Sunday, July 22, 2012

I had TOS surgery...rib resection surgery

Almost a month ago, I had bilateral rib resection surgery and a partial scalenectomy for thoracic outlet syndrome.  In real people terms, I had one hell of a surgery twice in one week!  I spent a full week in the hospital, and am looking down a long 6 month recovery road.  Here's a better idea and picture of what they did.  My amazing doctor created space in my chest to stop the compression on my brachial plexus on both sides of my body!
  • Remove the fibrous tissue band from c7 (bottom of my neck) to the middle of my 1st rib
  • Divide and detach anterior scalene muscle from 1st rib ( muscle wider than usual and fan shaped)
  • Detach small part of middle scalene muscle from 1st rib
  • Remove 1st rib (wider than what's normal for my body size)
  • Shorten c7's elongated processes to regular length
  • Reroute or straighten out the  artery, nerve, vein
  • Remove extensive amounts of scar tissue

I'm still not quite sure what to think about the surgery that I had - I do feel little improvements already regardless of the post op pain and I am very thankful for all the support I've received along this path.  This path hasn't been easy for me or my family especially when trying to explain the magnitude of the problem through the telephone and how it affects almost every aspect of my daily life.  I have experienced some really great post surgery days and some pretty awful depressive days - all of which I fell are normal and expected.

In short, I am thankful I had surgery.  I have a great support system, am learning how being inactive is actually harder than I imagined, but mostly I am excited to live a different life.  A life (hopefully) without excessive pain and the ability to do the things I want instead of the things my physical therapist and body allow me to.  Oh, I'm trying to adjust to the force of my body movements being pushed off to the 2nd and 3rd ribs causing added pain and tenderness there!

Here are just some of the beautiful flowers I got in the hospital...the nurses kept saying I had a flower shop for a room and told me I was special that so many people cared for me.  I couldn't agree more!  One CNA even took a picture of one of the flower arrangements  to show her florist for her wedding bouquet! :)

Haha!  Just taking a mid-morning stroll with all my favorite accessories...note the medical fanny/hip pack!  Ridiculous...definitely going to be a summer must have.

The 3 C's of life: choices, chances and changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.

I'm am so relieved I got over my fear of having surgery.  In my hearts of hearts, I know I made the right choice. 

When was the last time you took a chance in hopes to change your life forever?


  1. U give me encouragement and faith.. U are an inspiration. ☆★

  2. Hi Christine - I'm thinking about having this type of procedure done. I have suffered from what I believe to be TOS for 15 years now. I'm basically at the point where I can't use my right arm anymore and I'm taking some pretty heavy-duty pain meds on a regular basis. I have had several major back surgeries (C and L), so I understand what surgery entails. It looks like you posted this 4 years ago ... so I'm curious to know: did you achieve the pain relief you had hoped for following your procedure? Do you feel the surgery was worth it?

    Jeff S.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      My apologies for the delay in response, I am just seeing this! I did achieve the pain relief I was hoping for, it was a very long recovery but I had about 3 years of minimal pain levels. I would say I went from a 10 down to a 2-3, I truly didn't understand how bad I felt until I had the surgery. In 2015, I started having more frequent symptoms so I went back and found out that my C7 cervical rib had grown back despite my surgeon doing everything right and adhered to my brachial plexus. They aren't 100% sure why my C7 grew back and said out of the patients they performed their 1st surgery I am 1 of less than 5 people who have come back with this issue. Anyway, October 2015 I had bilateral redo surgery. Right now, I am doing good. Again, my pain is a lot less than it was pre-surgery and my symptoms are less frequent. My hands aren't constantly numb/tingling or turning blue/purple all the time. My hands still get cold and might turn a little blue if I've been typing at the computer too long/driving too long or I will have a flare up if I try to clean my house in 1 day instead of 3 know when I'm not practicing the proper management strategies & try to push it I'll have some symptoms but my symptoms overall aren't as intense as they used to be and are far more manageable when they do happen. As I'm sure you know, TOS never really goes away. The symptoms & your ability to manage it just gets better and you really learn your limits with activity. I still go to PT and medical trigger point massage every other week which I've found has been really beneficial in managing symptoms & pain. I think the surgery was totally worth it & is probably one of the hardest, best things I've done in my young life.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you want to know more specifics, I wasn't sure how in-depth you'd like me to go.

  3. Hi there--also looking to have this surgery done--curious to know if you still have relief from your symptoms now years out?? Any other weird side affects that have presented in the long term? This surgery seems really scary; I'm still on the fence, even though my life is a living hell right now. Hoping to hear from you! Thanks, Jill (in Denver)

    1. Hi Jill! I live in Denver too, if you want to chat in person let me know. I'd love to answer all of your questions! :) I do have relief from my symptoms and I keep them further managed with continued physical therapy and trigger point massage therapy. For most, surgery isn't a cure all and you will still need to actively manage your symptoms and really figure out what triggers flare ups, this surgery definitely isn't like a knee surgery where once you are done with rehab you are good to go. I did have to have surgery again in October 2015 because my cervical rib (c7 vertebraa) grew back & adhered itself back to my brachial plexus which caused all of my symptoms to come back. On a day to day basis, I work full time as well as have a side network marketing business. I still have pain but I've lived in pain and had symptoms for 20-ish years when I was diagnosed but the pain I have is so soooo much lower than it was before my surgeries. When I do have tingling/numbness in my hands it is because I've overdone it and didn't fully engage in the pain management strategies that I know help me. I still have down days where I feel like a prisoner in my own body but I personally think that is par for the course when managing a chronic illness. I am so happy that I had the surgery, I was out of options and the threat of permanent nerve damage and slowly losing functionality of my hands terrified me - especially since I've been dealing with this my entire life and I was in my early 20s when I found out. I couldn't imagine how I would feel in several years let alone a few decades. The surgery is terrifying and it is a very long recovery process and slow (at least it was for me) but I would do it over in a heartbeat if I had to. I think it is REALLY important to have a surgeon and PT that are TOS experts instead of just being familiar.

      I can't think of any weird side effects. The ones that I have I feel are normal. My upper chest is a little more sensitive to things/gets sore but I think that is expected since they remove your first rib, which helps distribute force across the rest of your rib cage. The triceps area can sometimes be a little sensitive to touch, but that usually happens when I've overdone it/in a flare and my nerves are irritated or slightly compressed.

      I'm sure whatever decision you make about surgery will be the right one for you. Let me know if I can help in answering in other questions!