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New member - Upcoming C-4 surgery

linnryllinnry Posts: 34
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Am so glad to have found this place and all of you. A little of my history- I was dx by mri's and EMG's back in 1997 to have stenosis and bone spurs up and down my C spine. At that time I had one herniation in the C7 area. Struggled with pain at that time until 2002. This is where it gets a little weird, until the fall of 2008 I was able to manage my pain by taking excedrin. But in September of 2008, I sought a doctor to help me with the pain because it had once again become unmanageable. Had a repeat MRI and showed c-4 had herniated and stenosis was moderate in places. Just went to a neurosurgeon last week and he took one look at my MRI from last year and said here is the problem- the C 4 was literally smashing the spinal cord and he showed it to me and my husband. He said that the reason i was able to manage the pain pretty much on my own during those 6 years is because the fluid had leaked?? and the pain had lessened although I really didn't understand that altogether. Nonetheless, he wanted to schedule surgery right then and i said no, let us talk about this and get back to you. He explained that the disk would be taken out. He would go through the front of my neck. I have pain really bad and am currently taking lortab 10 every 4-5 hrs but now even that doesn't seem enough at times... I have lots of questions but am planning on getting the surgery in November am pretty sure. Once again glad to be here.


  • Welcome to Spine Health. The decision to have surgery is a big one, no doubt about it. Glad that your surgeon is on top of things and is willing to discuss it with you and your husband. Did your doc discuss the long term effect of putting off surgery in regards to your specific injury? If not, that might be something you want to discuss with him and add to the decision making process.

    We're glad you're here. Sorry you are injured. Lots of nice folks and great information available on SH.

    Welcome aboard,

  • Hi haglandc and thanks. Yes the surgeon said that any minor accident could potentially be disastrous as in paralyzing me for life :( A car wreck, or even less, a slip, fall, etc could cause paralysis. So that combined with the pain issues is why I'm electing to have it done. But you know, I am so scared of this surgery I wonder were all of you who have gone through it as scared as me? Surgeon said the risks were blood loss, infection, etc. But I am really freaked out about what might happen if I did have an accident and getting paralyed.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health. I'm glad you've found us, but sorry for your spine problem.

    I'm also a neckie. As you can see by my signature, I've had a 3-level ACDF with a plate and eight screws.

    Yes, many of us were very scared before our surgery. For me, I had never been in a hospital before, much less for spine surgery. I was totally freaked out. That's when I found Spine-Health, I was researching my surgery.

    It sounds like you're going to have an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) - is that what the surgeon told you?

    I know that this isn't going to help you right now, but for many here, the anticipation of the surgery was far worse than the surgery itself. It was for me and I'm hoping that you'll say the same thing when you post here after your surgery.

    You might want to talk to your surgeon about how much anxiety you're having about the surgery. It's not uncommon for the surgeon to prescribe you some anti-anxiety medication like Xanax to take during the time leading up to your surgery. It really can help.

    It's very common for the surgeon to go through the front of the neck for a cervical surgery. It's a lot less difficult for the surgeon and a much easier recovery for the patient. A very common issue post-op is a sore throat, because they move the trachea aside during the operation. But that's ok because it makes it legal to eat ice cream for breakfast.

    I'm assuming that you're having some issues in your arms, such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness, muscle pain and/or weakness?

    Anyway, I know what you're going through, as I've been there. Feel free to PM me if you have questions (well, of course you do) or if you just want to talk.

  • I just wrote a novel and now it's gone lol. Well once again i wanted to thank you Cath- everyone is so sweet and helpful here. Ok, It will be the ACDF. I had thought it was termed a laminectomy but he said no. Taking the entire c-4 out I guess and i had thought he would be putting in bone from me but hubby said he didn't hear him say that... The pain I have is in left side of neck, arm, hand, and really really bad in left shoulder. This morning I woke and had 2 last fingers on my right hand numb though so there is definitely a lot going on in there. I will ask him on my next and last appt with him about possibility of nerve medication because yes I am freaked out. But I know something must be done. He told me when I told him I was concerned about some still having pain after surgery- he said well what we are aiming for is getting your pain level down to a 2 rather than the 8, 9 or 10 it's been at. Does that seem reasonable? I guess it might, just not sure- I might have been dreaming thinking i would be 100 percent pain free after surgery. I have spurs as well but he seems like this c-4 is the main culprit so we'll see.
  • HI Linn,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and be sure to check out the animated video's here as well. They are very useful in understanding the procedure.

