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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board


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Incision Healing
May 15, 2009
Hi!

I was wondering if somebody could share with me how long it took you for the incision area to heal.

I had an ACDF C45,56-67 with hardware on 04/29/09. The area around the incision is still swollen and painful to touch. I could handle that but part of the swelling is right in the middle over my esophagus so I feel like I have a constant lump in my throat. I would really love to know how long before that goes away? (I am on antibiotic)

I am interested to know what the experience of others was.
I think any surgical incision I have ever had healed about 2-3 weeks. You might have an internal stitch that hasn't disolved or a remenant of infection. Has the doctor looked at it? Is is red and is it oozing any?
My ACDF incision took about 4 weeks to really feel normal.
Although mine was red for a while (maybe 2-3 weeks) I never had any incision swelling or any lump in the throat feeling.
Mine really didn't take a long time, and wasn't particularly painful after 2 weeks when the stitch came out. I didn't have any swelling except when they pulled the surgical tape off, but that went away in a couple hours. My surgeon had me roll the incision site in my fingers to work out the scar tissue and help it heal flat, but this didn't really hurt as much as just feel gross. I didn't have any redness after about 1 1/2 weeks. If it is painful and red in the skin, you should definitely get it checked for infection. I know you said you are on antibiotics, but not all bacteria are sensitive to all antibiotics, so you may need a different one. Good luck, I hope you continue to heal well.
I understand exactly what you are feeling. I had ACDF C5-C7 on April 10th. I have searched all over for information about that swollen lump feeling when you swallow. I am 19 days ahead of you and my incision site is still just slightly tender, however, mine too is still swollen (although it is improving.) It does feel like the swelling is pushing back on the trachea and I wonder if that makes the esophagus push back against the plate put on the front of the spinal column. That's kind of what it feels like. Do you feel like something gets stuck sometimes? To me it seems that the esophagus gets hung up on the top edge of the plate. All of this may not even be physiologically possible, I don't know, but that is what it feels like to me. I have also noticed that air often feels like it gets trapped coming back up and I almost have to push it up to get past the swelling. How about you? Does that sound like what you are experiencing?
I don't feel like it gets hung up anywhere but that it is being pushed on from the front. The swelling is getting better so the feeling is geting better but there is a hard spot (getting smaller) that does press back on the trachea.

I don't know if your thought of it getting caught on the plate is possible or not but it may be. Prior to surgery I was having some trouble; a feeling like a lump was in my throat. The doctors told me I had to relax and it was anxiety. After surgry my surgeon told me a bone spur had developed that was pushing on my trachea which he removed, actually had to remove to place the plate properly so your thoughts are plausible at least.
[QUOTE=Toonces1;3987161]Mine really didn't take a long time, and wasn't particularly painful after 2 weeks when the stitch came out. I didn't have any swelling except when they pulled the surgical tape off, but that went away in a couple hours. My surgeon had me roll the incision site in my fingers to work out the scar tissue and help it heal flat, but this didn't really hurt as much as just feel gross. I didn't have any redness after about 1 1/2 weeks. If it is painful and red in the skin, you should definitely get it checked for infection. I know you said you are on antibiotics, but not all bacteria are sensitive to all antibiotics, so you may need a different one. Good luck, I hope you continue to heal well.[/QUOTE]

My surgeon also has me gently rubbing the incision to work out scar tissue. I just have this spot which is particularly painful to touch. The surgeon said I had a hematoma that would take up to a month to dissapate. My stitchers do not have to be removed since they used the dissolvable kind. The GP put me on Levaquin and the surgeons office approved its usuage. Evidently it is a good general antibiotic. Headaches are gone, ear pain is gone, swelling down considerably (at least 2/3's) if this spot left would go, I'd be doing really well.

I go back to work tomorrow. Hope I can deal with a whole day of activity and no rest points!
Hopefully it helped hearing that at least someone else had the same thing going on. There are a lot of posts about the swallowing problems after surgery, but not alot when one is five or six weeks out. Hopefully, we'll both just keep on improving and it's just that our bodies take a little longer than most to decrease the swelling.

