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@jayjew69

I had this surgery (C4-C5 neck fusion) on the 23 of June and was released the following day . Sent home with a neck brace and that's about it , Mayo clinic is not involved in the surgery l. The next 2 days my throat gets worse and I start to loose the ability to swallow food . I called the surgeon and spoke with the PA and she put me on a steroid pack . 5 days later the steroid seemed to have got me to level , no better no worse . The steroid ended on a Thursday and by Saturday I was unable to swallow any food . My wife drove me to the emergency room of a different health provider and when they found out I was a recent surgical patient they told me they couldn't do anything as it's been within 60 days of surgery . They did however airlift me to the hospital where surgery was preformed . Apon arrival I was rushed into emergency surgery to explore . The surgeon took 2 cultures and said it was from swelling. The next 8 days in the hospital almost killed me . No food , no intake of any kind . Finally they put a feeding tube in and by then I had list 22 lbs . The cultures came back on a Thursday and it was determined that it was a bad infection and I would go home with a pic-line and the feeding tube. It's July 20th and I'm home . I am now chocking up the pill antibiotics and am still loosing weight. I need help or advice asap .

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Replies to "I had this surgery (C4-C5 neck fusion) on the 23 of June and was released the..."

Hello @jayjew69 and welcome to Connect. You had quite an ordeal and I hope things are getting better. I am a Mayo patient and had a C5/C6 fusion without complications. If I understand correctly, you have a feeding tube direct into your stomach so nothing goes down your throat and you have a pic line for IV administration of antibiotics? Do you also have a visiting nurse helping with your care? Did they tell you nothing by mouth for now?

I know this is a difficult situation for you, but it can get better. I understand your surgery because I also had the procedure, and in addition to that a few years ago, I also cared for my dad and fed him through a feeding tube. He had a head injury in his 60's and his ability to swallow was compromised, but with physical therapy, he regained the ability to swallow. Years later, as he became elderly, he had more problems swallowing and the feeding tube was placed into his body again. I think he may have had the tube the first time for a month or two on his release from the hospital from the head injury. The site around the tube on the skin needs to be cleaned daily because that also can be a source of infection into the stomach. I think you might also be describing grinding up antibiotic pills so they can be dispensed into the stomach tube and flushed through with a syringe.

The best thing you can do right now is take care of yourself and get the infection cleared and keep getting stronger. Recovering from your surgery is exhausting by itself, and adding recovery from an infection onto that must be a real challenge. I had a chest infection 5 days after my spine surgery and was placed on antibiotics. My throat hurt and it was difficult to swallow for a few weeks just because of the surgical path recovery. For me all of that resolved and I worked with a physical therapist to help stretch out the scar tissue after 3 months of recovery. When you do get to the stage of being able to swallow again, it might help to work with a physical therapist who does myofascial release. That stretches out the scar tissues and fascia scar tissue that will make your throat tight. With the incision on the front of the neck right near your swallowing apparatus, having tightness there interferes. There is a bone called the hyoid that sits across the throat which has to move on swallowing. Right now because your incision is healing it would be too early to try stretching your neck. I remember being frustrated by that too because I had pain into my shoulders and chest because I also have thoracic outlet syndrome which causes tightness and compression of nerves that pass through the chest on the way to the arms. Since I had breathing issues (also partly caused by TOS) where one side of my chest didn't expand properly, my PT was allowed to work on that at 6 weeks pos-top with clear instructions not touch my neck. It was after the fusion process started at 3 months that my neck was stable enough for physical therapy, and that is when things started getting better. I had been in a neck brace for 3 months and my neck muscles were weak and I had a hard time even turning my head. That was the time I was weaning out of the neck brace which was exhausting. I should also add that I had a fusion without hardware, so I chose and agreed to stay in a neck brace around the clock until the fusion process began.

Here is the discussion on myofacial release which has lots of links to information in the first pages.
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/myofascial-release-therapy-mfr-for-treating-compression-and-pain/
Do you have a follow up with your doctor about this? I know it is hard to maintain weight if all your food is liquid and comes from a can. Are you working with a nutritionist on that to make sure you are getting enough calories and protein needed for your healing? Have they prescribed something specific for you to use? One thing I can tell you is not to lay down while your stomach is full to avoid having the contents come back up and choking on it. My dad had issues with that, and the risk is aspiration of the stomach contents into the lungs. He had to sit up for at least an hour after completing the liquid meal. There were times he started coughing up his liquid meal and I had to open the stomach tube and drain it so he wouldn't aspirate on it. His swallowing issues originated from the brain injury years earlier. Did your doctor give you similar advice about sitting up and timing of liquid meals?

I will look forward to your progress and I believe you will get back to taking food by mouth again as well as recover from the spine surgery. It is a long process and you need a lot of patience, so direct your good energy toward healing. Patients have a lot of power in that if you believe in what you are doing as a plan to aid your healing. If there is anything you are able to do that helps you be happier, do that because it will help in your healing. I watched a lot of DVDs and slept a lot when I was recovering. Give yourself time for that.
We also have an Art for Healing discussion you might enjoy and you'll find a story about my spine surgery at the beginning. We also have a music discussion.
You can find them at these links:
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/art-for-healing/?pg=1#chv4-comment-stream-header
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/music-helps-me/?pg=30#comment-609069
I will be here to cheer you on and I will help as best I can. Would you check back in from time to time and let me know how you are doing?

Hello @jayjew69. I'd like to welcome you, along with @jenniferhunter, to Mayo Clinic Connect. I see that Jennifer was able to offer you some information that you may find helpful.

You will notice, that I have since moved your post into an existing discussion on this same topic to allow you review previous comments as well as to better connect with members in the Spine Group as well.

Members like @artscaping @grandmar and @bernese53 who have been involved in this discussion in the past and may be able to provide you with some additional experiences that could be of help.

As of today, can you share where you are at with your infection?

@jayjew69
Hello!
I had surgery on C5/6 in February of 2018.
I did not have a fusion but disk replacements.
The surgery went well and it was done as an out-patient.
I noticed my throat started to itch and swell (but not like you).
It was actually the thing that hangs down the back of your throat (sorry I can't remember what it is called).
I think I might have been allergic to something they used.
I was still able to swallow and the swelling went down in a few days.

I wish I could give you advice other than to take care of yourself and accept any help you can get.

Wishing you a speedy recover!
GRANDMAr (Ronnie)

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