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Confessions of a "smoking" ACDF'er (c6/C7) - Now a NONSMOKER (m)...

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

Well "grab a cup of coffee" - this is long and pitiful I am confessing my post surgical outcome thus far from a one level ACDF on C6/C7 with PEEK CAGE.

Well, most of you know my history so I won't go into that other than I am 39 years old, female with a long standing history of osteoarthritis throughout my whole spine. Fast forward to last November when I finally had enough and my NS said I should have C6/C7 done ACDF because of a large herniated disk. I had that done on 11/6/08 and went home in a card Aspen cervical collar. He went in and found it to be grossly degenerated and then did "generous bilateral foraminatomies". He used PEEK cage system instead of cadaver bone.

Recovery went smooth. On 11/19/08 I received by bone growth stimular. I kept smoking thinking my stimular would counter act the effects of my smoking. 1st 6 wk appt. I was told I should try to cut down because fusion was very slow. My punishment was I had to wear the hard collar ANOTHER 6 weeks. Yay, whatever I tried to quit- didn't work. Second 6 week appt. (Last monday), I was told again - but with more emphasis - he showed me the xrays and even though I AM FUSING- it's VERY VERY slow. He said there is still time to reverse this if you quit now. I am taking you out of the hard collar because at some point it starts doing more damage than anything. Put me in a soft one now for 6 weeks,then I wean out of that completely 1 hour less each day. I go back 4/27 for follow-up and xrays.

I started crying and explained to him my addiction - nothing works for me except the patch. I said if I were to pick a poison, which one? He said, well then, if you have to - pick the patch. Start at the middle dosage, work your way down to quit. So, last Wed. I put on the patch and I have NOW BEEN SMOKE FREE FOR ALMOST A WEEK.

He also said "your symptoms WILL return if this doesn't fuse - although there is no guarantee it's your smoking causing the slow fusion - it could be something else we just don't know". But it's been proven over and over - you know...?

I feel so horribly guilty I am causing this to happen after everything I have gone through to get this fixed and I CHOSE to smoke, I CHOSE to almost ruin my surgery.

Well, now I am CHOOSING to reverse it - so there! LOL!

Please don't harp on me about my choice to smoke - I already feel guilty enough. I just posted this to get this off my chest and warn everyone else who has fusion surgery - PLEASE TRY TO STOP SMOKING before your surgery - WELL before your surgery so you aren't so stressed to do it after the fact.

My GF who is same age - had lumbar surgery at same clinic - did not quit smoking even though they told her to - now is facing her 4th lumbar revision surgery.

I don't want that to be me.


  • I am pulling for you, keep up the good work ! I am also an ex-smoker, so I understand how hard it is...BUT you can do it, your health depends on it, you will feel better in SO many ways. May seem funny..when I quit I used the patch also..and brushed my teeth so many times during the day that it's no wonder I didnt have issues with them because of it!
  • Cindy,

    I could beat you up and tell you the horror stories that go with a non-fusion, but that won't do any good. What is done is done and you have to keep going forward at this point. I'm glad that you have chosen to quit. furthermore, I'm glad that you admitted and made this post as well. You might look for some support in the smoking forum as well. To quit smoking is a very hard thing to do. You have made the choice to change your life for the better and I'm so proud of you. One for making the choice and two for admitting your problem. Don't look back now just look forward and everyday will be a better day. Something that really helped me was aroma therapy. Good luck and will be waiting to here how your doing. If I can ever do anything don't hesitate to pm me. Good luck and make sure to use that bone growth stimulator as well.
  • Your post really made me feel good - you're right - the biggest and hardest thing for me was admitting I had done wrong - I didn't want to just dissapear off these boards for fear of getting negative feedback for my decision - instead I am facing it - and moving forward. THANK YOU

