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Thoracic surgery on 2-17-10



  • Your weekend sounds great! The beach is my favorite and so calming! :)

    What was it like walking in the sand?

    I have wondered about that, walking through the sand to get to the beach? I'm not sure I'm quite ready, but the summer is upon us!

    It's getting easier for me to get out of the pool, initially I felt the effects of gravity when climbing out of the pool!

    Hoping you feel better today! I was like that too yesterday and just stayed in bed all day!

    Wishing you a great week!

  • Angela...You found your other person who has had this surgery. I was hit with a forklift at work in the back with the blade of the forklift. Thank god the blade was turned up at the end or it would have pierced me like a knife. The blade hit just barely to the left of my spine so it was not a direct hit but god must have been watching me cause it was a close call.

    This happened in July 2008 and I had the MRI 1 month later which showed the herniation of the disk to the right. The disk had gone flat and the doctor said it was most likely torn and would never repair itself. I did PT, medication, and work hardening during the first year and finally me and Dr agreed the final step was surgery.

    In October 2009 my Dr performed a Thoracic Spine Bone Fusion at T6-T7 which meant a thoracotomy incision was made on my left side from basically below my arm pit around to the top my back (6-8 inches about half the size of yours). They inserted a chest tube and deflated my left lung. The had to move over major arteries and my spinal cord to get to the location. This meant I could be paralyzed from that point down and possibly bleed out on the table. That just made me feel so much better about the surgery but was a risk I had to take due the pain. They removed a portion of one of my ribs to grind up to use in the bone fusion and inserted two screws and a bar to hold the T6-T7 area together while the bone grows to fuse the two sections together. The hardware is permanent as the removal would be just as invasive as the original surgery.

    The surgery was partially successful. I will explain. My doctor never promised full relief of pain and he was right. The pain is just more controllable now but I am not able to do things as I was before without pain. This probably will never change. Minimal activity means I am light on my pain meds but bored out of my mind. I am not able to return to work and may have to seek alternative employment once I am fully healed.

    Now the here is the partial part...during the surgery they spread open the rib cage to gain access to the area where the surgery was performed. While the ribs where spread nerves were damaged and have now become a major problem. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, and deep breathes are so painful at time it brings tears to my eyes. I am constantly holding my left side in a guarded position because if my 1yr old bounces on me if feels like someone is driving a knife into my left side and radiates around to my incision. This condition prohibited my completion of PT and put my recovery at a stand still.

    My PM doctor did a numbing/steroid injection to identify and confirm the location of the nerve pain which was successful. Now I am in the process of deciding between RFTC or Spinal Cord Stimulation to deal with the nerve pain.

    This whole process has made me somewhat depressed but who would not be as you are stuck at home all the time with limited contact or traveling. Financially I am still OK but it has taken a major bite out of our household income. My mood swings and inability to sleep put me on a opposite schedule than my wife which creates many arguments. This has disrupted my whole life and dealing with Workers Compensation insurance adjusters and lawyers just makes it even more stressful.

    If you are still reading as I know this is long...basically I got married on 06-07-08 (memorable huh) in Vegas and we figured 06-09-08 was the conception date of our daughter...little honeymoon action. Around July 2 or 3rd my wife called me to advise "Houston we have a pregnancy". So life was going great...good job...finances were working out getting debt free except for the house and cars...then *wham* two days before my birthday July 24 life changed as I knew it. It has been almost 2 years and I am still miserable and unable to get my life back as I knew it. I do my best to be active somewhat as pain follows any activity, but I am not positive my ability to do everything I once did pain free is in my future.

    But Angela, you have someone else in your club. I had my surgery at Foundation off 59 and 610 in Houston. Facility was great...staff not so great. I stayed 4 days I think and was so eager to leave it was crazy. I don't remember much about that week as the meds really scrambled my brain.

    I am interested to know if you are feeling any of the symptoms I am regarding the nerve pain around your ribs. I thought it was a bruised or cracked rib at first so I didn't think anything of it, but once the pain never went away I went to the doctor who referred me to a PM. He diagnosed the pain around the 6th rib and now we are trying to alleviate the pain so I can continue my PT and see if I am able to go back to my original job.

    Anyone having RFTC or Spinal Cord stimulation due to nerve pain along the ribs I would be interested in the results.

