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Any good experiences with ACDF

libby724llibby724 Posts: 107
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I have been reading these posts for about a month now. I am scheduled for C4-7 ACDF in Janurary after about 8 years of problems. I am scared to death of this surgery. I have been reading so many horror stories are there any good results out there.

I am also worried about being out of work for long. I plan to go back in about 4 -6 weeks and maybe work at home (I thank goodness that I have that option) after 2 weeks. Does that sound doable. Also I don't like taking too much pain medication will there be that much pain after surgery that I will need strong medication? Any help would be truly appreciated I am 43 years old and have never had surgery (oh except I had my tonsils out when I was 4).



  • I had no idea what ACDF surgery was and when the doctor said the word spine I was absolutely terrified. But you have something that I didn't have. A whole bunch of people around here who will be glad to share their experiences. Just know that most who have had a successful outcome didn't stick around to help out people like you. I had my surgery on 10/08/08. I can honestly say the first week was the worst for me. I had to learn what I could and could not do but was up and about the day after surgery. I did and still do take some pain medication but any good doctor will not leave you in unbearable pain. I don't like taking pain medication either but I've learned with this surgery that they make you functional. The pain in the throat for me was gone after about 2 weeks and I have no problems with eating now. With any surgery comes a recovery time. I've heard of some patients that went back to work a week or two after this surgery and I've heard other stories that people don't feel completely well for a few months. I think I'm over the hump now. Here's how I have decided that my surgery was a success. I can move my neck. I am not in a wheelchair. And I can still do most of my daily activities and add a new one every day. That to me is success.
    I've been working from home since the day after my surgery and will be back at work full time on Monday. That would put me at about 6 weeks. I got my life back. And that is success.
    I wish you all the luck in the world and please feel free to ask any question that you come up with.
  • I only had a single level fusion (C5C6), but I have had a great outcome so far. The first 5-7 days were pretty bad and I took a lot of pain meds and slept a lot. Heat and ice and massage worked wonders for those post-op muscle spasms you are bound to have. I went back to work (limited duties) on the 13th day after my surgery. I'm gradually increasing the number of days I work and next week I will be up to four days (Monday will be my 1 month post-op date). I am down to 1-2 pain meds a day on the days I work and I don't take anything on the days I'm not working. I get tired easily, but other than that I'm nearly back to normal.

    My NS doesn't use cervical collars post op, and I think that has really helped to speed my recovery. Since I wasn't immobilized, I didn't suffer muscle atrophy and I have better ROM than I did before surgery. I've read about a lot of painful PT for people when their collars finally come off and I'm very glad that's not something I'll have to go through.

    Of course I only had a single level ACDF, so your recovery will probably be harder and more traumatic. The other thing is I didn't wait to have surgery. My neck pain and other neurologic symptoms started this last June and I was given the option of conservative therapy or surgery. I opted for surgery. My MRI showed spinal stenosis, bone spurs and narrowed neural foramen. I could have just treated the symptoms and be careful about not injuring myself further, but I didn't see the point of postponing the inevitable. Why suffer for years with pain that could be corrected right now. I had also talked to several people that regretted postponing their surgeries because their recoveries were harder and they ended up suffering permanent nerve damage. I, too, had never been under general anesthesia before so it was a little scary, but so far it's been worth it.

    Good Luck!!!
  • Hello,

    I had ACDF 5-6-7 in July of 05. The surgery itself wasn't to bad or I didn't think so. I only took maybe 4 hydocodine after surgery then just tylenol. I was very sore but I didn't think it was painful.

    My throat was sore so lots of cold soft foods was good for a couple of days.

    V-neck shirts that are easy to get on and off. It is kind of hard to look down so buttons wouldn't be a good idea.

    Sleeping was a little uncomfortable to I sleep in the recliner for 3 weeks.

    Pretty much pain free until this point. The small bulge at 4-5 I have learned has herniated this week. I may be need surgery again. If so I will do it again. My pain isn't as bad as before though as this point. I still am not taking any meds.

    Before my first surgery I hurt real bad.

