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How long should surgical site ooze liquid?

I am asking for my sister-in-law who had back surgery (single level fusion) 4 months ago and whose surgical site has not healed. I have had 4 back surgeries and all surgical sites healed in weeks, but hers continues to ooze a clear to amber liquid 4 months following the successful surgery.

She has gone back to the surgeon, and her PCP several times, and they put her on anti-biotics thinking there was possibly an infection, but now say it could be just a suture that is "tearing" at tissue inside, causing inflammation, resulting in the failure of the wound to close.

They say it's not harmful, though to keep the spot from which the liquid comes covered (it sometimes soaks her clothes or bed sheets) as it could become infected and need attention.

The site is painful, and an inconvenience, and I personally think it should be medically attended to as 4 months seems far too long to have to put up with this effect, and beside, it hurts, sometimes puffing up and becoming very tender.

It has changed her life in that she doesn't want to be caught out of the house when a major emission occurs, possibly wetting her garments and embarrassing her, not to mention the discomfort of sitting against a chair/car seat because the area is sore.

The area does not "look" like an open sore-just a place in the 99% healed incision where the fluid leaks out.

They have done several X-Rays and say the surgery/hardware was effective and still in place, and a recent MRI showed no tumor or "gross abnormality," and that it should heal in time.

What can SHE do, or how can she prod her health care physicians to do something active to stop it?

Note: She is taking Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia, which has been "controlled" completely for about 3 years. I mention this in case it bears on the situation.

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15695260 tn?1549593113
Hello and welcome to the forum. We apologize for delay in answering but wanted to follow up with how  your sister in law is doing now.  Are things better? I would agree that this seems too long for a surgical wound to take to heal.  While complete closure of the dermis may take up to a year, the oozing sounds a bit more than what you'd expect.  Perhaps this article will help as it goes through the stages of healing. Your sister in law seems stalled in the early stages and I'd want her doctor to explain why.   https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/surgical-incision-healing.  Again, let us know how she is doing now.  Best of health to you both.
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Avatar universal
Hi, and than-you for your post.

As a  matter of fact, after 5+ months of pain and oozing, along with new pain she has been having down both legs (down a different side than that which prompted the fusion initially), we FINALLY bugged her enough to go back to the surgeon that did the procedure with a "demand" that he do SOMETHING. The unrelenting site pain,  and oozing, the new pains, and the fact she was going through several clothing changes per day even with sanitary napkins over the "ooze" were soaking through, and her inclination became to not even leave the house (the oozing/leakage soaked clothing, furniture, car seats were at best inconvenient) made it imperative.

She had been going back to the surgeon regularly (every 2 weeks or so), but he kept telling her that it was not abnormal, that it could take up to a year to stop draining, and that her NEW pains were "healing pains" indicating the nerves were mending after having been impinged upon for years prior to her surgery, and that such "healing pains" could also continue for a year, but that explanation had worn VERY thin in view of her misery and the life change the surgery brought about (which it was supposed to end, actually).

Long story short, they scheduled her for a surgery to open up the area for a "look-see" and they found a rather LARGE and growing infection in progress which had already invaded the hardware placed during the surgery, and the new pains down the legs was the infection affecting the nerves, and not "healing pain.' The doctor was alarmed enough to immediately call in an infectious disease specialist fearing that if the infection invaded the spinal cavity it could be bad ("bad" being undefined, but I understand it meant VERY bad).

They cleaned out what they could of the infected tissue that had been growing since  her March surgery (nearly 6 months), and put her on IV infusions of a very strong antibiotic, and are planning to keep her on the IV for some time. At this time the culture identifying the specific bacteria has not been completed, and no one is "talking" much.

It has been about 4 days since her new surgery, and she reports that the new leg pains have abated, and that despite the new surgery, her site pain is much reduced (the site pain from the original fusion surgery had never really abated much since the March surgery).

So this is positive news assuming they were successful removing the infected tissue (and huge pus pocket a concerned surgical nurse mentioned confidentially), and the high-dose antibiotics she is receiving work. We are more than a little miffed that it took almost 6 months for the surgeon (and her primary care doc whom she had also been seeing regularly) to take her condition seriously. It was not like she had nor pursued very frequent visits to both, each accompanied by her son as her advocate (since she is 80+ and while a "young" 80, tends not to want to know details).  

A neighbor of ours actually died from complications about 5 years ago from complications of  of an infection following lumbar surgery when he (the patient) refused to take his signs of trouble seriously, and the problem grew to where they never could conquer the infection totally. He lost considerable soft tissue, bone, and was materially weakened to where he lasted only 2 years following the surgery despite having been a strong individual prior to he surgery. In HIS case, it was frankly his own fault (except for the initial infection) for not following instructions, for not taking his situation seriously, and not following medical advice after the problem was identified. This is why we tried to be pro-active (i.e., a "pain in the ass") in urging my sister-in-law to keep following up, and to not accept excuses that could result in delays which could have her end up like our neighbor.

I must say is has been very, very frustrating to have her medical doctors take the whole situation so lightly despite her continuing protestations, despite the outstanding credentials and glowing reviews of the surgeon concerned, but hopefully they caught it in time. Given the isolated location of her infection, and the limited blood-flow in the area of the infection, it did not go "systemic", but of course that also meant the oral antibiotics they gave her a course of was ineffective, and could in fact challenge even the IV treatment of the infection going forward, but at least they are "on it" now, and have the infection disease specialist working on her as well.

Given that no one responded to my question here for several weeks, I guess this is rare and relatively unknown, but I am glad that FINALLY she seems to be receiving the care she should have (in my opinion at least) received much, much earlier. Thank-you again for your response.

Bob
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1 Comments
I’m so thankful you pressed the situation for your in law. I had different complications after my fusion and wasn’t taken seriously. I had to get an attorney to take care of it for me 8months down the road. Mind you this was a doctor I knew professionally that worked in the OR for the hospital I worked for for a decade. I wasn’t taken seriously. I hope everything turns out well and that she doesn’t suffer too much as a result of the fusion.
Infections are serious as you know and I’m sorry but that’s not normal drainage for a fusion.....especially with worse PAIN at the site and NEW pain down her leg. Might want to get another Neurosurgeon involved in her care so something isn’t missed this time.    
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