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Update 1 month L5-S1 surgery & Incision infection

L333777LL333777 Posts: 109
edited 09/30/2014 - 7:54 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Hello Fellow Spineys. First, I want to say thank you to you all for your continued support & encouraging words. I am 1 month post op from L5-S1 discectomy, laminectomy, foraminotomy. I do believe the surgery itself was a success, as the horrendous sciatic pain I was having on my left side (left lower back down length of leg & into foot) has improved significantly. Prior to surgery, I had become fully cane dependent, sometimes had to use a walker, & sometimes could not walk at all. I had no doubt, that if my surgery had been delayed even a week, I would have been in a wheelchair. With that being said, I'm not sure how that would have worked because sitting was horribly painful too. The decision to have surgery is an important one, but also a personal one. Everyone is different. I had exhausted all other measures for more than a year and a half. When my condition & pain suddenly & quickly got so much worse, I had reached the end of my rope. At that time, I would have done anything to get relief from the pain.

Many of you know that I had some post op complications. My pain changed sides and my surgical incision became infected. An MRI also showed that a seroma had developed. So,2 weeks after the first surgery, I was taken back to surgery to clean out the infection and drain the seroma. For those not familiar with my story, here is a link to that post.


Well, I am still on the wound vac. Last Thursday, I had my first appointment at the wound center (besides the first dressing change, which was excruciating, at the Dr's office, my other dressing changes have been done by a home health nurse on a M,W,F schedule) for evaluation of the wound. At that appt, I was told that I will be going there every Thursday for evaluation & dressing change and the dressing change schedule will be changed to T, Tr, Sat, with home health doing the changes on Tues & Sat. Also at last Thursday's appt, the Dr probed the wound and found a fairly large tunnel off the wound. That was explored and scraped out and then packed in the same way the main wound was packed & the wound vac put back on. Now, at all dressing changes, the wound has to be explored for new tunnels & the existing tunnel has to be probed, measured, & packed. Today will be my 7th dressing change & they have not gotten any less painful. The one positive thing about dressing change days, is that I get to take a full, regular shower without having to worry about not getting my back wet. My skin has become so irritated from having some form or another of adhesive on it for the past month, so the showers feel good.

Tomorrow, I am going to see an independent Infectious Disease Dr. When I was at the wound center, I asked my Dr about the culture that was taken when he went in to clean out the incision infection and drain the seroma. He said that the culture "just" showed staph, but "no MRSA yet." He said the lab was going to continue to grow my culture to see what develops. I have taken 2 courses of Keflex (500 mg), but finished the second course over a week ago. I have progressively continued to feel rotten. I am still having a lot of pain on the right side, mainly from my lower back/top of hip down thru my knee. I get some pain on the left side, but the right is the dominant side for pain. The rt sided pain sometimes goes down to my ankle & foot, but the worst pain is always top of hip thru knee and is more side/front pain. The last few days, the achiness that I had at the time of my incision infection, has returned. I have run low grade fevers and have felt completely wiped out. I slept half the day yesterday and would have slept more, but my son came home from school, so I needed to be up for him. My best friend went to the store for me last night and when she got here, she said, "I have seen you look tired and run down before, but you look really tired tonight." I'm glad I scheduled this appointment with the ID Dr. I don't feel like I can trust my wound Dr. I also don't like his laissez faire attitude to the results of my culture and getting further results. I'm not sure why he did not culture the tunnel he found, but he didn't. Late last night, the joints in my hands were hurting. I am concerned that he doesn't want me to think he didn't clear all of the infection out or that there may be a possibility that I picked up another infection in his OR. I don't know. I do know that the information I have read indicates that the leading cause of tunneling in a wound is infection. I just don't think I should be feeling this miserable at this point. I need to get better and get back to work and, more importantly, get back to my life with my son.

On a more positive note, I had been told that I need to increase my protein intake to help the wound to heal. One of my daughters is very into health and fitness. Prior to my injury, she and I used to work out together every week. She had me try her whey protein mix. I was very skeptical bc I don't usually like any protein drinks, but I mixed it with skim milk and ended up loving it! It really seems to be a great and clean product. The chocolate flavor has only 5 ingredients and all are things I can pronounce. I ordered my own supply and my daughter gave me some of her's to use while I waited for the order to arrive (mine arrived yesterday). I sent the company an email, telling them how much I like their product and the reason I was using it. The president of the company wrote me back and immediately shipped samples of their other flavors for me to try. What a great company! If anyone is interested, let me know and I will PM you the information. It really does taste great and does not have any grainy texture. It's also gluten free, sugar free (stevia is used for sweetening), low calories, and low carbs. As you can tell, I'm really happy I have found this bc I need the extra protein and I've had trouble making sure I get enough protein just for a normal diet, much less for a wound healing one.

I have to go back to sleep now, but wanted to post an update on what's been happening. Thank you again for all your support and encouragement. I wish you all a smooth recovery and that your pain lessens every day!

8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE


  • Lauren,

    Glad to see your update, but I wish you weren't dealing with all this wound care and infection. I am glad that you're seeing another doctor for a second opinion. The first doctors' rather cavalier attitude about the possibility of staph scares me a bit.

    You sound remarkably tough for all you've been through. Treat yourself to something special because you have definitely earned it!
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
  • Thanks for your reply. This has been a real disappointment, that's for sure. I still don't have any answers. The ID Dr is sending me for a bunch of blood work tomorrow & should have results by Wednesday or Thursday. He was not too concerned about the culture results bc he said, if the sample was collected by swab, at the top of the wound, the finding of S. Epidermidis could just be contamination from the surface of my skin (this type of staph is part of our natural flora, on our skin surface). With that being said, I later found out from the surgeon that the sample was taken by tissue biopsy from inside the wound. This does change things a bit & makes it more likely that the finding was not just a contaminated sample. The susceptibility report also indicates that it is oxicillin (methicillin) resistant, among other antibiotics. I will find out what the ID Dr thinks about this later this week. My symptoms have persisted. It's all such a slow process though.....have to wait until Monday to have blood work done bc he wants to make sure old antibiotic is out of my system. I don't know what to think of all this. I'm still trying to get back to work, but don't know if I'll be able to do that this week either! :(

    Thanks again for your reply & support! I hope your recovery is going well!
    8/28/14 Discectomy, Laminectomy, Foraminotomy L5-S1
    9/15/15 Surgical Debridement of infected surgical incision & drain seroma; wound vac applied
    10/21/14 L5-S1 Osteomyelitis & Discitis; 10/23/14 Bone & Tissue Biopsy = MRSE
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