  • Libby, i also was scared beyond belief about my ACDF. My first surgery was for a ruptured disc at C67.I was back to work in 5 weeks and would have been sooner if I could talk. I had a complication with vocal cord paralysis that did resolve. i recently had another fusion and this one was even easier because they used an artificial plug and I came home without a collar. I feel pretty good and i am about 10 days post op. I plan to return to work at 4 weeks as long as my employer allows me light duty(no heavy lifting).
    I wish there was something I could tell you to ease your mind. I'm a huge worrier
    about everything,especially surgery.
    Good Luck, Bethy
  • I told you! There are lots of great people here with positive opinions about their surgeries. Please don't be afraid of this surgery. My doctor has done so many that he could probably do them in his sleep. I'm just glad that he doesn't. :))) My only regret is that I didn't find this forum until after my surgery so I spent an entire week filled with worry and dread. We will help you get through it all that's my personal promise to you.
  • Hi there. You and I are just the same - I had a 3-lvl C4-7 w/hardware and had never stayed in a hospital, much less had surgery (oh, I'm 47). I was scared out of my mind also. Turns out, the anticipation was worse than the surgery and post-surgery. I had my surgery at 8:30 am on Oct. 21 and was home by 1pm the next day and was eating pork chops that night. My surgery was a huge success (although I'll see how fusing goes in a couple of months). Of course, I've had some pain, but I'm only taking muscle relaxants for the spasms and Hyrdocodone when needed (1 or 2 a day). I've had very few days that I've felt like I couldn't get out of my chair. The most difficult part for me has been not doing too much as I feel great. I had only minor throat issues, some muscle spasms at the back of my neck (my surgeon told me to expect that), but otherwise I'm just enjoying the time off.

    Also, as far as working from home, I do find it difficult to sit at my computer for too long, so keep that in mind.

    And make sure you have a recliner. I couldn't have lived without it!

    Take care of yourself and don't worry - you will do just fine and I hope you are surprised at how easily you'll move forward. Feel free to PM me any time.


    Are you going
  • I had C5-6 ACDF in 1997 with excellent results and a smooth post op course. I had a second ACDF with plating at C6-7 in July of this year. Got excellent pain relief, improved function, and the numbness is gone in my hand. I wore a soft collar at home - used a hard collar for riding and sleeping. Ask about the Aspen Vista collar - more comfortable than the regular Aspen collar. Post op I used 3 oxycodone tablets the first and second day then went to plain Tylenol. I had a little nausea and a big headache the first night but the nurses gave me medication at the hospital. After that I did fine. I do have a problem with vocal cord paralysis that still persists and I am being followed by an ENT doctor. I do not regret the surgery and am glad I don't have anymore pain/numbess. I was back at work on a limited basis (I have a desk job) after two weeks and I even worked a few hours before that at home. The hardest part for me (besides the vocal cord paralysis) was wearing the cervical collar all the time because it made my neck muscles sore. Best of luck to you.
  • Although I am still petrified I feel a lot better that I am not alone in this. I am hopeing as Cath said the anticipation is worse than the surgery, Thanks to all and I will keep reading everyones posts and picking up all the post surgery helpful hints I can get.

    I am glad I have a recliner I have a feeling it is going to be my best friend for a while!!
  • dont dwell on the horror stories as they are just info from people (maybe like me) with their experiences. even with all that i had to go through, i consider my surgery a sucessful one. as for the limited ROM, pain, etc..., they are things that i have adjusted my life to and i feel greatful every morning i wake up. i dont consider my surgery as a normal surgery that most have had and every day technical knowelge is growing for these kinds of surgeries. some people have had a micro type surgery and it seems to me that they recovery faster. spineys like me with spinal cord damage are greatful for very skilled ns and great hospital care. the good thing about my surgery is i only had 5 days to dwell on it and u have to wait to jan. i hope and pray your surgery and recovery goes very well.
  • Hello, I had c6-c7 ACDF back in the second week of June. I can honestly say that I am very happy about the results!

    I've been back to work since the first week of September, and I am back to doing everything I once did before my injury. It did take until mid-October before I didn't feel anything "weird" with my neck, you know, any stiffness.

    I cannot even tell that anything was once wrong, other then my scar. Now, I did have surgery within a year of having severe issues, so no real nerve damage set in.

    Best advice, do EVERYTHING you are told... I followed (all) my doctors instructions 100%, and today I am one of the people that is truly happy I went through with surgery.

