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Seroma Explosion
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Seroma Explosion

I had surgery on my back to remove a fairly large (about the size of a tennis ball, non-cancerous) mass between my right should blade and spine. The surgeon said it was even larger than he thought once he got in there, and that is went clear down to my chest cavity. Had to take out a good bit of the muscle and a lot of tissue, leaving about a half-baseball-sized indent where the mass used to be. I am into my 2nd week (13 days) since surgery.

Saw the surgeon after 4 days, and was told all was wel, but that he had removed a ton of stuff, that the "hole" that was left would fill in within 6-8 months, and that I should leave it open, let the steristrips covering the stitches fall off on their own, and see him again in a couple of weeks to remove the stitches and re-check everything. I have not even had it covered for 8 days and experienced no drainage. Until yesterday.

I had noticed about a week ago that a "wall" was building up around the perimeter of the dent left by surgery, but I figured it was just fluid and stuff that was part of the healing process. It just looked weird. However, about that same time, I started really being uncomfortable with pain, low-grade fever. The pain was through my shoulders and into my neck and tops of my arms, but again, I figured it was all part of the healing process. Until yesterday.

The night before last, I looked at my back in a mirror and noted to my wife that the area around the dent was getting quite large, looking a lot like the original mass had in size. Then yesterday, I had an appointment at the hospital for something totally unrelaetd, and as I drove home, it had turned very cold here in Denver, so I turned on our heated seats.

Not a minute later, I experienced a really hot flash across my back and wondered to myself, "What the hell's wrong with this seat -- it is really HOT?!?" only to immediately follow that thought by this one: "Wait, the backs of these seats aren't heated!"

But it was H-O-T, so I reached back there to feel the seat, and when I leaned forward, I could tell that I was SOAKED. Even my outside jacket was completely drenched on the outside, and the car seat was very wet. And then I felt it -- a hot "wall" of liquid going down my back.

Called my wife and told her to meet me in the bathroom of our bedroom when I got home (I was only a minute or so away at that point), and when I started peeling off clothing, my jacket was soaked with this reddish, water-consistency fluid, my shirt was TOTALLY soaked with it -- even my pants had soaked through and my underwear. It had gone clear down to my socks!

I mean, I FREAKED out. I phoned the office of the surgeon, and of course he wasn't available, but I was told he would call back within 45 minutes, but "just in case" he didn't, was given emergency numbers and all that ****. Sure enough, he didn't call, so I called the emergency number.

To cut to the chase, another doctor -- an orthopaedic surgeon -- called me back to see what was going on. He proceeded to tell me it sounded like I had developed a SEROMA, and that I should probably go to the ER (it was now early evening) to let them check it out, as often when seromas develop from this type of surgery, they indicate infection. When I asked what all they might do, especially if it was infected, it sounded like an all-night-in-ER deal -- something I was not at all up for.

(By the way, my surgeon still has not called as I type this -- but then, it's only been 14 hours ... don't want to interrupt his dinner or TV or sleep or breakfast or anything like that just because I've lost a gallon or so of a red, yellowish, smelly fluid from an incision he made on my back, right?)

-- ANYHOW --

Before I go off on a cynical and sarcastic rant, and without trying to justify myself about the following because it is not the point of this post, I eventually chose to NOT go to the ER. After about 3 hours, the draining had stopped and the redness significantly subsided, so I figured it could wait overnight, and I could see my surgeon this morning in clinic. I REALLY want to see my surgeon.

But during the night, I turned over in bed, only to be awakened from a very shallow sleep by that same feeling, i.e., that I was being soaked in wet, hot fluid. I was. So after another round of changes and cleaning up, I chose to not lie down any more, but instead to wait out the night till I can see this guy about what might be going on.

The surgeon on call who actually did phone me explained to me what a seroma is, why it sometimes develops, what can be done about it, etc., so that is NOT why I am  posting.

The reason I am posting is to ask: Has anyone else ever gone through anything like this under similar circumstancess? If so, what did you do? What was the final outcome? Did the seroma become infected? Did they have to re-open the wound? Did they have to place a drain? etc.

I will be heading over there in about an hour, but will check to see if there are any responses before I leave and then again when I get home, which will be early this afternoon (I have another appointment while I am there for something unrelated.)

Folks, I will probably not respond to most posts, as I also am disabled, with severe RA, Chron's Disease, and a few other goodies, and have troubled doing things like typing. But obviously I can if I am motivated (as I am with this post!) or if you directly ask me to. If you do ask, I promise a reply.

Thanks very much.

