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    Old 07-08-2006, 10:17 PM   #1
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    Botched cervical epidural

    On 4/13 I had a cervical epidural to relieve pain I'm having with a bone spur in my C5-C6 area. The epidural was done with the x-ray floroscopy. I was anesthesized. During the procedure I felt an electric shock go through the whole right side of my body--from arm to leg. It was so shocking I woke up.

    Afterwards in the recovery room, I woke up with terrible pain in right arm. Doc said it was all in my head, while turning her finger at her temple. After moaning and groaning, she gave me vicoden for pain and sent me home. To make a long story short, I was in absolute pain and couldn't sleep in my bed, walk very well, or use my right hand for 6 weeks. I was supposed to be off work for 2 days, but wound up being off for 6 weeks.

    I'm still having problems with my right side. I can't stand too long, I am in constant pain, and the numbness in both arm and leg is terrible. I am taking Lyrica and Percocet for the pain.

    My neurosurgeon who says I need surgery (fusion and bone spur removal), but could wait a couple of years until a replacement disc becomes available. I asked him if he could explain what happened during the epidural, and he said that probably the needle touched and bruised my spinal cord and caused damage to a nerve. (He didn't perform the procedure, an anesthesologist for pain management did it.) My neurosurgeon said that if the nerve heals, it could take up to 2 years. I had another MRI done, and compared to the one I had done in April, it shows that there is some damage in the area of the epidural.

    Have any of you ever had an experience like this? The doc who did the procedure is surprised that I didn't bounce right back, said she has never had any problems during all of the procedures she's done over the years. Well, we know what can happen during routine procedures. And if I wasn't upset enough at her for saying it was all in my head, I now have Lhermitte's, which means when I bend my neck forwrad, I get electric shocks going all down my body, from head to toe. I didn't have this problem before the procedure. And if I wasn't upset enough, I received in the mail today a bill for the co-pay. Need I say angry?

    If any of you has had any kind of experience like this, can you please share your story with me. I just want to know if I'm going to get better.

    Thanks, Donna

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    Old 07-09-2006, 11:15 AM   #2
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    I had a similar experience during one of my procedures - the "lightning bolt down the side" feeling. It was shocking in more ways than one, as I'd had the same procedure about 18 months earlier with no problems.

    I was laying there, half-dozing, barely aware of anything or anyone around me, and suddenly felt this amazing jolt down my entire right side. It hurt like heck and I shouted something like, "What the $#&*)@& was that?" and everyone was trying to calm me down. Then it happened again and I said more bad words and they hustled me out to recovery.

    I attributed my experience to not enough medication, as I should have been completely 'out' during the procedure and definitely was not. The first time I'd had this done, I conked out in the room before the shot and woke up in recovery.

    When I asked my doctor (not the PM doc who gave me the shot) about that experience, he said it was an indication that the nerves were extremely inflamed. Something in the injection (I can't remember what) is actually an irritant and can have that temporary (thank goodness) 'fire' effect when it first touches the inflamed surfaces. He expressed no surprise at my story. I'm not a doctor, of course, but it sounded plausible to me. The needle should never, ever actually touch your spinal cord.

    That particular injection experience actually made my pain worse. However, believe it or not, I went back for yet another injection, my third, about six weeks after that, although to a different PM doctor. That one went very well; i.e., I was knocked out and didn't feel a thing during the procedure and had some relief afterwards.

    To my knowledge, I did not have any long-lasting effect from the 'bad' episode. However, I had surgery not too long after the third injection, so it's hard to say.

    I don't know why you'd want to 'wait a couple of years' for surgery if you are in so much pain right now. There will always be something new on the horizon - artificial discs, dissolving discs, and who knows what else that we can't even imagine right now. Or maybe you can find another surgeon who is doing clinical trials on one of the artificial discs, though there is always the possibility that you would not be a suitable candidate.

    I'm not sure what you meant when you said that the new MRI showed "some damage in the area of the epidural". If you think the injection did actual, physical damage, I'd definitely be looking for a new doctor and maybe a lawyer, too. Besides, a doctor who tells you that "the pain is in your head" and acts like you are crazy doesn't sound like someone who has your best interests in mind anyway.

    Hope you get some relief and are feeling better soon.

    Old 07-09-2006, 11:35 AM   #3
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    Hi Donna,

    I'm so sorry this happened to you. I know there are risks with any of these procedures. I was terrified before my ESI's - no so much b/c of the procedure itself, but b/c it's a scary territory.

    Unrelated to anything like you & I are discussing here, - my younger sister developed a cerebral spinal fluid leak last year from a spinal tap (from E.R. doc) ruling out menengitis and she was very ill/violent vomiting when she'd raise her head etc./ until they did a blood patch to correct it - and even then the headaches and vomiting were sporatic for a month. Plus, my father had a fusion go bad when a screw broke post-operatively, so just the whole nature of dealing with the spine frightened me.

    My ESI's were also done by an anesthesiologist, in his office, under fluoroscopy, with only local numbing. He had difficulty getting in b/c of the spurring, but it was worth the opportunity for improvement. The muscle relaxants made me too sleepy to take during the day, so I could only take them at night.