    Can't wait for my next appointment with my NS in January... Hopefully I am all fused up!
  • I had one level done last year at age 37 (as well as my lower back.....microdiscectomy). The fusion took the pain out from under my shoulder blade and down the arm but my neck gets stiff, back of the head hurts and I get some loud popping from time to time.
  • I had level 1 done on Aug 19(C5-C6) and I feel great. Don't get me wrong the first 2 weeks after surgery where hard on me with my muscles waking up and all. When I think back on it now I am so glad I did the surgery. I am not dropping things any more which is good and I no longer have muscle spasms on my left side. I felt like I was having a heart attack. My voice came back in about a week, my family and friends in enjoyed that because I talk a lot. I like you was very afraid of the surgery and I received a lot of good advice on this site. I did change jobs, because I worked in a factory and it was hard on a healthy body let alone my broken body. I now have a job in retail which is so much easier. The only thing I can not do is paint a master piece on a ceiling because I can not bend my neck back like that. I guess I will be no Michele Angelo. Take it easy going back to work, you do not want to go back to soon. I did not even have to stay over night in the hospital which was great for me, I get better rest at home. Just keep your ice packs and meds close by for the first couple weeks. I slept in the recliner for about 2 weeks, it was easier for me to get in and out off. Good Luck
  • Just had level one C5-C6 surgery on November 13th. Overall, my post surgery issues never occurred. I left the hospital pain free (no meds post op and no meds at home), could climb stairs and take reasonable walks without limitation. I've slept primarily in my recliner in relative comfort. My doctor wants me to use my soft collar if I'm walking around and can take it off when sitting still. I'm amazed! The only discomfort I encountered was soreness in my throat. Not surprising since the surgeon moves a lot of stuff to get to the vertebrae.

    There are plenty of success stories on this forum and I too got preoccupied with negatives about the surgery. Of course the final evaluation of the surgery rests with fusion; however, so far so good.

    I wish you the very best on your surgery in January...that sure is a long time to wait. Take care and seek comfort in knowing others have had positive results after surgery. <:P
  • I had an ACDF C 5/6 in January. The pain I had in the arms and hands are gone. I still take muscle relaxers and sometimes a percocet for pain and stiffness I still get in the trap muscle in between my shoulders. There was also a small complication where I have some nerve damage from the surgery, and I am on pain medicine for that. I do not regret having this surgery, and I would absolutely do it again!
  • I'm three weeks post op - C5-C7. This surgery is the best thing I could have done after 8 years of issues! I'm so pleased with the results. I still have a little residual pain, but it comes and goes. I understand it can take a while to return to "normal".

    Do everything your doc says, don't rush the healing process.
  • I had my surgery done the 1st week of July & I am glad I did. I had ACDF c 6-7. Before surgery I had neck pain My left arm was weak & numb. I had 4 opinions from 4 different doctors before surgery. All said the same thing I must have surgery because my disc was protruding on my spinal cord. The pain after surgrey was not bad in my neck but the site on the iliac crest where they took bone from for my fusion is still bothering me when walking or sittihg in the same position for too long of a time. My left arm remains slightly weaker than my right arm but it does not affect what I can do with it at all.
  • I have several different levels that are herniated. Starting from C 3,4 to C 6,7. They are all on top of each other and my NS was studying the new technology from the pro-disc c and we decided to put 2 artificial disc in and then fuse the last two. If I had a choice between a fusion and an artificial disc I would choose the artificial disc hands down!!!!
    It was wonderful!!!
    They go in through the front of the neck which I was very leery. I have two incisions which I hope in time will fade. I am dealing now with spasms where the fusion is and in time I am hoping that they will die down. I have 3 disc’s taken care of now we are going to work on my lower lumbar and then thoracic!
    This has been a long road I have been suffering for two years now and I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel……
  • I am having an ACDF on Dec. 8th and have been scared about it. Not so much the surgery, my fear is around the recovery. However, after reading all of the posts after Libby mentioned her fears, I am feeling much better. Because my symptoms have decreased somewhat, I often think I don't need to have it done, but I know that at any time, I can lose the use of my left hand again.

    I was just laid off from work, so I am not going to worry about going back to work for a while. Though it stinks that I was laid off before the holidays and right before my surgery, it will allow me to concentrate fully on my recovery.

    Thank you all for the posts! They helped me a lot and I hope they eased your fears too Libby.
  • All these posts have helped me so much it is great to know I am not alone in my fear. I am totally with you sweetrobs2 I have a few good days and I think well maybe I don't need the surgery. But that never lasts too long as the pain unfortunately does come back. I have been so busy with work and family stuff I have really not had a chance to think about the surgery. I have even planned a trip to Florida right after xmas and I will be back on the 5th of January and the surgery it the 13th!!

    So I will have some R&R before I am laid up!!

    Good luck on the 8th Sweetrobs2! Let us know how you make out. By the way how many levels are you having??
  • Hey Libby, I am 42 and had C 5-7 fused last february, my first surgery ever, after hideous back pain that started a few months before. Luckily (?) I didn't have time to be nervous, the damage was already so severe I didn't have much choice. But I am very glad I had the surgery, though I had no idea that I would take so long to fully recover. I started working again mostly at home in July, and only now do I really see my stamina coming back - the difference between lying down most of the day and getting going for a real work day (dressing, commuting, no naps, etc) was huge.

