2023 Herniated Discs and Bridging Cartilage Fractures

If you guys remember, I was in a car accident on February 22nd. I had been worried about that happening since I had my ACDF surgery on my spine last August – it has been my biggest fear, to be in a car accident, rear-ended, etc.

Now, it has been almost 3 weeks since the wreck, and I’ve had some neck and back pain, toward my right shoulder blade area. It has been lighting me up and super sore since the accident, so I had to reach out to the VA and my care teams. 

I tried to connect with my Neurosurgery team, considering I was afraid of my discectomy and fusion being disturbed, but they had thoughts it was a muscle issue and to see Primary Care first and possibly get images done. 

So, I was scheduled to visit Primary Care yesterday. My doctor thought I possibly had muscle spasms in my neck area like before, so she ordered some X-rays and medication for me, and after visiting both VA hospitals yesterday, I headed home. 

Once I was home and in pajamas, my primary care doctor called me back. The radiologist who viewed my x-rays said my x-rays did not look 100% correct, so they would suggest a CT scan. 

My primary care doctors thought that since Radiology didn’t like my x-rays enough to call her clinic and inform her, that something wasn’t right – so she wanted me to get my CT scan done yesterday asap. 

So, I drove back to the VA, and got a CT scan of my neck and spine. I had assumed I would have to wait until the next day to get my report back considering it was late afternoon, but within the hour, my primary care doctor was calling me back and telling me good news, nothing was broken! But bad news, it looks like I have a herniated disc on my C3/C4 spine – which was never there before or after surgery, or in any of the other CT scans I’ve had done – and you know I’ve had plenty. (See image below. This is an older CT scan I had before my ACDF surgery; you can see there is no herniated disc at C-3/C-4.)

So, now I have to wait until I see neurosurgery, the clinic that originally thought it was a muscle issue and refused to see me without going to Primary Care first – they will indeed get to see me anyway; especially now that I have new imaging tests done.

I am supposed to be scheduled for a nerve conduction test for numbness and tingling in my hands that continued after my ACDF surgery, but that appointment may get postponed now. I also have an appointment with neurosurgery scheduled in April – but I’m hoping to be seen sooner considering the new imaging results. I will upload images of those once I have them.

I’m sure they will discuss my herniated disc with me and come up with a plan of action to start with like meds and PT. I know I went a full year avoiding surgery with my last herniated disc – for a while, I was seeing a chiropractor daily and trying to correct the pain but when the herniated disc got so far onto my spinal cord and ended up starting to cause me to lose consciousness in addition to hand and arm pain and numbness, we knew surgery was needed. I hope this is not the case but who knows what the plan will be since it is so close to my ACDF repair area.

It’s a mess.

I’m a mess.

Can I have a new body now? I can’t even heal the issues I already have before getting new ones. 🤦🏼‍♀️ 

And y’all, I haven’t even started discussing my ribs yet. 🤣 

I am around 10 months post-op for my last (my 7th) Slipping Rib Syndrome surgery. I have had some pain, clicking, and grinding in my upper ribs and had to get a separate CT scan for my follow-up with Dr. Hansen.

I had my follow-up with him last week – a phone call visit that turned into a video call so Dr. Hansen could see my pointing to my pain and clicking area. 

Now, my last repair looks fine but after seeing my CT scans, Dr. Hansen said he had miscounted some of my ribs – so my repair did not happen to my 8/9/10 ribs but rather my 7/8/9 area. 

This happened because my 12 ribs are tiny. Like really, really small. So, they were missed when getting hands-on and counting my ribs. My 10th ribs on both sides are both free-floating, hanging low and almost acting as the 11th ribs, and the 11th ribs acting as 12s. These lower floating ribs haven’t caused too many issues – I may feel back pain where my 11th ribs are so close to my 12s, but I notice more pain in my upper ribs than my lower. 

Dr. H thought I possibly had a bridging cartilage fracture at rib 5/6 – and he was right, my bridging cartilage is mildly separated, but not fully yet. We discussed excising the bridging cartilage area but Dr. H fears that that could lead to lower chest wall instability with my wonky ribs because they look weakly attached to my sternum.

In the image below, it shows you the bridging cartilage area. Mine is on the opposite side.

So, we discussed starting small with a nerve ablation for the rib 5 area with a pain management specialist. Now, this isn’t a permanent fix and the nerve may very well grow back and I have to repeat the process – it may help the nerve pains but I may be stuck with the rib clicking and grinding feeling forever. 

But, if it fails, Dr. H and I will re-entertain the bridging cartilage excision route after going the ablation route first. 

So, 2023 has been a blast for me so far – as you can see. 

But I manage, I power through. 

I deal with it the best way I know how. 

I laugh. I (try to) dance. I write and vent to you all.

I try to have fun and not think about these things or else I’m just going to shut down & have a mental breakdown.

Sometimes it’s just too much.

And again, y’all, I didn’t even mention my Crohn’s disease, Fibromyalgia, migraines, ovarian cysts, skin issues, hand and wrist pains, my right knee pain that loves to flare on me at the worst times, my anxiety, depression, and PTSD, or my heel pain with my bone spurs, etc etc etc. 

So……about that new body I mentioned…🤣 But, it could be worse. I think. 🤣🤷🏼‍♀️🤦🏼‍♀️

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