    One of mine (my last one) shot an immediate pain up the back of my head and down my shoulder blade --- On the "good side" - the side that wasn't hurting and that did frighten me and lessened my confidence - but was told there are so many fine nerves (which are obviously inflammed to begin with) that these things can happen. I would have been angry if I was told it was all in my head - that's for sure.

    Before starting treatments I had to really psych myself out to be strong and not let tears or frustrations show because I know sometimes our understandable emotions (from pain and frustration) are interpreted by the docs as "drama" which can make them take the patient less seriously.

    Again, I'm so sorry you weren't taken seriously. I hope things start showing noticeable improvement for you soon, and hope you receive compassion from here on out.

    I recently read something by a neurosurgeon about how we have other joints replaced when they wear out, not fused. (We don't fuse hips or knees, etc.) So why fuse our spines? She stated that with the spine there are so many joints that fusion doesn't limit us the way fusing a limb would.... plus, her personal take on it was she never uses first-generation ideas in her patients. She wants to wait for any bugs to be worked out and more long term studies before recommending trying the replacements. It may be the way to go in the future though. I guess time will tell.

    If I had the experience like you did, I'd do like ember919 and try a different doc next time.

    Old 07-09-2006, 03:31 PM   #4
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    Hi! I'm sorry it turned out like it did for you. I just had the nerve block this past wenesday and it was not good at all. I too had the shock feeling but i did'nt know what to expect anyway so I did'nt know it was'nt suppose to be that way. My pain has increased alot. I'm in twice as much pain as before. I thought my pain scale was running about a 7 untill now. This makes the other pain seem like a 4 or so. I will never have another nerve block. I hope you get better!!! Texascritter

    Old 07-09-2006, 04:43 PM   #5
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    Tex Critter, is your pain from the epidural? My pain is on my right side, where I felt the shock during the procedure. Prior to that, I only had pain on my left side. Now I have pain in both sides, but each side has a different type of pain.

    Please find out what happened to cause your pain to increase. Maybe something happened during the procedure, just like me. Find out what happened. Although I haven't figured out exactly what happened during the procedure, I know the pain I'm feeling is not in my head, as the doc suggested, and I keep pushing for an answer.

    Best of health to you, Donna

    Old 07-09-2006, 06:54 PM   #6
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    Thanks everyone for the replies. I wrote a response earlier, but it seems it didn't take, so I'll try agian.

    Ember, I don't have my MRI report in front of me, but I had one done in April prior to the procedure, and I had another one done two weeks ago. The latest report states that there is an area on the MRI in the C5-C6 area that shows something that wasn't there in April. When I asked my neurosurgeon about it, he said it is probably bruising from the needle during the epidural. When I asked him how that could have happened, he said that because of the bone spur compressing on my spinal cord (now 8.1), there wasn't much room for the needle, so it probably just touched my spinal cord. But he wants me to go to a neurologist, who can conduct more specific tests.

    I won't have the surgery until I get a second opinion. I work for a hospital, and all of the doctors I've seen (3 of them) have privileges at the hospital, so I want to go outside of the network for the second opinion.

    I'm worried about whether I will get better. One of the doctors said he thought I was 75-80% better than when it happened. I told him I was about 50% better, that I can't stand for long periods, can't drive long distances because of the numbness/pain in my right leg, and can't feel the heel on my right foot so I can't wear sandals. I work all day at a computer, and go home and recuperate at night. I know there are more people who have worse problems, so I can't really complain, but I am definitely frustrated by the whole experience, and the anesthesologist who hasn't followed up with me to see how I'm doing, hasn't offered to pay my additional medical bills, and should have contacted her billing department to tell them not to send me the bill for the co-pay.

    It's been 3 months, and I feel like I'm not going to get any better, and that's scary.

    Thanks for listening, Donna

    Old 07-10-2006, 07:16 AM   #7
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural


    I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner. I have been away.

    The symptoms you describe are not normal. There can be some pain and shock initially when the injection is done, but it should subside quickly. I don't want to scare you, but I would be concerned if the needle got close to the spinal cord as you say your surgeon told you. It's possible that this nerve was highly agravated, but it is also possible that the needle went where it wasn't suposed to.

    I would advise you to go back to your GP (referring doctor), and ask him to allow you to get a second opinion, particularly if you are still experiencing pain. Explain the proceedure and results in detail to the second doc.


    Old 07-10-2006, 09:44 AM   #8
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    Re: Botched cervical epidural

    Sorry you've had to go through so much, epidurals are supposed to be relatively risk free and, if things get aggravated it's only transiently.

    It's important for you to try to find out what type of epidural was done. There's an approach called 'transforaminal' which is considered very high risk because it goes so near the nerve root. There have been a lot of problems with this and many pain surgeons no longer do this approach because of the increased risk. Also, the reason you are sedated but not in a deep sleep is so that if you do experience excrutiating pain (usually there's only some minor discomfort from this block), the anesthesiologist or whoever is doing the block has a warning from your response that they are close to the nerve and stop injecting. Seems to have been ignored in your case.

    Don't be afraid to follow this up aggressively - not only for you personal needs but also to make sure that no one else has to go through the misery you're going through.

    Hang in there,

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