    So everyone is different, but I really didn't recognize what the recovery period would mean to me - life has just been exhausting me for months, and only now, eight months out, do I feel like I really have normal stamina to get through the day like a healthy person. Hoping over the next few months to get back into things I used to do - go out after work, run, play tennis, etc. For now, just lifting weights, walking the treadmill, and doing my stretches. One day at a time ... Good luck!
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,350

    Thank you for asking.
    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • I just had my first post-op appt with my NS and my fusion is healing "textbook perfect". He increased my weight limit from 10 lbs to 50lbs and said I should even be able to be skiing (powder, not bumps) by Feb or March. I'm totally off my pain meds, unless I do something really physical during the day and then I'll take tylenol or 1 tramadol or 1/2 of a 7.5 hydrocodone. I even spent last weekend partying in Vegas and managed to keep up with my pals, minus the roller coasters.

    So there are good outcomes out there....good luck!
  • Like Rivertime, I am also 8 weeks post-op.
    I had a 3 level ACDF C4-C7.
    I'm back to work, starting PT on Friday.
    I still have some back spasms and still have to take Soma once in a while.
    But the surgery was a complete success!!
  • libby,

    heres my 4wk story

    4 wks post op acdf level 2

    well its been 4wks since surgery and doing great as far as i read im one of the lucky ones. since i didnt know of my problem until july this year.dealt with arm pain and shoulder pain for several yrs. after surgery yes my throat was burning,shoulders and neck were in severe pain.(due to the position they put you in for the procedure) couldnt swallow. but from reading all info i expected it. this wasnt a 100% fix nor a 1oo% pain free fix.when i woke up in recovery my mind was already racing with fear and i started moving my hands and feet to make sure they worked and they did. once i got in my room i wanted water and continued drinking a lot of it to sooth my troat. swallowing food was hard. forced myself to do it though. was up walking after a couple of hours and wasnt going to sit on my butt the whole time. first week was rough sleeping slept sideways against recliner back until neck wasnt hurting as much.by the second week i was able to sleep on side with the pillows leveling my head with back. mind you i have the hard collar on. third week i was starting to walk every other day and since i walk 10+miles a day being a mail man it felt good to walk.i still dont push it though. no lifting more than a milk jug i have been active all my life its hard resisting to do things. i know this is a long healing process and i have to except it. no matter how stir crazy im gonna get.
    i will tell people who have neck pains, back pains and arm pains that dont go away in time or with physical therapy should get it checked out dont ignore the pain like me or most of the people in here. ignoring it is the worst thing you can do. if i had checked this out several yrs ago i might have saved a disc who knows. if you have to have surgery go in with your head high dont fret or worry. to the point of a panic attack. being nervous is normal. just before i went into surgery i started to make jokes with docs and nurses. it breaks the ice and relaxes me. im satisfied with my outcome and was surprised i had more problems with my body due to my pinched nerves. i sensitivity loss in my hands and feet. arm pains in both shoulders and arms to elbow. severe leg aches and wobbly legs causing me st stagger. also severe muscle twitches everywhere.
    after surgery most pain gone left arm has some since i had pain there for several yrs. legs dont hurt,and sensitivity is back.so dont think the worse. in some cases i can understand there is no pain relief. everyone is different and cant judge anyone with the pains they have or had. you yourself knows what you have wrong. let your doctor know and take action and dont wait. i myself plan to go back to work get back with my life and keep my head high no matter what. hope i didnt bore you with my rambling, but when no one is around to listen. i have my computer
  • phxchele I am having the same surgery you had the same 3 levels good to know that you are feeling good. And CLiffy glad to know you are doing well too. I am about 4 weeks away from surgery and have been having a couple of bad days where I was wishing I didn't have to wait till January 13th but it will come soon enough!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,714
    I have had 2 ACDF Surgeries (C5/C6 and C6/C7) at different times. For me, I had much better success and recovery from these cervical surgeries then I did with my lumbar surgeries.
    The pain and discomfort I had prior to the ACDF surgeries was immediately eliminated by surgery. I did have the second ACDF surgery 4 years after my first basically because of the overall instability of my spine, part genetics and part me not doing all the things I should have

    The single most important piece of advice I will give anyone who is faced with spinal surgery is to:

    A) Understand your limitations and adhere to them
    B) Be careful not to OVERDo
    C) Continue with any set of exercises that were given to you

    Follow these ABC's and you will have a better chance of being pain free and not returning for any additional spinal surgeries.

    Of course there are never guarantees, but it is your power to control what you can and that is so important. The rest is not in your hands
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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