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fluid build up after Lower back surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Please help. I had L-5 bone removed L-4 and L-3 cleaned up on 8/13/09. no fusion. staples taken out 12 days later. I have had extreme left leg pain doctor did mri on 9/3/09. said I had a lot of fluid build up, need to have it drained and nerve block injection......... I had 3 nerve block injections 2 years ago. 2 this year the last one didnt relieve back pain but I only had leg pain in my calf. I could of had a third but after 9 months of pain elected surgery. Please note I had one of the top neurosurgeons in the area. I got 3 opinions the first 2 recommended removing all bone from L1 to L5 ( Laminectomy i believe) I figured this would make me needing a fusion down the road.. Any similar experiences with fluid build up after surgery????



  • Hi,

    I had a fluid pocket that formed, after my surgery at L5 S1, a Laminectomy, Foraminotomy. It took quite a while for it to go away, and it finally did. I am 8 months into my recovery, and just have lost most of my swelling, after taking 2 medrol dosepaks. The golf ball fluid pocket left at about 16 weeks. I would see my Dr. to make sure that you don't have any infection. They kept a check on mine. Hope this helps, and let us know what happens.
  • With my stomach surgery to fuse L4/5, I was leaning up against the counter at the kitchen sink washing dishes a few weeks after the surgery and felt this warm liquid (sorry to be gross) run down my leg. I looked down and it was light pink and lots. I called the surgeon and they said that was normal with some people and as long as it was clear pink, it was okay. To keep a watch on it. My incision got 3 pin sized holes in it that continued to drain clear fluid for two months until it finally healed up.

    With the PLIF thru the back, I was driving to pick up my son and got out of the car and my daughter sees the big round stain of pink fluid on my pants and low part of my shirt. It was hand sized or a little bigger. It never felt swollen or anything so it was a surprise. It healed up after than perfectly.

    I would just say to check with your surgeon, describe the fluid buildup, feels warm, you can move it around with your fingers, stuff like that. They can draw it off for you or it may find a way out itself like mine did. I am about 40 lbs overweight, so I figure I just have more adipose tissue which weeps more than other tissue after surgery. Luckily for me I didn't get a true infection. I put peroxide on both incisions after showers and at night and used a hair dryer to make sure it was dry.

    Good luck and I hope you get relief.
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  • I wanted to share my experience with you because given the option, I certainly wouldn't have done the same.

    I destroyed 2 of my discs at work in 03. You'd think the docs would have noticed something like that in an mri,ct or xray. After 2 x3 sets of epidurals, ultimately I ended up having a posterior/anterior fusion L3-S1. The surgeon was shocked to find 2 of my discs totally decayed, dead and in pieces.

    I think the pain is about the same; even worse at times. So I then did pt, but had too much pain & had to stop. Of course finding the discs destroyed, gave merit to have the surgery because ultimately that is where I was headed anyways.

    And now my pain is in other places as well :(. Sciatic is worse, my mid and upper back is hurting very badly. I am crippled by the pain... it sucks.

    My advice?

    ~Keep Surgeons as far away as possible at all times. Never elect to have a fusion unless your spine is literally broke. The recovery alone nearly killed me... And now the same Surgeon is telling me the pain is coming from water pockets in my back? L O L, it's insanity!
  • How are water pockets diagnosed?
    Do they form soon after surgery or at anytime?


  • Virginiap, honestly I do not know. According to my spinal/neuro surgeon, it most common to have fluid build up in conjunction with infection. But since I am 4 or 5 years post op, it couldn't be an current infection.

    I am not 100% confident in the diagnosis though. Both the radiologist and my pain management Doctor seemed very concerned with they found on my most recent MRI, and wanted me to consult a Surgeon ASAP. So upon hearing his diagnosis, I really felt he was blowing smoke trying to avoid malpractice... because in my opinion, they botched the job.

    It's very strange because the actual surgeon who did me, will not talk to me. He always sends in an associate as soon as he sees it is me. Very odd...

    In my case, I think what happened is during the epidurals, I must have had a CSF leak or Disc rupture do the pressure. I remember the injections in my spine vividly as I went w/o anesthesia; (Makes me sick). I remember it feeling like someone was pumping up a football inside of my spine.

    I would say that the most common causes would be infection, swelling or trauma. But then again, I am no Doctor.

    I do want to say that I was reading a multi-national study regarding neuro pathic pain and the surprising find that Medical Marijuana, specifically Indica strains, were shown to permanently reduce neuropathic pain with mild use; as little as 3 puffs a day.

