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Post Surgery Spinal Headaches
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Post Surgery Spinal Headaches


  I had an L4 to S1 spinal fusion on Jan 22nd (today is the 28th of March), after being released from the hospital I developed severe spinal headaches (intense pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting) which resulted in my being readmitted for seven days of bed rest.  The bedrest reduced the severity of the headaches, but they still occur eight weeks after the procedure.  Also, I have profound swelling in my lower back at the incision site.  My doctor said he probably nicked the dura sac during the procedure and the leaking CSF is causing the headaches and swelling. He didn't want to try any invasive procedure at that time to stop the leak.  My question is, can the dura sac be expected to heal on its own after eight weeks and what is a normal time frame for these headaches to go away?  Also, can any type of permanent damage occur to the brain with a prolonged CSF leak?
  Thank you for any assistance you can provide.
  Bob
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Dear Bob:
Spinal leaks during such operations can be encountered and are usually self-limiting. However in some cases such as yours they may not heal properly and the evidence to that effect is the fact that you have a fluid collection in your lower back. Typically these are treated by admitting a patient to the hospital and placing a draining tube in the spinal sac for about five days following which the tube is removed and the sac is healed.
In rarer instances this does not heal and requires another operation to find where the tear in the dura is and repairing it by suturing it. The risk of permanent damage to the brain is small but if fluid leaks through the skin there is a great risk of developing meningitis. I think that if this problem has not healed within this time span, something should be done to correct it.
I hope this information helps.
Good Luck!





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