    Sorry for the long message. My first post so lots of info.
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  • Well first hi... I haven't been on here in forever.. Been dealing with back stuff.. So my thoracic fusion didn't help my nerves any.. They are still very much active and painful.. So on March 29 I get my trail spinal cord stimulater... I am not sure if I am really excited or relly nervous.. I have been doing a lot of research and there seems to be a very equal feeling out there.. So i was just wondering if any of you guys have had or know someone with a stimulater, and if so could you just tell me about your experenice... Thanks a million...
  • Angela, you should check out the Spinal Cord Stimulation section of this forum. There are lots of situations discussed there.
    Best wishes!
  • Aegela,

    Thank you for leaving such a extensive post on your surgery's. Your positive feedback through very difficult circumstances have definitely help others out that search for information on Thoracic surgery.
    I have dealt with back pain since I was 17 years old.
    I was diagnosed ten years ago with herniated L-4/L-5 protruded disc and then a epidural that went wrong. I also have spinal stenosis thought-out cervical, thoracic and lumbar area with 3 herniated or bulged disc with moderate to server stenosis throughout spine. Yesterday I had my 12 epidural since 2002. This one was second in thoracic T-7/T-8 area. DDD has progressed and now have explanation of right side spine pain in this area after only standing 10 minutes to start the day. Area becomes numb with pins and needles feeling and then turns into consent pain that only getting off my feet and pain med relieve it. I have huge bone spurs at T-7/T-8 that are hooked shape that almost cut off disc area. Also found some small tumors that seem to be par for the course around injured areas. Seems spinal problems run on my moms side of family with my mom, brother, and uncles with spinal stenosis of other disc problems.

    So.... I have spent some time this morning reading your post and its been very helpful due to finding any info on Thoracic surgery has been difficult.

    I have had over 100 trigger point injections for pain over last ten years with temporary relief, but this recent thoracic bone spurs have me thinking about looking for surgeon. My past work experience as a coal miner working in 24 to 48 inch height coal hasn't help in the long run.... but it is what is is. I am glad you are doing better and glad to hear you have a wonderful husband and family to support you. My boys are now 23, 21 and 18 and your story's of your kids growing up remind me of days gone by.

    I wish you the best of luck with continued healing.
    Take Care !
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  • Hi all . . . I am a thoracic spine sufferer. Confirmed broad based posterior herniations at T10 11/T11 12. I have significant leg symptoms numbness tingling decreased sensation in both legs started from feet going all the way up to abdomen. Its all around legs, my ability to walk is significantly impaired, can only lift both legs independently about 2 inches & then must lift each leg with arms, legs get so so so numb its like they are stiff. I walk with a "broad based gait" is how its been referrred to and am told I have a "gait disturbance" which i know. Back feels like I have a softball sticking out of back at bra line level but that is nothing compared to the terrible burning episodes that I continue to go through in my middle back--all the way to the left and all the way to the right at the level or height of the bra line. I was just dismissed as a patient by my doctor at a well regarded academic teaching hospital . . . i had questions about diagnosis, prognosis, latest mri findings and got no answers so I said I wanted to talk with doctors again, I wanted to know why my legs don't half move, are numb, tingling, slow, heavy etc. I was quite upset . . . so I was dismissed for being inconsiderate of other patients and healthcare personnel. I feel bad for the whole situation but I am at my wits end, I feel like I am literally in a fight for my life to restore my leg feeling and function. This has been going on for about 1 1/2 years and my leg dysfunction continues to get worse. I know that where I was under care at had the ability to surgically correct me but there is no chance of that now. I also know that usually only the bigger hospitals deal with the T-spine. I am quite young, mid-forties, and was previously very active before I herniated the 2 discs. EMG/NCS (11/2013) earlier showed nerve involvement (only 1 leg was affected--left leg-- then but my symptoms in my legs continued to progress to my right leg), EMG/NCS of 7/2014 was normal (I was told) and SSEP of 7/2014 was normal (I was told) however my legs continue to have major dyysfunction in movement and feeling and I continue with frequent episodes of high level burning across my middle back. I was told just before I was dismissed as a patinet cant find diagnosis for me, don't know why my legs have this problem but my doctor (in her letter to me) told me that I should seek care for my continued pain and "gait disturbance" and that she felt my condition was stable. Ok, so I am quite glad it is deemed stable but I have serious leg dysfunction & continue with pain. Legs are all the time (never not there) , pain is variable, lowest it has been is a 6 out of 1 -10 pain scale, but gets way way beyond a 10 with the burning flares. I do not wish to be paralyzed. Had thoracic bulges (diagnosed in 2010 via MRI) at same location that progressed to confirmed herniations that are symptomatic. I was lifting rubbermaid totes into my jeep and had terrible chest banding , legs went out, bladder was affected but has since resolved that started all this evil mess. Any suggestions on where to go. I live within close proximity to DC/Baltimore (major metro area with big academic teaching hospitals). Quite hard for me to get anywhere due to leg dysfunction (driving & legs--if have to stop quick in major metro traffic legs dont respond fast at all) but can go by train or fly. Am really concerned about my legs. Will go out of network of my insurance. I have researched & read (good publications -- pubmed, etc) & know that docs don't like to deal with thoracic issues and that its a different animal, not a lot have experience there, but I something has to be done as my leg feeling and function, movement is greatly impaired . . . slowly (or quickly) becoming paralyzed. Recommendations or suggestions. . . Thanks for any info.
  • FareedFFareed Abilene , Texas Posts: 61

