The Story of a College Football Star and a Pilonidal Cyst

The Story of a College Football Star and a Pilonidal Cyst:


Let’s call him Tony, is a star tight end for a California College football team, not far from San Francisco.  He tolerated his nuisance pilonidal abscess (also called a pilonidal cyst) throughout the football season and school year, waiting until school’s end to take of this thing.  It would swell, burst, and drain in his underwear, sometimes soaking through his pants. It was uncomfortable and terribly embarrassing. So, after his freshman year ended he saw his pediatrician, who agreed that something needed to be done about this “pilonidal cyst”.  He was referred to a surgeon who felt that surgery was the best option. He told Tony and his family that it would be a simple operation and that Tony would be ready for Summer football practice in weeks. Besides, he had done plenty of this type of surgery and everyone did fine.

A week later was surgery day.  Tony was excited to get rid of this thing that his doctors called a “pilonidal cyst”.  After the operation, the surgeon met with Tony’s parents. He told them that the pilonidal cyst was much larger than he had thought it was.  He had to remove more tissue than he had anticipated. He went wider, lower, and deeper than he had wanted to. Nevertheless, he was able to close Tony’s wound.  He felt that Tony would be fine.

5 day later, Tony began to have tremendous pain, and the incision swelled.  2 days later, the sutures ruptured and a large amount of foul smelling, white liquid material flowed from Tony’s wound.  Tony returned to the surgeon who removed the remaining stiches. He told Tony that his wound would have to remain open and heal slowly.  Tony was sent to a wound clinic for thrice weekly visits and wound packings.

At the wound clinic, Tony lost hope.  He felt that there was no way he was going to heal his wound in time for Football practice later this summer.  Tony’s wound was pretty terrible. It was the size of a lemon and extended down to the sacral bone (the bone above one’s tail bone).  The wound clinic doctors were not very optimistic about his outcome.

Tony and his parents couldn’t believe what had happened.  On the one hand, he had this incredibly common condition called a pilonidal cyst and had a seemingly routine operation.  Now he was faced with a hopeless situation where he was going to have to miss the football season. There was no end in sight.

Tony’s mother couldn’t believe that she would have to look elsewhere for a corrective operation. Then his Mother did some internet research and found that the Cleft Lift Procedure is likely a cure for pilonidal disease and failed pilonidal surgery, and that Dr. Sternberg performs the procedure in San Francisco, just an hour or so drive away.

Well, Tony met with Dr. Sternberg.  Dr. Sternberg agreed that the Cleft Procedure was the right choice and that it would get Tony back to football soon.  However, Tony’s wound was grossly infected, so he was placed on antibiotics that seemed appropriate according to prior wound cultures.

2 weeks later Dr. Sternberg performed Tony’s cleft lift.  It was difficult, but it went well. And Tony had a comfortably closed wound.

1 week later, when he returned to Dr. Sternberg’s office, Tony felt fine, but Dr. Sternberg noticed that a portion of Tony’s lower skin had retracted and there was thick fluid coming from the drain holes.  Tony needed IV antibiotics due to a drug resistant bacterium that Dr. Sternberg was able to culture from the wound. Dr. Sternberg arranged for a PICC line to be inserted. Tony was set up to receive daily IV antibiotics for 2 weeks.

2 weeks later, Tony had minimal drainage.  His drain was removed. The next day Tony went off to football camp and returned to full activity.

A month later, Tony was forgetting what it was like to have pilonidal disease.  He was back practicing for college football and was happy as can be.

Tony ended up fine.  If he had the cleft lift procedure as his initial operation, he likely would have avoided this more complicated course.  Many pilonidal patients are not so fortunate. Please do your research and find a surgeon who performs the cleft lift procedure with regularity.  It’s your life!

Author
Jeffrey A. Sternberg, MD, FACS, FASCRS Pilonidal Surgery, Board-Certified Colorectal and General Surgeon located in Civic Center, Hayes Valley, San Francisco, CA

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