  • im still smokin and im having a fusion 5 march....i really need to give up, but feel so nervous about everyting that im smoking more now than ever...its a vicious circle, im glad youve managed to give up, i hope i can have as much willpower as you, you have inspired me...keep it up
  • I'm not one to speak - really, but It really doesn't hit you until you've had the surgery and you SEE the results on your xray - then your NS is telling you you will most likely have to have a revision surgery which is 10x worse than the original surgery - then it sinks in - OMG, I need to quit! I need to quit - not only for myself, but for everyone around me including my 6 year old son - I need to quit so I am not on oxygen when he graduates from HS - I need to quit so I can play with and take care of my grandchildren some day - I need toquit to be there for my son when he gets married,e tc. It justall starts coming at you - it never has for me UNTIL NOW - I realize this is isn't bigger than me, I can handle this. I can do it. Put the patch on now if you can and wean yourself from the sticks - that is the only way I don't pick them up is knowing I have the patch and I CANNOT or SHOULD NOT smoke with it on because it's dangerous. Itell you, if I wasn't wearing it, I'd be picking it right back up - I am very addicted.

    I feel for you - I really do - I wasn't going to give them up either because I thought the bone growth stimulator would counteract the effects - turns out that is my saving grace - had I not had that - I wouldn't be fusing at all.

    I send you lots of quit and positive vibes and please keep us posted and good luck to you. THANK YOU so much for your post - me inspiring someone makes me feel even better about my decision ;)

  • I'm happy for you. That's a very tough addiction to quit. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I stopped smokeing Oct 27th the day of my operation. Kmowing what I know now about what it afects besides your lungs I wish I would never had statrted. GOOD LUCK : )
  • I admire you GOOD JOB on quitting smoking BEFORE your surgery. How is your recovery coming along? Are you fused? Thanks for writing me.
  • I commend you both for doing whats best for your back and long term health. Keep it up, I am proud of you both!
  • quit smoking, I had a L5/S1 fusion in dec/07 and it fused ok, but have to have hardware out now then another surgery to fix upper back where a bone disingreated, have been on a walker since my surgery, was forced to quit my job, have applied for ssd, no word yet, and now I smoke even more waiting to have surgery.
    I live in Orlando and have to go to Miami for surgery as he is the only surgeron in the southeast that can do this risky surgery and he said I have to had quit smoking for 6 weeks before he will do surgery. Its so very hard, even knowing that I cant stand nup straight now, use a walker and am on high dose of pain killers, I still smoke. What a stupid person I must be!!!!
    Somehow I must quit,I will do it!!! Thanks for making this post it will help
  • My surgeon is strongly encouraging me to quit, I smoke a pack a day, and I LIVE with 3 other smokers, so there is the tough part for me, I have quit before and I gained TERRIBLE amounts of weight and is the main reason why I do not want to quit now. since I have been off work in Sept to now I have gained about 10 pounds from lack of activity. *sigh* I am just taking it as it comes, I do have some nicotine gum which works for me, I am using it to help me stop at least a few days after surgery and I will give it to God and hope I am stable with it and can continue.
  • looks like it was a good thing I posted my "dilemma". As for weight gain - yes, I know I will gain weight - my neurosurgeon said "so what!" - you cna lose it at some point but you will never gain back the use of your lungs or the air you breathe if you don't quit smoking now (said to me gently LOL) - and he's right. I too put off quitting for fear of gaining weight as I'malready overweight (significantly according to the AMA LOL). I didn't believe him for a long time obviously, but he is - he is really right - weight gain is much more healthier than continuing to smoke, but it's a decision that's owned by us (you) and we have to decide which one is better for each of us.

    I find the patch is the best for me toq uit because like I said, I realize I CAN'T or SHOULD NOT smoke with it on because it's just dangerous - if I didn't have the patch on and was relying on the gum or lozenges, I would have a choice when I craved a cigarette - "hhhmm, should I have a cigarette or pop in a piece of gum or a lozenge" I would sure choose a cigarette, that'sjust the way I am.