Do you consider your surgery a successs? How's your pain level? I hope other than the swallowing that you are doing great! :)
[QUOTE=Stonepile;3987292]Hopefully it helped hearing that at least someone else had the same thing going on. There are a lot of posts about the swallowing problems after surgery, but not alot when one is five or six weeks out. Hopefully, we'll both just keep on improving and it's just that our bodies take a little longer than most to decrease the swelling.

Do you consider your surgery a successs? How's your pain level? I hope other than the swallowing that you are doing great! :)[/QUOTE]

Oh my surgery is most definitely a success. Other then the incision pain/tenderness/swelling I have had no problems. All my pre-op pain was gone when I woke up. I had not realized quite how much loss of sensation I had in my left hand until it was all back. I had told the surgeon my handwriting had not changed prior to surgery because I did not realize it had until I began writing again after surgery. Things I did not even realize were wrong were gone along with all the chest pain, left arm pain, lower back and leg problems and loss of strenght. It was really amazing. I have not been on any pain meds since 5 days post op. What I am dealing with now is far less then I dealt with before. I just wish I could have my Naproxen and motrin. It is all I ever took pre-op and now can't have it.

I will never regret having the surgery. I am 45 and will be able to do the things I want again as long as I am patient and follow the rules for the next few months. It is frustrating having to ask others for help with the lifting and such but I guess I will swollow my pride for a little bit.
We have so much in common it's amazing. My recovery was the same. All my pain, numbness, and muscle spasms were gone when I woke up after surgery. One thing I've noticed after surgery that I'm happy about is that I thought I had a rotator cuff injury prior to surgery. I'd been unable to sleep on my side with my arm above my head for several years. After surgery the pain in my shoulder is gone! I wasn't expecting that at all.

I quit taking my pain meds three days after returning home from the hospital. One of the things that really breaks my heart when I read many of these posts is how much some still suffer with so much pain even after so many surgeries. I wish that I could somehow help! I truly appreciate those that are such good encouragers and offer great support. I think they are truly angels.

Oh, one other thing we have in common is how close we are in age. I am 49 for about 49 more min. :)

Thanks for sharing! I'm happy to hear that you are doing so well. If you don't mind and are able maybe you could keep me informed on how the swelling in your throat continues to go. Best wishes for a most speedy recovery.
I'm 2 1/2 months post op and I still have a scab over the incision and it is very red. I get a funny feeling if I turn my head the wrong way or if I lay in certain positions on the pillow. I never had any pain at the incision. I just have the severe pain at the back of my neck, which surgery did not help at all.
Nicole, was your surgery an anterior approach? Did your doctor have you clean your incision with hydrogen peroxide every day? That's what mine did. Maybe you used something else besides hydrogen peroxide. How long is your incision? When you say it's very red do you mean that you think it is infected or is it just red due to the healing? I'm trying to use a scar cream, but I think I'm sensitive to it and it makes me neck really itch, but I'm trying to use it anyway.

What do you mean when you say it feels funny when you turn your head the wrong way? (Sorry - what does "funny" mean? What is the "wrong" way?)
I'm sorry to hear that you still have severe pain at the back of your neck! What procedure and level was your surgery? Are you still seeing your surgeon? I'm new at these boards and so I don't have a lot of experience like many on here do, but maybe someone will have some good advice for you.
It would be discouraging to have surgery and it not work. Is there any chance that it will continue to get better over time? Two and a half months is still pretty soon after surgery, I think.
I had a posterior approach so I hadn't weighed in on this but I may have a suggestion. My scar is 8 inches long and goes up into my hair. My primary suggested rubbing Vitamin A into the skin everyday. Just get a bottle of the gel type vitamins, stick a pin in one and squeeze out the liquid. It helped to speed the healing, lessens the redness, and softens the scar. I did this with my knee replacement scars too. Really helped with the hair as it came in although it was messy.

