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Eagle Syndrome - Online Support Group

Newly diagnosed with looming surgery

Hey there - I’m sitting with a new diagnosis and still in shock. I am a junior in college and a figure skater, are there any other athletes on here?

Let me back up a bit, most stories are best started at the beginning. In late January/early February, I started getting consistent headaches, bouts of dizziness and occasional tinnitus. I have also had chronic sinusitis for most of my life, this may be unrelated to the ES. Initially I thought these were just symptoms of my cyst coming back (I have a 4mm by 1mm by 3mm cyst on my cerebellum that I had surgery for 3 years ago) and tried to ignore them. I was just starting a semester and scheduling would be difficult. My symptoms persisted, though, and I noticed my heart rate jumping after minimal activity. Eventually I messaged my surgeon and he ordered an MRI.

When that came back normal, I was referred to a neurologist, a cardiologist, and an ENT. The ENT started treating my sinusitis, which is difficult with my sensory issues. Cardiac testing revealed nothing out of the ordinary - everything was within “normal range”. My neuro ordered several tests, starting with an echo, followed by two separate CT scans. With each test we got closer to discovering the source of my symptoms. After the final CT we had a follow up during which she referred me to Dr. Omlie here in Minnesota. He diagnosed me with ES and said it was up to me whether I wanted to pursue surgery. His approach is external, but I didn’t know to ask how thorough he plans to be, so I will be calling to check. I’m also considering calling at least one of the Minnesota doctors listed for a second opinion.

After some research (including finding this site), I decided I wanted to pursue surgery and gave Dr. Omlie a call. My surgery is scheduled for August 19th, and to be honest I’m nervous. Not about my surgeon, but the surgery itself. My surgery is 3 weeks before school starts again, and though most of my classes are online, I am studying to be an interpreter. I’m concerned about lingering nerve pain affecting my facial expressions.

Are there any athletes on this forum? How long did it take you to get back to the sport? I’ll also be asking my doc but how long should I avoid heavy lifting? One of my jobs requires frequent lifts/transfers. I know this is long. Thank you for reading.

Glad that you’ve had an answer to your health problems, sounds like you’ve had more than your share!
There’s lots of past discussions with info about what to expect after surgery, so it’s worth looking them up if you haven’t already. And also questions to ask your doctor- briefly you need to make sure that he will remove as much of the styloid process as possible, back to skull base ideally, & that any piece of styloid left is smoothed off. It’s worth checking whether you have any calcification of your stylohyoid ligaments, & if there is that this will be removed too. You should ask about monitoring the nerves during surgery- most surgeons do this to check there’s not too much stress on them. The nerves can get stretched or irritated during surgery, causing damage, but this usually resolves quite quickly. I can understand your concerns about that, there is a slight risk.
As for recovery, it does vary quite alot, hopefully you’ll be able to get back to studying within 2 weeks, but for lifting I would leave it at least a month, you need to let the internal stitches to heal.
Hope this helps?

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I am not an athlete but I am a registered nurse and that can sometimes be as strenuous as athletics. I had my surgery on June 29th and had my left styloid removed externally. The incision itself is not that painful. However, the nerve pain in my throat and ear is very bad at times. For the first few days I was feeling ok and thought I would be back to work in no time. I was wrong. You will need to take things very slow for a few weeks. I know everyone’s recovery is different. I teach at the hospital where I work and I find talking for more than a few minutes causes pain in my throat area. I am glad I had the surgery because the styloid was almost sticking through my tonsil. Surgery was really my only option. Most people recover with no problems so that is the bright side. Hope all goes well for you! Good luck. I pray that God is with you.

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Jules,
I would definitely say I’ve had more than my share, but I was trying to keep it relevant to ES :sweat_smile:. I’ll look up those discussions, and the questions added to what I’ll be asking my doctor so thank you! I believe he mentioned he’d be monitoring the nerves. Thank you - all of these are helpful.