    As far as your surgeon saying that he will reduce your pain is very understandable. If a surgeon were to guarantee someone they would be pain free, I would tell you to run don't walk. That is not realistic. Now when we talk of reduced pain. Many have come here under gone the surgery and have some lingering effects of surgery for say a year or so and as time goes on it gets progressively better. Does that mean they no longer have pain, or just got used to the residual and it isn't a problem anymore? Not sure of which it is. Keep in mind as you read the forums those left posting about surgery are still here living in pain, while many have had successful outcomes and moved on to busy everyday living.

    Another thing I am not sure of you realize when they do a ACDF. The F stands for fusion. Typically something has to be used in the space such as autograft(your bone), allograft(bone bank), or some other product such as bmp(not recommended for the cervical spine, per FDA).

    Some of the best advice I can give you is being nervous in regards to surgery is normal. Just be sure you fully understand and educate yourself on your condition and what are the expected results. Make sure you also have researched your surgeon and are aware of his track record as well. Check out the FAQ section of the Forums located at the top of the main page you will find many useful links. I never try to scare anyone from surgery but you need to also understand the risk of surgery, such as adjacent disc disease, something you should address with your surgeon. Here is a complete article with the pro's and con's of surgery and explaining all aspects be sure to see the bottom of the page that there are more pages 8 in all. There is some advertisement in the middle.


    Anyway just wanted to stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Take care and keep us posted on how you get along and when surgery is.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I am also a neckie and understand your anxiety. I also had c5-c6 removed. It is called a corpectomy. There is an article here on spine health regarding the procedure. I also had the anterior approach with my surgery so if I can answer some of your questions and possibly ease your mind feel free to ask away.
  • I too am a neckie. I am scheduled for surgery Oct 7th and my NS is doing both and anterior and posterior procedure. I am not going into details now because I have written about it so much.

    All I want to say is my nerves are definitely a problem now. I am more anxious than I thought I would be and plan to call my NS on Monday to see if he can help me. Also, I did a lot of research through spine-health and other sites and talking to people in person. My husband thought I was obsessing, but I need to be informed before taking the plunge. Every week for 3 weeks now, I have had a list of questions which I called into my NS and he was more than happy to answer them. It was a relief. So ask as many questions that you can come up with. No question is a stupid one. Even with all of the info I have, and I plan to ask ALL of the questions again in my pre-op appt with the NS 2 days before the surgery, I am still scared and anxious. It is normal.

    Good luck to you!
  • pam, jlfry and robs thanks for chiming in and you've answered more of my questions particularly about the bone- i knew i heard him say he would take a very small bone from my hip or somewhere-- i will certainly make sure that is cleared up with him before surgery. Robs I will be watching the outcome of your surgery and how you do and want you to know i'll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Now, for something that is very much on my mind I wanted to comment on... tam, you brought up checking out the surgeon. Well, I did that and found that there were lawsuits against him. What shall I think about it? So many docs say how good he is and this past appt with my general practitioner I asked him once again- How is this surgeon? He says he recommends all of his cervies to this surgeon. But why then is there lawsuits? Is this normal to have some after practicing for many years? Scares me :(
  • What lawsuits are there against your surgeon?
  • It's perfectly natural to ne nervous and uneasy when you're in the postion both of you are in.

    Of course it goes without saying everyone is going to react differently to different circumstances, but here is what I experienced.

    I had the ACDF done to C3-C4 and they went through the front of my throat.

    I was a little nervous to say the least. In pre-op the 3 drs. and head nurse who were going to assist my surgeon came up to me and introduced themselves. Then went on to explain what exactly their duties were going to be. I found this to be somewhat comforting and it did relax me.

