I'm posting in the hopes that I can help someone else who is going through this. We believe that my husband contracted a spinal infection after receiving an epidural spinal injection for leg pain. He had a laminectomy for spinal stenosis on the right side back in March of 2010. He initially had some left leg pain after the surgery which somewhat subsided. He went for an injection to try to eradicate the leg pain on April 29th. It seemed to work but 2 weeks later he started having back pain which he didn't have before. He also got a headache which wouldn't go away. We started stretching and doing exercises but it just kept getting worse. One night he collapsed and couldn't move until muscle relaxers and pain meds kicked in.
We went to the Dr. as soon as we could get an appt ( 3 days later) and he thought it was muscle spasms and gave him more pain meds and muscle relaxers and asked that we see a chiropractor that might be able to help. A week later the pain was so bad for 3 straight days (and a holiday weekend) that we went to the ER. I had done a lot of research and suspected spinal infection. I wrote them a timeline of events before we went and even wrote down the fact that I thought he had an infection. They wouldn't read the timeline and acted like we were oxycodone addicts... gave him a shot, took xrays, and sent us home.
At this point, I was very concerned. He didn't have a fever... but my husband doesn't tend to run fevers and it's not uncommon for a fever not to be present. We tried a trip to the chiropractor. It was so painful that they couldn't do anything at all. Terry couldn't lay on the table or sit or stand without pain! I went to the Dr's office the next day with my timeline and spoke to the nurse to try to get someone's attention that this was a serious issue. They ordered an MRI that night (what an ordeal getting him there and going through that)... the next day we finally received a call from the doctor and he indicated that he saw fluid build up pressing on the spine. I asked if it could be puss and he said that it could be. He admitted him to the hospital that night and they next day he performed surgery.
Sure enough... it was a spinal infection which attacked his disk (discitis) between the L4 and L5. The disc was completely liquefied. He cleaned everything out and closed him up. We are now post surgery for 7 days and he's still in a lot of pain. He's got a lot of left leg nerve pain. He'll be on intravenous antibiotics for at least 8 weaks. He's taking 3 different kinds. They haven't been very successful with the cultures but one indicated that it was an anaerobic organism which wouldn't be typical staff or strep type infection.
I encourage people to think twice before going for an epidural injection. If you have any concerns about the place giving you one... run away. I would encourage stretching and muscle building... anything to avoid surgery or an injection.
I would also encourage people to do research on their own. These forums are great places to gather information and I was able to determine that he had an infection based on his symptoms and the information that I found on the internet. I don't think that doctors have the time to really listen to patients these days and they get so used to the "normal" scenario that when something unique shows up they aren't ready for it. Infection is dangerous and it could have started attacking other parts of his spine or brain! Scary Scary stuff.... we are still not out of the woods. We are hoping that the medication is working but the pain is still so bad that we don't know for sure.
They are hoping that his spine will fuse on it's own. If it doesn't or the leg pain doesn't subside, he may need another surgery. They wouldn't be able to do that until he's healthy again. I imagine they wouldn't want to do it until next year.
The following user gives a hug of support to clipford: NikkiBK (01-21-2011)
Re: Spinal Infection after epidural spinal injection
Just a follow up to my previous post as we had another ordeal to go through after the infection was found. My husband started deteriorating after being home for about a week after they performed surgery and found and cleaned the infection. The pain was much like the first time. It was excruciating and he could no longer walk and was running a slight fever. We went to the ER on the 14th of June and found out that an abscess had formed. To make a long story short, my husband spent another 12 days in the hospital and had to endure a 3rd surgery performed on June 23rd due to fear that the infection might get into the bone.
We aren't sure why the wound was closed in the first place. It seems that leaving it open would have been the wise decision and would have precluded the abscess from forming. We are now packing/unpacking the wound twice a day and we are celebrating him being home for 10 days.
He has to use a walker now and was very week after the hospital stay. His skin was just hanging off of the bone and his muscle tone was completely gone. We are exercising now using exercise bands while he lies in bed and we are stretching frequently. He has leg spasms and it appears that he has some nerve damage or something that is causing muscle twitches in his arms and legs. We hope that these go away but we won't know until we know, I guess.
The good news is that the 3rd surgery seemed to deal with the nerve pain that he was having in his left leg. The doctor mentioned that he removed scar tissue and debris (?) from the area.
We are glad that he is alive and happy for every day that he is home from the hospital. Recovery is going to take some time and we still have to wait for the bones to fuse. We are hoping that will happen without additional surgery.
We also found out that the organism that caused the infection was anaerobic in nature. That means that it's not oxygen born and normally lives in your body or in deep soil. We aren't sure where he got it. It could have been present in his body and the surgery just made it rear it's ugly head. We aren't sure.
This has been an eye opening experience for us. Anyone who is considering surgery should be aware of these types of risks. You should also make sure that you ask questions and keep an eye on what the doctors and nurses are doing at all times, if you are in the hospital.
We lived through several mistakes from misdiagnosis, to MRIs taken of the wrong part of the body to my husbands PICC line being left completely open when we left the hospital!
Re: Spinal Infection after epidural spinal injection
If you think there may be an infection, take your father to a doctor and request some tests. MRSA is one of the most common infections one picks up while in hospital, but there are other less common ones, too.