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Luv4pj,
Thank you for the well wishes. Nursing is definitely as strenuous if not more than athletics, thank you for all you do. He is with me always.

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Hi anharris,

I am a “wanna be” athlete. I started back into gentle Pilates 2 weeks after surgery & ran in a 15K race 6 weeks after. The running event was too soon post op. I walked the second half, felt like my throat was swelling closed & I couldn’t breathe. Had to make myself relax so I wouldn’t panic. I got through it but spent the next 2 weeks being much more careful. I was 58 at the time so didn’t have the advantage of youth that you have. By 2 months post op, I was pretty much back to normal & resumed my usual athletic activities but w/ caution.

One of the suspected causes of ES is head/neck injury. As a figure skater, I know you’ve had some falls. Though you may not have injured your head/neck in a significant way in any of these, the strain on your neck from these falls could have signaled your brain that more support was needed in the area of your neck where your styloids are & so your body began laying down more calcium, elongating & strengthening the styloids &/or stylohyoid ligaments. When pressure is put on bones or soft tissues in contact w/ bones, the body’s response is to lay down more bone in an effort to strengthen the area. Sometimes this is a good thing, but often it’s not, as the additional calcified tissue creates other problems. Thus we can conclude that, occasionally, our bodies are too good at trying to heal themselves.

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Thank you - skating is more comprable to a marathon for sure, so I will be taking it easy when I first get back on the ice and will be discussing with my surgeon how long he thinks I should take.
I have fallen quite a bit and had my fair share of whiplash, I’ve also gotten 3 concussions that I can pinpoint. Mom looked at me when we started trying to figure this out and said it might be the thing that takes me off the ice forever. While I don’t want to say that will be the case, I suspect I’ll need to take more care (as much as possible) in the future.

anharris,

Be careful about those head injuries. I’ve had a fractured skull & two concussions from cycling accidents. Now that I’m in my 60s the effects of the concussions are showing up in a bit of short-term memory loss (although that could also be attributed to aging/genetics :face_with_monocle:). Regardless, every brain injury adds up as our brains don’t rehabilitate like the rest of our bodies. Just think about this as you plan your future. I do concede there is nothing we do athletically that is without risks. We often don’t consider those, though, until the consequences start revealing themselves.

Sorry for the “downer” post. You have a bright future ahead of you. You’re very articulate & obviously bright. Take care of what God has given you.

:hugs:

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Isaiah,
Sometimes we need to hear things we don’t like. I am as careful as possible, and recognize the effects of layered concussions. Thankfully they are becoming less frequent the more I improve.
:heart:

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Hi Anharris. I recognize the surgery is scary but am pleased for you that you have a diagnosis and treatment plan that makes sense. I have had an external surgery and – although we are certainly all different – nothing happened afterwards that led to my needing to curtail my work or my physical activity in the long term. I was actually back at work part-time only a few days after the surgery, although perhaps I was luckier than many. You will definitely need to rest a lot in the short term. On the part of your question about studying to be an interpreter, I’m not sure if you mean ASL or another language. Some of us including me have had short-term (in my case a few weeks) of poor control of the lip or tongue on the operated side. If you are trying to mouth words you might have brief difficulty with this but it would be expected to resolve quickly. It is important to be patient with the ups and downs of your progress. Sometimes it might feel like the surgery didn’t accomplish anything for a few days but things will even out.

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I thought I’d replied to this :woman_facepalming:t2:
I was meaning ASL interpreting, I’ve got two major specific courses this fall and will need to discuss with my professors the possible need for accommodations during the beginning of the semester. I’ve taken one of these courses previously so I know unless the professor made major changes to the curriculum we jump headfirst into projects. I am praying for a relatively swift recovery.

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I told my coach last night about the surgery and nedding to be off the ice for at least two weeks following. Talking to my mom after - she thinks I should stop skating until I’ve recovered from the surgery because of my hr spiking with physical activity (it went up to 180 and I was practicing jumps so lots of head turning but nothing that typically makes my out of breath). I don’t want to give up skating any longer than I have to as I just got back after covid closed the rinks, but I understand where she’s coming from. Anyone have thoughts on this?

