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Thread: Breathing issues

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    near Philadelphia
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    1,260

    Breathing issues

    Hi all --

    I'm happy to report that at 8 months post-op, I am finally feeling much better. For the past couple of weeks or so I've had more good days than bad days and I'm really grateful for that. One thing I did was cut back on my activity level -- I'm pretty sure I was just trying to do too much, too soon.

    Anyway, I have a question for my post-op friends. I'm a trained singer and have been trying to get back into it over the past month, and I'm really surprised at how little breath I have. I sound okay but I can't sing "properly" from the diaphragm -- can't hold notes very long and it pretty much feels like a block of cement throughout the rib cage area. I've been doing lots of breathing exercises but I am wondering if people with anterior incisions (I had a rib removed also) experience permanent changes in their lung function/capacity. Or is this something that just takes a long time to get better?? Neither of my lungs was deflated during surgery but I know my right lung was moved around a bit (along with all my other organs ).

    Thanks!
    Chris
    A/P fusion on June 19, 2007 at age 52; T10-L5
    Pre-op thoracolumbar curve: 70 degrees
    Post-op curve: 12 degrees
    Dr. Boachie-adjei, HSS, New York

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    111
    Dear Singer,

    Have you had Pulmonary Function Tests to determine your lung volume? Perhaps your internist could order one. I have not had A/P surgery and expect to have a posterior revision next June, it is my understanding that pulmonary function goes down after surgery before it goes up and that you will probably have further improvement in your lung function.
    I have a 91 degree thoracic curve and lung volume of 39%. While I was not a singer of any magnitude, I did have some singing lessons as a teenager. (I'm now 63). I noticed over the years that I gradually was losing my ability to sing and now cannot sing at all. This was probably as a result of my gradually decreasing lung function. I'm hoping with surgery to have some improvement in my lung volume and slow down further progression or compression of my curves which, in addition to the loss that normally occurs with aging, would further reduce my lung volume.
    While, you have some set-back in your singing abilities, I believe you will improve and that your surgery has spared you from having a greater decline
    which you would have experienced without it.
    Good luck to you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Boston area
    Posts
    120
    Hi Chris,

    Glad to see you back on the Forum! I think Wishing's suggestion of having a pulmonary function test is a good one. My lung capacity had considerably diminished prior to surgery. Fortunately, once my rib cage was rotated, hitched up, repositioned, etc. my capacity increased post op. I was lucky that they did not have to deflate a lung, and I did not have a rib graft.

    I mentioned to PT that although improved, I did not feel like I could catch a full breath. She suggested finding the little breath meter device with the floating ball that we all received in the hospital and to use it on a regular basis at home to try to increase my levels. She also recommended deep breathing exercises. Currently, my PT is in a therapeutic 91 degree pool (it feels so gooood!), and I have been doing many breast stroke-like exercises with my arms that I think are helping to expand my chest and make getting a deep breath easier.

    Good luck on resolving this issue so you can sing your heart out. And welcome back!
    Linda W.
    Linda
    Two-stage A/P fusion T6-S1 with lumbar implants June 12 & June 27, 2007 at age 57
    S curve 75+ degrees with kyphosis
    Now 45 degrees and standing 3 inches taller!
    Dr. Frank Rand, New England Baptist Hospital, Boston

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    near Philadelphia
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    1,260
    Thanks ladies, and hi Linda!

    I had a pulmonary function test as part of my pre-op testing, and it was well within normal range. I almost don't WANT to know what my function is now because it SEEMS so much less, and I don't know if that's stiff muscles or what.

    I will keep working on it, but I wondered if anyone who is over a year post-op with an anterior incision noticed an improvement in this area.
    Chris
    A/P fusion on June 19, 2007 at age 52; T10-L5
    Pre-op thoracolumbar curve: 70 degrees
    Post-op curve: 12 degrees
    Dr. Boachie-adjei, HSS, New York

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Asheville, NC
    Posts
    58

    Pulmonary Function

    Singer,

    Do you mind me asking, how big was your anterior incision? i had one but only on the lower abdomen, below the waist so it does not affect my breathing.
    Jan Lotherington,
    56* thoracic curve, 50* lumbar curve
    A/P fusion T3-Sacrum, Dec 11&13 2007
    at age 55
    Dr Bridwell

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    near Philadelphia
    Posts
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    Hi Jan,

    My incision starts on my belly beside my hip bone, then goes up my side and ends around my right shoulder blade. It's probably 20 inches long or so.

