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Big News: Neck Dissection "Not Fun”

Goalie's picture
Posts: 184
Joined: Sep 2010

Last week I got my first post-treatment PET back and was clean. Yeah! So this week we did the long-anticipated cleanup of the battlefield. The surgeon went into the neck to clean out the lymph node which had been cancerous and which is now shriveled up and dead from the rads as well as its downstream neighbors. As such things go, it was pretty minor (they say) and he didn’t work on nerves or muscles or anything else.

That was Tues and I came home yesterday. Now I have these two very ugly drains sticking out of the side of my neck leading to these bags that are suspended from my shirt. I am trying not to think about them and have only looked once in the mirror. The teenage girl finds them a bit scary though the teenage boy thinks they are kinda cool, of course. I think they hurt physically and psychologically. As usual, it falls to my good wife to take care of them, emptying the bags, applying the antibiotic to the wound, etc. I am hoping to at least get rid of the drains tomorrow so that I only have to put up with the stitches and scars.

Meanwhile, the neck is stiff and sore and so is the jaw. I also have numbness of the ear but they say this will pass because they were very careful not to do anything to that nerve other than push it around a bit. It may, in fact, already be better than yesterday.

So, I guess my question is: is this normal? How long did you have your drains and how long did you have your stitches and active scars? Did you do PT afterward? How is it now?

BTW, I played hockey Saturday night...poorly and stiffly but I played. Now I’m set back again a week or so.

Thanks, Doug

SASH's picture
Posts: 401
Joined: Apr 2006

Luckily my drains were pulled while I was still in the hospital so I wouldn't have to deal with them at home. I think they were in for 4 or 5 days from the surgery. Now I have a some interesting scars from surgery, drains, etc. When people ask me about my drain scar, I tell them it is where they originally bolted my head on until it healed and then they were able to remove the bolt, but it left the scar.

sweetblood22's picture
Posts: 3228
Joined: Jan 2010

Sounds normal to me. I was in hospital 3-4 days tho. They waited until my drain was out before they sent me home. I think my blood disorder makes me a higher risk for stuff so I was in longer. Definitely do PT. They didn't order any physical therapy and I think I am paying the price for it. I did stuff on my own and my neck is extremely stiff and sore. Still have weakness with my left arm. My ear and other parts still have some numb spots and weird feeling areas.

I think I had my stitches for a week or was it two? Hmmm. Lol. I cannot remember. My scar is just white now. Probably took a year for the pink to fade, but I had my rads on top of my dissection.

ratface's picture
Posts: 1320
Joined: Aug 2009

Hi Doug

Did you have a bi-lateral neck disection, I only remember having one drain. The drains were stitched in at the skin to prevent falling out. I remmenber taking liquid measurements for around a week. I had stitches but they were internal and disovled on their own. By the way, that drain is in there around 8-12 inches. Keep the bottles pinned. You will heal quickly. I(f you need to compare I think I still have some pictures that show my drain and amount of swelling. Send me a PM and and an email if you want them.

CrimsonRacing's picture
Posts: 21
Joined: Feb 2011

I had the radical dissection from right under the right ear down to the collar bone and over to my adams apple....Drains(2) were removed before I was released from the hospital.I think I was in ICU for like 5 days.......21 staples which came out 2 weeks later.My neck scars are barely noticeable,due to the wrinkle lines on my neck.Little more difficult turning my head to the left and leaning my head back.Still some numbness in the neck and earlobe.Can't raise my right arm as high yet due to disruption of those muscles and nerves,but it is improving.


luv4lacrosse's picture
Posts: 1410
Joined: Jul 2010

Mine was a little more invasive. The muscle was not removed, they did have to scrape it a little bit. I had 24 nodes removed then had chemo and rads. I had my surgeries aug. 2nd and aug 6th. Mouth first and the neck second. To date I have numbness in parts of my face and neck. it has improved since then, but they really had to re arrange allot of nerves to get all of the cancer. Mine they said looked like an "oil sheen" on top of my tissue and he was able to pull it off of the tissue.

Man, I would love to be able to play a game of hockey right now, but have no stamina. I might try a public skating session in the near future.

Best of luck to you and keep the shut outs coming.


DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

I'll jump in here and mention that the resident recommended PT to avoid frozen shoulder down the road. Doug and I have both had frozen shoulder before - I'm not sure what caused it in either of us.

The question is - has anyone else had a doctor bring this up?

BTW, Mike - Doug's both blessed with amazing stamina, and he's crazy.

luv4lacrosse's picture
Posts: 1410
Joined: Jul 2010

Sorry, not famillar with that phrase.

Crazy and Stamina, What a combination.

I miss both playing and coaching hockey. Someday it will come back, and when it does, I will have one more thing in my life that I love.


DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

Doug got the drains out on Friday (he had 2 - one at the top of the incision and one a few inches below). Very not fun, but over after a minute.

He's enjoying the freedom but is really having trouble chewing - lots of pain in the jaw joint back near his ear on the dissection side. Fortunately, he can fall back on the Boost Plus/milkshake/very soft food thing, but since he was actually chewing and swallowing (slowly) before, it feels like a giant step backward.

Also, his saliva seems to have taken a hit - at first I thought it was the Percocet, but he's been off that for a day and still seems dry (still taking Salagen 4x/day).

Anyone else run into these problems?

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