As for lumps and discomfort, they move a lot of stuff inside in the anterior approach so you should expect discomfort until everything heals. I was told 2 years for a full recovery with my surgery. Give it some time.

gentle hugs..............Jenny
[QUOTE=Stonepile;3987242]I understand exactly what you are feeling. I had ACDF C5-C7 on April 10th. I have searched all over for information about that swollen lump feeling when you swallow. I am 19 days ahead of you and my incision site is still just slightly tender, however, mine too is still swollen (although it is improving.) It does feel like the swelling is pushing back on the trachea and I wonder if that makes the esophagus push back against the plate put on the front of the spinal column. That's kind of what it feels like. Do you feel like something gets stuck sometimes? To me it seems that the esophagus gets hung up on the top edge of the plate. All of this may not even be physiologically possible, I don't know, but that is what it feels like to me. I have also noticed that air often feels like it gets trapped coming back up and I almost have to push it up to get past the swelling. How about you? Does that sound like what you are experiencing?[/QUOTE]
I am 16 days out from a c5/6 and c6/7 ACDF. My swelling and difficultly of swallowing had completely vanished until 2 wks from my surgery. I went to lunch and visited for 2 hrs. I had no swelling at the beginning, but by the time I left, the complete incision was swollen.
Now, I feel pressure when I bend over, when I'm laying on my side, it hurts to swallow & I have a pain in my right temple.
I'm feeling anxious for the fact I've gone backwards..
I saw my PA at two also. There was no swelling and she said that I could basically go back to what I was doing. Did you have restrictions after 2 wks? Could you lift whatever you wanted? Could you go back to normal activity? Could you drive?
Thanks.
lkberlin - I'm sorry to hear that you are having issues with the swelling in your throat. I wish I had an answer for you that would resolve your anxiety, however, I still am experiencing that same "swollen" feeling. I had my three month check-up a week ago and the NS said that there is really nothing that can be done. He said that others had described it as a "hairball" feeling in the throat. I can definitely relate with that sensation. I have on two ocassions within the last month experienced a severe knife like pain over the area in my throat where my plate would be positioned. This pain was severe enough that I considered going to the emergency department. The second one resulted in pain that went from my neck up the right side of my face (just in front of the ear) all the way to the top of my head. The severe part of the pain lasted about 20 - 30 min. It subsided slowly throughout the evening. When I explained this to my NS his comment was that he had never had anyone that described anything close to what I was telling him. So then I felt like he thought I was a nut case. But I am just so thankful to have my severe pain and numbness gone that I am willing to put up with the swallowing issues, I guess. My thinking is that the swelling and "lump" feeling is probably due to scar tissue formation for which I don't think there is really anything that they can do.

As far as restrictions go, I was told not to lift anything over 5 lbs. for the first three weeks. After that it was 25 lbs. I do feel discomfort if not pain even carrying my laptop in it's case like a purse over my shoulder. My family is still very careful about not letting me carry too much weight. :) I greatly appreciate that.

My NS told me on my three week appointment that I could drive after I quit wearing my soft collar. I walked out of the office and took it off and have been driving ever since.

This sounds relatively negative, but as I told the NS, if I had to make a decision again based on the same pain and symptoms, I would have this surgery again in a heart beat! I know everyone is different, but I can't imagine having to live with the pain (or pain meds) that I was having before the surgery for the rest of my life. I do have tinges of pain if I turn my neck too sharply and too quickly, but I am essentially pain free (and on no pain meds!)

I hope somehow that this helps. At least you know you're not alone. I'd love to know if your "swelling" feeling goes away. I hope for your sake that it does! (Sorry this is so long.)