    Once the anesthetist put the needles into my arm I was out like a light........as if someone flipped a switch. The next thing I remembered was my wife waking me in post-op. Just like that it was over and done with.

    I won't lie and say it was pain free at all. Several times during the night in post-op I woke up and felt quite a bit of discomfort.......the morphine didn't work to well for me.

    However I was fortunate that each time I woke up I fell right back to sleep in less than a minute.

    After that (believe it or not) I had a slight sore throat for a day or two and that was it! The ICU nurses kept trying to get me to take the percocets (sp?), but I didn't need them.

    As for the wound on my hip (I too had bones taken from there to repair the damage in my neck) it never bothered me in the least. Not even an itch.

    Anyway, hopefully, letting you know what to expect eases your anxieties a bit. Hope I helped!
  • Hi Linnry- I"m new here too and it sounds like we have alot of the same things in common. I too am seeking input, but what I can share with you is this. Please get at least one more opinion.I cannot stress that enough. After being through the ringer with female problems and several botched procedures-leaving me permanently disabled, I learned that lesson the hard way. I trusted my first doc, instead of getting another opinion and ended up almost dying b/c of it. I know your situation seems urgent, but I'm sure if you stress this to another physicians office they may be able to get you in soon. About the lawsuits. My husband is an attorney and he said that it is not uncommon for a doctor to have been sued at one time or another in his career, especially if he's been in practice a long time. But if this guy has multiple lawsuits, that's a big red flag. Hope that helps you alittle.
  • Hello Linnry, I was injured at a home improvement store in May 2006- my neurologist said i had 2 herniated cervical disks at c4-c5 and should get another opinion from a neuro-sur! (most don't go for surgery unless necessary)- he said the same thing the neurologist said- slightest fall-hit head- car accident-you could be looking at paralysis! This is too serious to gamble with! Anterior Cervical Fusion can make you nervous, but I would have loved to have my fusion in the front only. There is typically not alot of severe pain post op as there can be with post cervical fusion. i had acdf c4-c7 & pcdf c3-c7 in Nov 2006 which failed in Sept 2008 & had to be removed Dec 2008 & more put in. I am now fused from c3 thr c7 (ant. with prosthetic disc in c3-c4)and fused posterior from c2 thru T1. I am so grateful not to be in a wheel chair, and can still feed myself. I know you are scared, but that pales in comparison to paralysis. My prayers and thoughts are with you!
  • Shemp, this sounds like a very good experience you had, I am sure hoping mine can be this way. Thanks for this info and glad to meet you :)

    There is medical negligence but I can see where one person may have even passed due to infection.
    Trufflelovr, this second opinion stuff is right on. I have decided last night that I would contact a D.O who is very in the know about doctors and get his opinion on this surgeon and my condition.

    Blaiser,exactly what this surgeon confirmed- what you said about not unless absolutely necessary do they go the surgery route. He told me that there are so many he turns away and says no I won't operate, etc..This possibility of paralysis has me totally freaked out and this is why I will go ahead and have surgery before the 1st of the year.
  • Welcome to SH. From all the posts above, I see you have received lots of great advice. Before my ACDF, I was continually falling as the ventral artery was being compressed when I turned my head to the right. This resulted in 2 broken bones! For the two years this was going on, one of my doctors kept saying he thought my pain was just muscle pain. He said my falls were from a weak ankle. I went for another opinion, had a cervical MRI finally and was immediately referred to a NS.

    Today I don't regret having the surgery. I did have a rough time postop for a few days as a "nerve" woke up and had the same pain you describe shoulder to hand. But, now there are times I forget I even had it done. The only time I get neck pain is if I do something that strains my neck. All of my other symptoms are gone.

    Looking forward to your posts after surgery.

    Best wishes to you,

  • It sounds like you're doing everything right,getting a 2nd opinion and getting informed. Paralysis is a terrifying thing! While waiting for my 3rd cervical fusion, a deer jumped over the hood of our car while on the freeway. It was so close I heard it's hooves hit the pavement. A near miss!! I had been told a accident or fall could paralyse me. I counted the days until surgery. I wish you the best of luck. May the powers that be keep you safe until surgery!
    Faith M
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