Tethered Cord Surgery – Round 2

At 7:30 on September 13, I was wheeled back into the OR once again. Dr. Klinge had kindly taken the time to explain the process of the surgery and answer all of my questions the night before.

The fancy name for the surgery I had is a lumbar laminectomy microsurgical resection of the filum teminale. Basically, I was opened up, and my filum terminale (the area that tethered) was removed. The operation took around 4 hours, and Dr. Klinge reported that my film was larger than normal (which was likely congenital), and the scar tissue from my previous tethered cord surgery had re-tethered. Also, she explained that it was tethered to a nerve which could’ve been the cause of my severe electric-like pain. 

It was such a relief to have the confirmation that my spinal cord was truly tethered and that surgery was necessary. With each surgery I have had, we have been diligent in getting multiple opinions and exhausting non-surgical options, but sometimes going under the knife is needed. 

Dr. Klinge works with a plastic surgeon who closes all of her tethered cord patients. She phrased it to me like this, “Why would a tired neurosurgeon close after a 4-hour surgery when a fresh plastic surgeon can step in?”

Immediately after surgery, the shooting pain and numbness in my legs decreased by about 80%. Additionally, the hyperalgesia on my legs wasn’t as intense. Honestly, I was in much less pain post-op than I had been in the month leading up to it. 

My headaches escalated for the first few days after surgery, but this was expected since spinal fluid was taken during the surgery for testing. In the past, radiologists have commented that I have slightly low-hanging cerebral tonsils. Dr. Klinge believes that the removal of my filum will correct this issue which could resolve or at least reduce the severity of my constant headache. 

Since surgery, I have seen significant improvement in skin hyperalgesia, headache severity, and nerve pain. Also, my incontinence is finally gone! This might be TMI for some of you, but I had been dealing with incontinence since December 2021. I can’t even explain how thankful I am to not have to worry about peeing myself multiple times throughout the day!

Dr. Klinge not only possesses surgical expertise, but also kindness, humility, and empathy for patients in chronic pain. She continued to check to see how I was recovering throughout my stay at Rhode Island Hospital. I am so grateful for both my neurosurgeons and how they worked together to help me.

I remained in the Rhode Island Neuro ICU for a bit over a week post-surgery, as I slowly weaned off ketamine. Then I was air-transferred back to MUSC. Getting insurance to approve my transfer back to my local hospital was a lengthy process and difficult ordeal. A lot of people had to work really hard to make this happen.

Luckily, the ambulance and plane ride home was easier for me since the nerve pain had largely decreased. Once I weaned off ketamine, I was finally discharged to go home from MUSC.