    It took me a long time to warm up to that idea. But after consulting my Doctor and other Doctors, I decided to give it a try. As all the pain meds and other pharms were making me feel ill. But it works for me. I've been able to completely stop taking many RX meds. And I've been able to reduce, by more than half, my pain meds. (nother interesting effect, it makes my migraines vanish, where so many pharms have failed.)

    It isn't for everyone, that is for sure, and it is still against federal law. But, obviously, there are benefits. If you suffer from chronic pain, in my opinion, it is worth trying. I was miserable for years, and the pain seemed to only get worse. But it's been about a year since I started, and my pain is much more manageable then ever before. It's still debilitating, but not so much crippling as before.

    Of course, I still have real bad pain days, but the Cannabis really did and does help me. The bad thing is I hate feeling like a criminal when I use Cannabis. I mean it really sucks that here the ONE thing that has helped me, but it's illegal.

    I truly hope that one day soon, folks will see just how bad pharmaceuticals are for us. There are many homeopathic, natural medicines that have little to no side effects; at least not like the pills do. I mean, come on... are you really going to take something that can cause death in a small % of patients? We put way worse stuff in our bodies, that's for sure!

    Good luck to you, hope you will feel better :).

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  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Do you have any other symptoms? After my L4-S1 fusion in 1993 I had a fluid pocket that turned out to be spinal fluid due to a small dural leak (dura is the covering to the spinal canal). I had been having headaches when up and walking but okay when laying down. This was because when laying down I was putting enough pressure on that area to "block" the slight leak. So make sure they have the lab analyze the fluid fully.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Please stay on the topic. This thread is in regards to fluid build up after surgery. There are other threads for discussing the merits of using legal medical marijuana for pain.

  • What you are describing sounds like a "seroma", and that fluid is called "serosanguineous". If it were to be CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) leaking that much - chances are you would have a spinal headache with it. When in doubt, a simple ultrasound can often be done to diagnose these, so ask your doctor.
  • Hi all, I had a lamendectomy 8/13 I still have horrific lower back pain right side. Note I did not have this before surgery. The surgery corrected the stenosis going down both of my legs. I had 100 cc drained from the pocket on 11/16 STILL have terrible pain. Going for another MRI today, surgeon is talking about reopening the incision site to see where the leak is. It is NOT spinal fluid. Anyone out there can give me some insight on this matter I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you. Denise

  • My teenage daughter had the 360 fusion of L4-S1 on October 14. She fractured it playing softball in HS. Surgery took 8.5 hrs. In hospital she started with fever, but they quickly got that under control. Came home 5 days later. Never feeling better, and poor pain control we contacted the dr, and he told us how to dispense the pain meds. 2 weeks after surgery had wound check and discussed how much pain she was in. They told her there was going to be alot of pain. So much for telling her that she would feel so much better from back pain that it would offset surgical pain. Both front and back wounds looked great. 3rd week the bonding started to come off the back surgical site, but it was closed so no concerns. Dr. said that should not happen till about 6 weeks. Next day go to take a shower and take off bandage on back wound and there is a glob of puss and some black stuff. Called Dr, he said she probably "spit a stitch" and that was common so to come in the office and they would look at. They opened it up about ½ in. and cultured and packing the wound started. Still very poor pain control and they want us to see Pain Dr. Now wound checks are every week and she goes into the Dr. and they proceed to tell us that the dog hair they found on her back brace has to be cause of infection and she was too drugged out. Still poor pain control. By the middle of that week I was calling back telling them what horrible pain she was in and her back was warm to touch, a lump developed, running fever, and just looks poor. Dr. wanted use to meet him at the hospital and he would look at her between his surgeries and decide what he wanted to do. He decided he would open her up after his last surgery of the day and it was probably superficial and would take about hr.- after 3.5 hrs he said the infection was quite deep had to replace the bone graphs and left hardware in but infection was all over that, and she was a sick little girl all he could do now was keep infection at bay until the fusion completed. IV antibiotics for 6 weeks, and then oral for another year, he would go back in in a yr to removed the hardware after the fusion set to alieviate infection possibilities. Spent week half in hospital they were not going to let her go home until drain was bone dry…but day b4 Thanksgiving and she was still putting out of drain 20 a night, only 5 during day and they decided to pull the drain and let her go. Mistake…. Pain control somewhat better. Week after surgery start watching a spot on her back that seems like it has fluid and by week 2 she had fluid pooling again in her back. Surgery #3 opened her up infection not as deep and a clean out, week in hospital, we insisted drain came home with us. We are 2 weeks post op, and she is still putting out her drain. So far we have seen no upside from the surgery...Dr. keep telling us once infection is under control she will start to see upside. We are praying for those days!
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