Hi Anharris,

I think we all have different experiences post-surgery depending on our individual situations. I can tell you that for myself I would not have needed formal accommodations unless schedule did not afford time for adequate rest. Might have needed to rest my mouth a bit after long conversations. If you have some mild asymmetry of mouth movements I assume instructor would overlook as the major emphasis would be on the ASL part of things. I hope you have seen the very cool masks now available with clear plastic near mouth for those with hearing problems!

I wish you a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery.

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I would agree with your mother. I think you are pushing going back too soon to skating after surgery. It takes more than 2 weeks to heal. My suggestion is to wait 4- 6 months minimum. Have you consulted your surgeon about this?
Everyone recovers differently after surgery and all your plans are based on a very quick or uneventful recovery. I did that before and it was a mistake. Do you have a back up plan if you arent recovering like you anticipate? If you are pushed for time, you may want to consider pushing the surgery to another time where you do have additional recovery time in case you need it. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Hi anharris,

I had the issue w/ crazy heart rate elevation during hard aerobic exercise w/ neck involvement. I believe that occurs because blood pressure drops instead of elevating so the heart rate jumps up trying to increase bp & oxygen flow. This comes from a compromised vagus nerve. Getting the pressure off your vagus nerve (most likely caused by the styloid or a calcified s-h ligament) will allow the vagus to heal & stop causing this problem. I do still occasionally have this trouble when I push myself excessively during a hard uphill hike, but it’s rare anymore. It is most important to listen & respond to your body’s signals when it lets you know it’s unhappy.

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Snapple,
I’m consulting with my surgeon, currently waiting to hear back from him. I’ve also got a consult with Dr. Ondrey on August 4th and plan to ask him many of my questions. I don’t expect to be completely back to full practice 2 weeks after surgery. Honestly I’m not even sure I’ll be back on the ice at 2 weeks out, though I hope I can be. I’ve told my coaches that I’ll need to take things easy the first few weeks I’m back, and this is my 3rd surgery that’s taken me off the ice long term. Because of the cardio symptoms that we think this is causing, having the surgery sooner than later is best.

Isaiah,

Im trying to be smart and not push myself, though it’s hard to feel like skating is once again slipping through my fingers. Fingers crossed that this resolves the issue. Side note - if the vagus nerve irritation is causing the elevated hr and its due to my BP dropping, I’ve been having symptoms since high school dance.

I had to give up all exercise- although mine was just for fun, I’m no athlete :joy:- as I had intracranial hypertension through compression of the jugular veins, & exercise really made the symptoms worse. You have to do what’s right for you, only you know how you feel, but I can understand your Mum’s concern…it probably seems like a long time to have to give up your sport, but in the scheme of things when you look back it won’t be long!

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I believe I had ES long before I had symptoms that I recognized were abnormal. Mine started w/ positional vertigo then a couple of years later choking on food to the point of needing the Heimlich Maneuver a couple of times. Several years after that the pain & other symptoms started. It was definitely a process.

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anharris,

Some of your symptoms sound very familiar.
You may want to have your doc take your blood pressure and heart rate laying down, sitting up, and monitor closely standing for at least 10 minutes. If you have more than a 30 bpm jump, you may want to be evaluated further for POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) which is a type of Dysautonomia.
My daughter started getting rapid heart beat also around age 9 in PE especially after running or especially in heated conditions. She then started passing out afterwards. She actually had a few pass out events prior to that starting at age 7 followed by headaches/migraines and dizziness. Doc called it vasovagal syncopy. After 8 years of evaluations, she was finally diagnosed with POTS. At age 13 or so, it took her down. It usually hits girls most often about 1 year after menstral period starts. I know you have identified other issues (cysts) as well as ES but a simple blood pressure and heart rate monitoring for 10 minutes might reveal a tachycardia. Good luck with your surgery!

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