDD, Severe neural foraminal stenosis at 2 levels, moderate canal stenosis at 2 levels, significantly impaired left shoulder & arm function. Chronic moderate compression fracture at C6.
  • davrunnerddavrunner Posts: 478
    edited 03/31/2014 - 8:35 AM
    I had a myelogram in 2008, the surgeon did the tap himself. I have a rule when "students" do a procedure on me, they get one shot to get it right, then a professional had better be taking over.
    The dye they inject can have serious side effects. I had a myelogram headache that lasted 4 days. It was tolerable only when lying flat, getting up caused nausea, sweats and bad pain.
    If it were me and a myelogram is the only way to get diagnostic images I would find a different surgeon and explain your bad experience and make sure it's done by someone who does it routinely.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • edited 06/19/2014 - 2:22 PM
    OM! I too had a bad myelogram on 4/2/14 at an University hospital. A tech who had a constant running nose and a 1st year radiology resident were the only ones in the room initially. The practitioner seemed nervous. He had a hard time getting me into the position he wanted. I could tell he seemed green. I should have bolted! He then began the tap. He got CSF and proceeded to inject the dye. He met resistence and I felt a pop that really hurt. He then called for the supervising doctor who took his sweet time to get there. I could feel fluid running off my hip. I said what is that flow. He said CSF. The main dr came in and was told what happened. The resident said he lost some of the dye when he met resistance. I read that if they meet resistance they are to rotate the needle and not force it as they can damage the dura! The resisdent thought he got maybe 6 ml in. So the dr proceeded with the myelogram. I then was sent to cat scan. I read that you are not to wait more than 10 minutes to get into the scan. And if it is longer they are to turn you side to side to remix the dye in your spine for a better picture. They left me out in the hall and it was like 20 minutes before I got into the scan. And I was not rotated. I was sent to recovery for 2 hours. I left the hosptial and I had a terrible headace and my back hurt. I went home and the 3 days of vomiting and splitting headaches began. My back hurt and my legs felt jumpy. I had to go to ER and get a blood patch to stop the leaking of CSF. The results of that myelogram were faint but they reported that the hardware from my recent C4-7 ACDF was in good position with no hardware complications! Haw, if you look at my pictures you can see my hardware is at least 15 degrees tilted to the left and the top left C4 screw is not even in the bone but in my soft tissue! It is very close and pointing at my vertebral artery. This institution had my other cat scan and neck angiogram on file to compare to and show this complication but did not! I emailed the chairperson of radiology and complained. I said that hardware is not in good position and that needs to ne rectified. It has been 20 days and no responce. Also this dr said the C5 nerve root was fne when a mri showed it was not. I feel like this dr was trying to do the original surgeon a favor. How can I get this reread accurately?
  • You can take it to a different radiologist for a re-read........the surgeon who ordered the test, should also look at the actual images and if you are correct, he can and should make his own determination on what the images show him.
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