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Staph infection following spine fusion for severe kyphosis

Started by Cole19966 on 03/25/2011 2:44pm

My son had his spine fused from waist to base of neck on August 30, 2010. It took his incision 3 to 4 months to close. We were told he just had very sensitive skin and was allergic to all sutures, bandages, tape, etc. Finally after totally closing with a scar that is about 2 inches wide in diameter, he developed an abscess on his tailbone area. He was treated with antibiotics and it was lanced and packed for 5 days straight. It healed fine and when we went to our checkup in late Jan. 2011, xrays were taken and his bottom two screws had come out causing about a 10 degree loss in straightening of his back and an inch in height. I failed to mention earlier he had severe kyphosis (hunch back) 100 degree curve forward. Without surgery he would be paralyzed or dead by age 40 from suffocation of growing forward and putting pressure on his heart and lungs. He gained almost 4 inches in height and seemed like a miraculous success.......until after screws came out and he developed another abscess at base of his scar. Doctor told us it was same infection from the initial tailbone abscess and it will keep coming back until we take out the hardware. He said hardware is totally infected and we are just going to have to fight this with antibiotics orally until spine is fused totally and can stand alone without hardware. We are now on 3rd round of antibiotics. as soon as we finish the 10 day treatment of two 800 milligram bactrim pills it comes back. It oozes and weeps constantly. Very nasty. Culture came back as "Rare Serratia Marcescens". I am just trying to find out how long we can fight this without it infecting his actual bones and internal tissue? how dangerous is this? Anyone had a similar situation happen? Does Hardware get "recalled" often due to contamination? I truly believe he contracted the infection at the time of surgery. It explains why wound wouldn't close, it drained for months, he ran fever all the time, and bottom screws came out. Any input on this for a mom that is trying to tell her teenage son it's gonna be fine! He is depressed and want talk about anything to do with his surgery. HELP!!!!

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2 Responses


Hi Cole19966

Im so sorry that your son is going through this and I have to tell you, having gone through a similar situation, that the only way to totally get rid of the infection is by removing ALL the hardware, Every piece of hardware, albeit rods, or screws because the metal hold the infection on them,
After going through a 19 hour surgery in 1994 I came down with VRE which they say I caught in the ICU,
They tried everything to allow me to keep the three rods and numerous screws in so my back could heal and when they xrayed my back post op after three months 2 screws backed out and a rod actually broke.
This led to emergency surgery to remove the hardware,
Within 2 months my kyphoscoliosis advanced to 139 degrees and I had to go back in and have two seperate surgeries to put the hardware back in.
Im sad to say this but ever since then I have had 8 more surgeries and am quickly approaching another because of fusion failue due to the very first infection.
My rods have now once again come through the skin and since my doctor retired at Hopkins, I am now searching the US for a doctor who will not tell me my case is too complicated and help me'
My rib cage is sitting on my pelvis and my heart, lungs and stomach are being crushed so badly that I need oxygen, and I have lost 23 pounds in less than a month because more than a tablespoon of food fills me up and I will then vomit everything up.
Infections happen in hospitals all the time albeit from someone not washing their hands or a visitor coming in with an infection that hasn't taken them down but will do horrible things to someone right out of surgery.
Hardware is not recalled for contamination and only if the infection can be traced back to another patient or caregiver, you are not able to seek monetary damages because infection is a direct complication of surgery and when you signed the permit, You did so knowing the risks,
The faster he gets those rods out and either has them replaced or better yet, if his spine holds up without them, is the only way this will turn out to be good,
I would suggest you ask that those rods come out ASAP and if he needs them replaced, then do so with the knowledge that he can get through another surgery and not get an infection.
One last thing, A lot of times infections are carried by the patient and they don't 'show' themselves until that persons immune system is down and out like right after surgery.
Best wishes to you and your son and remember there is a light at the end of this tunnel.


the ordeal you and your son are dealing with sound horrific. i had a staff infection after spine surgery that was also complex. a cervical osteotomy and other laminectomies and osteotomies from the cervical to the lumbar area were performed leaving me with a staff infection that was thought to originate on the hardware. i was treated by the infectious disease unit of mass general for about six months using several antibiotics, a vancomycin iv being the main one. i finally went home with a portable iv pump and a nurse changing the very expensive [$500.a week] vancomycin. after months on that i was switched to oral antibiotics for another six months. this seemed to kill the infection and i have been symptom free now for three years.
i wonder where the surgery for your son was done and if you have considered getting another opinion.these surgeries are so very complex and more opinions are better. i don't want to criticize but,i would be looking into why this happened. it was through no fault of your son and is certainly not expected to happen if proper precautions are taken during surgery. contaminated hardware and screws coming out would raise red flags and certainly needs to be investigated as the long term results would be compromised.