Spine Clinic

I visited the UCD Spine Clinic today to discuss a few things. First, I received a neurological exam (reflexes tested, numbness/sharpness tested, basic strength tests). Good news: nervous system seems intact and responsive. No sign of any new nerve damage.

I brought up my concerns, stating that I think my kyphosis might be progressing and causing organ crowding issues. The doctor pulled up a 14-month old x-ray and compared it to a recent x-ray taken at the last ER visit. She measured the degree of the curvature on both films. Good news: the curve is the same. No progression of the kyphosis. Bad news: the curve is the same because it looks like my spine is just about fully fused now. That means that my back is essentially locked in place. This might sound like good news in the sense that it is very likely to not curve any further (woohoo!), but that also means my flexibility is almost non-existent. And THAT means that any possibility to straighten my spine surgically will be even more complicated (possibly involving BREAKING vertebrae due to them fusing at certain key points). Bleh.

Wait, what?!

Cool fact: My own body, realizing it was bending further and further forward, said to itself, “STOP!” Then it began turning the small areas between the vertebrae into mineralized bone, until eventually, the areas that were under most strain became solid. This stopped my curve from getting worse, but also made the curve itself solid. Amazing how the body tries to heal itself.

I also brought up the newer pain I’ve been feeling, right below my right rib. The doc had me cough while she felt the area and agreed that it could be a hernia or possibly a weakening of the abdominal wall. She suggested to follow-up with gastroenterology (I have an appointment coming up in April), as they would have access to more appropriate tests/procedures.

Then I mentioned my issues with aspirating (inhaling reflux) at night. The doc said even though my spine looks fused, that doesn’t mean the organs are fixed in place. She noted on my newest x-ray that my diaphragm seems wider and flatter, suggesting it could be collapsing or caving under the weight of my lungs. So, to make a better decision regarding lung health, she wants me to get a pulmonary function test, which is a procedure that tests your lung capacity and strength.

I then asked, “Let’s say that the GI doctor determines I’ve definitely got a bad hernia and the worst kind of organ crowding ever… what then?”

She said that would be the time to call in the spinal surgeon and talk about straightening/torso extension procedures seriously. She said this with a face I’ve seen before from doctors. It was the “I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to hear it, but here it comes…” look. They try to hide it, or smile over it, but there’s no denying it. It means I know that surgery is the absolute last resort for them, but might have to be an option. Might (gotta leave room for hope, ya know?).

So… lung test (I will call them early next week to schedule) and GI referral coming up. Then revisit the Spine Clinic after I’ve seen GI.

How am I feeling about this? It’s nothing new. One day at a time.

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