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Thanks for your post - it helps to know I'm not the only one to develop a seroma...I had a similar surgery to remove a tennis ball-size lipoma on my back, and about 2 weeks later (day 15 was yesterday), the surgery site started swelling and getting very painful.  I went back to my surgeon and he said nonchalantly that it was a seroma, explained what it is, and said it'll go away on it own in a few weeks, but if it was bothering me he could drain it with by sticking it with a needle but that comes with a risk of infection.  I decided not to do the needle.  He also said that the fluid may seep out on it's own and if that happens, just keep it cleaned up - sounds like that's what happened to you except instead of seeping, yours burst!!

Anyway, what was the final outcome of your seroma episode?  Hopefully, you've recovered fully with no other complications?

Thanks for any feedback.
so ehat was your outcome did you EVER get to see the surgen
Wow, you must not get freaked out easily.    Hope you are okay.
Sorry for the long delay in replying. I did not even know I have responses -- for some reason, I was not notified, even though I checked the box that said to let me know when anyone posts. Oh, well ...

To make a (very) long story a little shorter. I am OK -- now. What turned out to be a massive infection took several weeks to finally drain itself out and start to heal -- AFTER the surgeon cut about a quarter-sized hole in my skin to let it drain. I was left with about a 5-inch scar and the "hole" where they took everything out -- and which the surgeon assured me would "fill itself in" in no more than 6 months -- is still there, no bigger or smaller than it was back when this all started. It also still hurts, sometimes clear into the bones of my shoulder blade. Another specialist I see said it may never go away, as the surgeon cut out so much that he no doubt also cut through a lot of nerve.

Other than that, it's OK! Hurts some and looks weird as hell, but then, so does the rest of me, so hey -- life goes on.

Thanks for checking on me! I am very flattered.
I'm pretty new on this posting stuff .. but I had to write you and let you know same thing happend to me, I had surgery to relieve pressure on my lower back L4L5S1, I did very well went home next day and recoved pretty nicely except there has been some nerve damage to my left foot and this caused me to fall, well my surgery was 12/29/08 and  NO LEG PAIN However, 4 weeks ago I had draining from my scar and it became real swollen I thought I was going to explode and it hurt bad, I went to my surgen and his PA said it was seroma and it was normal, well to me it dont make sence, I told them I had no fever or anything to detect a infection and again they said my body will absorb the fliud, WELL I went to work and was in some pain due to pressure and of course  I felt uncomfortable aswell, SO when I left for lunch I was driving and BAM I feel the wetness like you, It was bad I soaked my jeans and carseat it was large amount of fluid, thing is it was clear and I did feel some relieved but, I felt scared and I did freak out because of the amount that had came out of me, Well after a trip to the hospital and a culture later I'm not looking at a infection, but I have spassuims due to the needle he put in me, and it swelled again, I too need to know whats going on and want this to be gone and I have no idea what eals can be done, I try moist heat and ice and lots of rest, I read these posts and I have a feeling this will be with me for a while.. I feel for you and hope it works out for us both, I was recovering nice and it seems like I'm worse off now because of this fluid buildup,and painfull spassiums to add insult to injury, when does it end?? LOL I would love to know more about soultions and any ideas others may have.... I wish you much luck and appericate your post I felt like I was alone....
Welcome to the Back and Neck Community.  Members are here to provide assistance and support to individuals experiencing symptoms of possible abnormal conditions of the cervical and/or lumbar spine.  Advice given is non-professional and is primarily based on personal experiences.  Please post on the Expert Forum if additional medical advice is needed and one of the medical doctors will assist as appropriate.

I am sorry to hear of your current problems.  Congratulations on the success of your lumbar surgery.  It must feel rewarding to no longer have leg pain.
A seroma is an unfortunate result of surgery when either tissue is removed or a foreign body is implanted during the surgery.  In your case, it would probably be due to the manipulation of bone at the surgical site, implantation of cadaver bone and the hardware used to stabilize the fusion.
A seroma is a collection of fluid under the skin which occurs when serum accumulates as a result of inflammation and the action of the body's defense mechanisms to reduce that inflammation.  Usually the seroma is reabsorbed without major problems over a period of time.  
Sometimes they do require draining to allow the fluid to escape.  Yours simply "exploded" as it grew in size and penetrated your skin barrier.  The seroma can reaccumulate and this needs to be addressed by your surgeon at your next exam..
Hopefully, the most recent swelling you noted is just a smaller version of the prior seroma and your body will reabsorb it without difficulty.
You need to be aware of signs and symptoms of potential infection while you are healing as this can lead to further problems.  If you notice redness or increased irritation or you develop a fever, please contact your doctor immediately so he can evaluate the situation and possibly start you on antibiotic therapy.
The spasms you are experiencing will hopefully decrease over time and should not be a long lasting effect of your condition.  Follow up with your surgeon as needed.
Best wishes -----
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