    Well, good luck you guys in quitting, I send you my strongest vibes you make the right decision for yourself.

  • Hi to all of you,

    I have had three ACDF surgeries as shown below. I quit smoking the day of the first two surgeries and all three levels fused within three months. Each time I fused, I would start smoking again. My last surgery was on 12/16/08 for levels C6-C7 (which I believe should have been included in my 6/23/08 surgery) and due to many different things (stress, quickness of the surgery date, depression, etc.), I had difficulty completely quitting smoking this time. I never smoked a whole cigarette at once but I would have a hit of my boyfriends here and there and sometimes I even went for days or a week without any. I was so mad at myself the whole time too!

    Yesterday was my 6 week post-op visit and I am not fusing. I was almost in tears. My doctor says "you've always grown bone like gangbusters but I don't see much this time". He says my constant shoulder/back muscle pain is not getting any better because I am not fusing. He did not ask me about smoking but he knows I was a previous smoker. He thinks I am not fusing because I have lost weight (only about 6 lbs) and told me to gain it back asap. He has also ordered a bone stimulator. I will NOT have another cigarette or be around any until I know I have fused this time too!

    I'm sorry for being so lenghthy. I'm just extremely upset and hating myself right now.

    I have a few questions that I am hoping some of you might be able to comment on.

    Has anyone heard of no fusion due to weight loss?
    Has anyone started fusing after 6 weeks post-op?
    Has anyone had any luck with a bone stimulator?
    Why have I heard C6-C7 are the toughest to fuse?

    Thanks for any input!

  • I had my ACDF on 11/03/08 and finally quit smoking 2 weeks ago. I am in so much pain and getting nausea, I finally quit cold turkey. I was already starting to fuse 3 weeks post op, but I know for my health and due to bad pain/recovery issues, it's for the best. I also have some lumbar issues I don't want getting worse. I'm glad to hear that many people have quit or are trying! We have our own support group here!haha
  • I am a 41 year old female. I am 17 days post ACDF surgery 2 levels (C5/C6,C6/C7) with bone graphs, plates and screws. Prior to surgery I was in severe pain due to Spinal Cord Compression to a point where when they removed the discs my spinal cord was "dented". I feel very fortunate nothing more serious happened to have permanently damaged my spinal cord. I have smoked most of my adult life - not heavy - average 1/2 pack per day at most but enjoyed those 10 cigs per day immensely. I was advised to immediately quit and I did smoke my last cigarette at 3am on Dec 6th the morning of my surgery. I am very excited to have made it this far without a cigarette. I do not want to risk my fusion and go thru this again as I have small children (4 year old twins) so this has been very difficult on my family. I have been taking it day by day promising myself I will not smoke today. Not easy! I have been telling myself - how much could it hurt to just have 1 every now & then. I have read other posts of folks who continued to smoke fully after this surgery. I am determined to stay smoke free but each day gets harder as I am gaining my strength back and able to do things more ... I go back to NS Jan 6th for 1st Xray and hopefully they will see the fusion has started. I am wearing a Biomet Bone Stim 10 hours per day on average so fingers crossed. Would love any comments from anyone on the smoking piece or even post ACDF recovery and how long before you feel like your normal self ... My severe pain is gone thankfully! I have lots of muscle pain in shoulders in neck and weakness and numbness in right arm and fingers still.
  • to even consider doing a fusion on me until I had quit smoking for at least four weeks and he ran the tests to make sure I had! I am with those who say they only want to do to this ONCE and I am going to give myself the best possible chance for success. I found a website called whyquit.com that was a great support to me in ending my 30 year habit!
  • Thanks preese .. I am lucky my NS did not require me to quit 4 weeks ahead of time - I was in so much pain until the day of surgery don't think I could have quit then. I am committed to success as well -one day at a time! Did you have your surgery yet? And thanks for the Website for support!
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