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Anyone on here gone through a thoracic fusion?



  • I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to find this forum.  My name is Beth, I'm a 51 yr old with a previous, successful C5-C6 ACDF in 2013 and a not so successful microdiscectomy at L3-L4 in 2014.  I had an awful strep A infection immediately (2 days) after the L3-L4 surgery and had 2 revisions,  a 5 day hospital stay and a 30 day round of IV antibiotics.  I have permanent nerve damage at that level now.  

    I have been seeing a pain mgmt dr since 2015 and have been through several ESIs and ablations. I finally had a Medtronic SCS installed 2016, after which I developed another infection at the battery placement.  It wasn't as bad as the 1st one, but bad enough for more antibiotics. The SCS worked wonderfully for a while, but then starting causing more pain than I had to begin with.  I dont even use it anymore.

    I started to experience some major muscle spasms, burning and visibly noticable  knots in my upper back this summer.  The pain mgmt dr thought at first that it was simply a lipoma because the knot was so big.   I feel ok in the mornings, but by mid-day,  it hurts to even hold my head up.  The burning between my shoulders is unbearable .  

    The pain finally got so bad that he sent me for a CT myleogram of the entire spine 2 weeks ago (I have the kind of SCS you cant have a MRI).  It showed a central disc protrusion toward the left at T7-T8 causing "moderately severe central spinal stenosis w/ moderate chronic cord deformity".  This is the level that the SCS leads were placed.  I've been experiencing pain and numbness in my legs, but up until now, I assumed it was from my lumbar nerve damage.  

    Anyways, now I am completely freaked out.  Not many doctors want to touch me because of my propensity for infection and, needles to say,  I am worried about it as well.  My questions are:  just how bad is this?  Is surgery done for this?  Are there alternatives?  And how in the heck can you find a good dr who specializes in the thoracic spine?  I was told recently that my infection was more than likely due to an unclean O.R., so don't want to go back to my surgeon who did the lumbar and SCS for obvious reasons.  I live in Austin, TX and so far I cant find anyone.  I want someone who does this type of thing all of the time.  It seems everyone around here only do cervicals and lumbers.  Also, to top all of this off, I also have new arm pai. and numbness.  The CT showed protrusions at C3-C4 and C4-C5 with moderate cord deformities there, too.  I just feel like I am falling apart!  If anyone has ANY advice, I would welcome & appreciate it!

  • txBeth,

    I'm sorry that you haven't had a reply to this before.  I think you will have a hard job to find a surgeon who only does thoracic surgery because it is rare.  I think the best place to find a competent spine surgeon who does thoracic spine will be at a teaching hospital.  I am under a top hospital in London. 

    We are focussing on my lumbar spine right now because that pain had become the worst and most debilitating. I had a SPECT CT scan which shows the pain generating levels as glowing.  We have begun injecting my facet joints at L3/4 and L5/S1.  They are also suggesting doing a caudal epidural injection and injecting enough steroid to cause it to flow upwards to try to obtain relief on the three lower levels of my spine. L3/4 has developed a grade 1 spondylolisthesis which they are watching and L23/ and L5/S1 have stenosis with nerve compression.  I am hoping that the injections will help this.

    I had an ACDF of C3/4 and C4/5 done seven years ago because of cord compression.  Now the C2/3 level has developed an unstable, degenerative grade 1 spondylolisthesis and the two levels below have also got stenosis but not indenting the cord, so we are watching and waiting that.

    They won't do surgery on my thoracic spine unless I develop 'red flag' symptoms such as falling regularly or bowel or bladder problems.

    I hope you have found someone to help you.

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