    How are you feeling?
    Chris
    A/P fusion on June 19, 2007 at age 52; T10-L5
    Pre-op thoracolumbar curve: 70 degrees
    Post-op curve: 12 degrees
    Dr. Boachie-adjei, HSS, New York

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Columbia, sc
    Posts
    7
    My anterior incision is probably a little smaller than yours and my lungs were deflated during surgery. I starting singing in my school choir about two yars after my surgery in elementary school and continued it until I got out of high school and never had any difficulties breathing from the diaphram. It takes a while but I'm pretty sure it will get better over time.


    Darwin

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Asheville, NC
    Posts
    58

    Ouch!

    Singer,

    That's quite an incision - I had no idea. My Doc tries to avoid long anterior incisions - confining them mainly to the lumbar area.

    But that probably accounts in part for the great correction you got.

    I am about 12 weeks post op - just went back to work part time this week. So far so good - but I do have a new pain in left lower back when getting up and down the last couple of days. I think because I sat too long the first day at work. But whenever I feel a new or different sensation I wonder if I have a screw loose! (literally)
    Jan Lotherington,
    56* thoracic curve, 50* lumbar curve
    A/P fusion T3-Sacrum, Dec 11&13 2007
    at age 55
    Dr Bridwell

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Chicago north suburb
    Posts
    772
    Wow, Jan! Iím surprised to read youíve returned to work after only three months. How much correction did Dr. Bridwell get for you? As Iíve been following these posts for some time now, I can fully understand why Dr. Bridwell has backed away from thoracoabdominal surgeries whenever possible. He treats many older adults and the risk for complications is significant and can be life-threatening, such as with Janet who succumbed to pneumonia and had to be in ICU for several days. The recovery period too seems to take much longer. Continued success with your recovery.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    new jersey
    Posts
    850

    I can yell...now!!!

    Hi Chris(singer)---I'm over the year & half mark now & I must tell you I can belt out a tune now(probably not like you sing & I'm not so much in tune!!!)
    I think having the rib out & big front incision made me feel like you. For a good long time-maybe 8 months or so. It used to be I could hardly raise my voice & (take a big breath) to call my boys or husband from upstairs to down ....now I can yell(man can I YELL!!!!!...as my 'men' know now...back to normal-eh?!!!!!!
    Ly

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Asheville, NC
    Posts
    58
    Chris WBS:

    My last pre op measurements were in the 60"s. After surgery, I was told I got ~ 50% correction. From the xrays, it looks to me like the most correction was in the lumbar area (where I had the 2 approaches). Sometimes when I hear others have gotten better corrections I wish I had, but then I have to remind myself, the real object was to stop the progression. And Dr Bdridwell does not believe in extra pain if he can avoid it - no hip graphs, rib removal, etc. I am trying to attach pictures but I'm not sure I know how.
    Jan Lotherington,
    56* thoracic curve, 50* lumbar curve
    A/P fusion T3-Sacrum, Dec 11&13 2007
    at age 55
    Dr Bridwell

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Atlanta
    Posts
    169
    Hi Chris,
    I remember Boachie told me it takes 2 years to get lung function back. I can really relate to the "can't take a deep breath" feeling, but at 14 months post op it is ALOT better. I think we just need to be patient. . . (heard that before?!)
    Cathie

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Wheeling, WV
    Posts
    1,105
    Hi Chris,

    In addition to all the great advice you have already received, I just want to add, that having a longer recovery time can also weaken you. I know it did me.

    I think I was 9 months or longer post-op and would be winded after walking up a flight of stairs.

    Glad to hear you're doing better, and I'm pretty sure that only you notice the difference in your wind, I have a feeling that it's still sounds wonderful to anyone that's listening!!!

    Shari

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    near Philadelphia
    Posts
    1,260
    Hi Shari -- For the record, I did e-mail Dr. Boachie with the question of how long I would be short-winded, and he said: "It takes one or two years for full pulmonary function to be restored." I'm hoping maybe a year and a half!!!
    Chris
    A/P fusion on June 19, 2007 at age 52; T10-L5
    Pre-op thoracolumbar curve: 70 degrees
    Post-op curve: 12 degrees
    Dr. Boachie-adjei, HSS, New York

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