Possible MRSA in Spinal Hardware?
I have searched everywhere and have never seen this problem addressed, so perhaps I am wrong, but I believe my husband has been having a reaction to his implanted spine stimulator device and/or spinal hardware for years. He had a work related back injury in 1992 and had a laminectomy 5 months later. One year later he had his first of 3 fusions, which didn't help. Several months later he was referred to a neurosurgeon to investigate the possibility that SCS would help his severe leg pain. After a trial the device was implanted and he received some relief, but not as much as he had hoped. Shortly thereafter he began feeling sick, no appetite, vomiting, extreme fatigue. He was admitted to the hospital for two days and was given a pretty thorough workup including colonscopy, endoscopy and the pulmonary doctor actually went down into his lungs to look around. Everything came back normal. I called the neurosurgeon and asked if these symptoms are something that happens and was told by the doctor's assistant that "she had never heard of it". Within six months of implantation he was down about 50 lbs and wasn't a big guy to begin with so he looked quite emaciated. He was on Fentanyl, Norco, Neurontin plus lots of meds for stomach problems. Everyone assumed that his problems were medication related. The following year he had his second fusion....and within a week was diagnosed with severe MRSA infection. He was readmitted for 3 weeks and his back was reopened and left open and he was on IV antibiotics at home and had a drainage pump working 24 hrs. a day which was supposed to speed healing of the wound from the inside out. It took more than 6 months for it to close which they attributed to "poor nutritional status". Unfortunately after that surgery his stimulator didn't work anymore and he finally went back for a second one. This one was so much better than the first. He not only got good leg pain relief but also some relief in his back. But the stomach problems and extreme fatigue continued and his weight was dangerously low to the point where they were talking about putting in a feeding tube. About two years after implantation, the device began to tear out. He didn't have enough body fat to bury it. He was admitted and put on IV antibiotics, but the device was not removed for 3 days. The surgical report states that there was a considerable amount of infection behind the device, so we thought maybe the infection had pushed it out like an infected splinter. Or was it infected because it was left open for 3 days? Who knows? They left it out for about 6 months and then he had another implanted. Without the stimulator he is unable to walk more than a few feet without severe leg pain. The new device worked even better and he loved it, but the stomach problems continued. Last March it happened again....ripped out. The doctor knew he wanted it back and removed the device but left in the wires since they seemed to be placed properly. Again the report stated that there was considerable "perulant" material behind the device. At this time he is still suffering from extreme fatigue and stomach issues. At one point we were sure he had appendicitis and went to the emergency room. They did a CT scan and found nothing abnormal in his abdomen. It is such a struggle just to find something he can eat. Everyone is concerned about his weight loss and they say "just eat" but it's not that easy. Some days he doesn't have the strength to get out of bed. BTW, his is no longer on narcotics. He's been off for months, so medication related problems have been ruled out. They started talking about removing the fusion hardware because of the MRSA. They explained that sometimes the MRSA can live on the hardware and cause problems. So they removed 30 cc's of fluid from his spine for culture and after 10 days, nothing. No MRSA. So that's not the problem. His pain management doctor said last month that if he doesn't put on some weight and loses any more, his organs could start shutting down. So needless to say, I'm extremely worried. I make him milkshakes with Half & Half, protein power and Ensure and try to give him foods that he likes and still the fatigue and weight loss continue. When he was originally injured he weighed 180 lbs., now he struggles to maintain 130. He has been as low as 120.
I remember years ago he had to have some dental crowns removed because they caused severe lesions in his mouth. But everything I've read about "allergies" to the titanium rods is that it would cause skin rashes which he doesn't have.
He has tried Megace, Testosterone, Marinol, etc., nothing gives him any appetitite. Last week they started him on anabolic steriods. Hopefully this will help. They tried to give him Zyprexa but I can't see putting someone on anti-psychotic meds because it has a weight gain side effect and we refused that.
Sorry this is so long. I am hoping that someone out there has heard of this problem. It just seems peculiar that his nutritional and gastrointestional issues and extreme fatigue all started within a month of the first implant. The problem is that he loves his stimulator and feels that if he doesn't get it back eventually he will be wheelchair bound. But should he? I would love to know if anyone has ever heard of this. He hasn't had the stimulator in for four months now, but the leads are still in place, not to mention a ton of hardware for a 7 level fusion and a knee replacement that was done last year, so he's been living for years with a lot of implanted material in his body.
Any advice? Thanks so much to anyone who took the time to read this whole thing.