:wave:
Stonepile
[QUOTE=lkberlin;4054405]I am 16 days out from a c5/6 and c6/7 ACDF. My swelling and difficultly of swallowing had completely vanished until 2 wks from my surgery. I went to lunch and visited for 2 hrs. I had no swelling at the beginning, but by the time I left, the complete incision was swollen.
Now, I feel pressure when I bend over, when I'm laying on my side, it hurts to swallow & I have a pain in my right temple.
I'm feeling anxious for the fact I've gone backwards..
I saw my PA at two also. There was no swelling and she said that I could basically go back to what I was doing. Did you have restrictions after 2 wks? Could you lift whatever you wanted? Could you go back to normal activity? Could you drive?
Thanks.[/QUOTE]

Hi

I could not lift anything over about 8 pounds for 3 months. I remember the first time I had a muscle spasm, I thought my head was going to split open it hurt so bad. That was at about 6 weeks because I lifted more then I should have. Besides teaching me to follow the directions, I started deep muscle massage which helped a great deal to getting the muscles to learn to relax and let go. I was told by my surgeons office that my muscles had been working overtime for so long that they did not realize they could now relax again.

The funny feeling in my throat is there to some degree but not as bothersome as before. I have to be careful with large pills because they tend to get caught up now. All my neck swelling is gone and has been since about 6-8 weeks. I am beginning to wonder if it is just what is supposed to be normal. Prior to surgery I had no curve in my neck, now my spine is to the normal curvature. I wonder if that slight curvature is causing the spine to be closer to the esophagus and thus the different feeling.

Judi
Thanks, Stonepile. I appreciate your response. This is a first for me (posting on a board). Thus, I wasn't sure whether I would a get a response or not!
My swelling has gone done dramatically in the last 2 days. I have realized that laughing causes stress on the cords. So, I'm trying not to laugh! I have also quit smoking, COMPLETELY! B4 the surgery, I smoked a half pk/day, afterwards I had a pack over the first 2wks. And now, I'M DONE! Reading the different posts gave me more info regarding the healing process of the graft, thus I realized what it had to be doing to my incision.
I started PT yesterday and I am very happy with the therapist. He definitely seems to know what he's doing.
If I had known that I would feel as good as I do now...I wish I would've had it 3 yrs ago. All my pain is gone! Very seldom do I have any tingling sensations. It truly is amazing. And I had no idea how these different syptoms were related to the neck. I have rhuematiod arthritis also, thus it was thought at first that my issues were related to RA.
But now, I'm much better!
I didn't mean to write so much either, but oh well. Thank you again.

lkberlin
ACDF c5-c7 07-24-09
[QUOTE=Surgery042909;4055709]Hi

I could not lift anything over about 8 pounds for 3 months. I remember the first time I had a muscle spasm, I thought my head was going to split open it hurt so bad. That was at about 6 weeks because I lifted more then I should have. Besides teaching me to follow the directions, I started deep muscle massage which helped a great deal to getting the muscles to learn to relax and let go. I was told by my surgeons office that my muscles had been working overtime for so long that they did not realize they could now relax again.

The funny feeling in my throat is there to some degree but not as bothersome as before. I have to be careful with large pills because they tend to get caught up now. All my neck swelling is gone and has been since about 6-8 weeks. I am beginning to wonder if it is just what is supposed to be normal. Prior to surgery I had no curve in my neck, now my spine is to the normal curvature. I wonder if that slight curvature is causing the spine to be closer to the esophagus and thus the different feeling.

Judi[/QUOTE]

Hello!
My PT said the same about my muscles. So we're going to retrain mine. I had the deep tissue yesterday for the first time & it was great!
Judi, do you work? If so, when did you go back to work? I have a tendency to over-do and I'm nervous about working part time because I know that as soon as I step back into the ring, there won't be any stopping!
Linda
Yes, I work full-time. I was back to work after 2 1/2 weeks. The first 3 days were shorter 6 hour days and by the end of the week I was back full time.
lkberlin - good call on the smoking. I've read alot about how that can slow down if not prohibit grafting. Best wishes for success!!!

Stonepile





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