    Hi Angela,

    I am so glad to hear that you are coming along good. It is good to hear from someone that has had this surgery. It is not done on very many people.

    I will be having mine done the first week of June, on T11-12 T12-L1.

    So I appreciate anything that you put in this form.

    I hope that you recover fast.

    God Bless


    how you feeling ? any update plz? coz Im thinking about the surgery for my T5 and T6 
  • gfishggfish Pittsburgh PAPosts: 236
    Hi slowpoke60,
    It's hard to find info on the thoracic spine area. But real fast me. I am fused from T4-T10. Had it done 13 months ago, I had no choice but to have it done. It was open back spine surgery. Large long scar, rods and screws. The first 4 months the pain was fierce. My situation was not to fix me, but stabilize me. Basically I was a tree that was starting to lean over. So the rods are there to keep me from going any farther. Not trying to scare you, But the less cutting  of the muscles and nerves the better.  If they can do a minimally invasive surgery with you, That would be better. Plus if they have to go in the front, side or back will make a difference on how you will fill. I dont care what area you have done on your back. Its something that is supposed to move in unison. So when you stop or freeze an couple levels. It will let you know. Some have no issues at all with there fusion.  But you would get the most info from your doctor. As to fill you in on how he would proceed with it. Its not a common area or one they like to work on. 
    Greg fisher
  • Hey Every One!

    Sorry it has taken so long for me to answer. I haven't be on in ages. I see there are more people getting ready to under go this surgery. The only advice I feel I can truly give is have an experienced dr and don't set your expectations to high. First the doctor, when I say make sure they are experienced I don't mean they do tons of fusions a year. I mean they have performed many thoracic fusions. If they haven't, move to the next one. I know the next one sounds really bad but if you go into a thoracic fusion thinking it will be like your lumbar fusion; your wrong. It's not going to be like any other fusion you have ever had. I think I have finally come to the decision that this surgery should be your very last option. The muscles that they have to cut to get to your spine if they cut straight down your back are crazy painful to heal. It will heal. But it will take much longer then it would for a lumbar fusion. I had to get my stimulator leads replaced and that meant a cut on my thoracic spine about 4 inches long and I could not believe how painful  that was and how long that lasted. If you get a cut like I got during my fusion it went from inside my shoulder blade down and around to my side. It took 3 surgeons. A chest tube. And pushing your heart out of the way. That is major surgery.. I have nerve damage for the cut. Not everyone will get that. I was just unlucky. I also still have very bad pain in the bone in my spine. I can't figure out if it is at the surgery location or from the level right above or below. So I always hate to answer the did my surgery work question because of that. So to be honest, I don't know. I am still in pain. I take ALOT of meds everyday. I have a spinal cord stimulator. But when I had my surgery it hurt me every time my lungs expanded and pressed against my spine and that isn't a problem anymore so that is a success for me. I have 6 or 7 more thoracic disc that are impeding on my spinal cord but I just hope and pray every day that they never become a problem because I serious could not handle that surgery again. I hope that everyone that is having the surgery has the very best outcome. And to those trying to make up their minds, I wish you peace with what ever choice you make for your self.


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