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what would you ask surgeon?

ileneiilene Posts: 140
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I just reached 5 weeks post op C5-6 fusion with cadavera bone. I know I had many symptoms prior to surgery, including leg weakness, and tingling of legs when I tilted my head down. I had pain in both arms and hands, rt side always worse, all symptoms increased if I tilted my head. I went for several opinions, all said I had to have surgery ASAP. My surgeon said to do 1 level, and so did one other surgeon, 2 others suggested either 2 or 3 levels.

I was told prior to surgery that I would spend 1 night in the hospital. The first thing I remember was a doctor asking me to move my left leg, and realizing that I couldn't move my left leg or my foot, my rt let was able to move fine. Surgery I was told went well, I was scheduled for 7:30 am, and came out of surgery at aprox. 11:30, my husband was told the "prep" took longer then expected. I went from recovery to the ICU, which I was told was normal for the type of surgery I had. I was never told that I would be wearing a hard collar, so was shocked when I was, I was told a soft collar by my surgeon prior to surgery, I never did ask him why he put a hard one on me instead. The day after surgery the surgical and medical residents discharged me before PT had come up to get me out of bed. When PT did come she asked me when I was leaving and when I told her after she walks me to the bathroom, she said how she didn't think I was ready to leave....I agreed with her and she spoke to the residents who then kept me an extra day. I was sent home by the PT with a walker and a cane. I was lucky that my daughter was able to stay with me for those first 2-3 weeks. I had trouble getting out of bed without help, my left leg is still weak but getting better I still have a numb heal, and the top of it tingles when touched, and is also slightly numb. I was in a lot of pain, and had difficulty doing almost anything on my own for at least the first week, and most of week 2.

During my 4th week of recovery I was able to get up and lay down without any problems. I am trying not to limit painkillers and muscle relaxers because of what they are doing to my stomach. I wake up feeling pain in my upper arms, shoulders, and upper back in the area of the disc, depending on what I am doing, like now when I am typing I start getting tingling in my arm, hand and fingers. My legs are weak, now the left is weaker then the right which is opposite how it was prior to surgery. I have a lot of questions to ask my surgeon who I am seeing again tomorrow, but my husband's feeling are to only look forward, and to ask him what I should expect in the future, and not to ask him anything about the past. I am wondering if there is something he didn't tell me at the time of surgery which is the reason I am having such problems now. I knew prior to surgery that my cord was being severely comrpessed by a large osteophyte and that the nerve was also compressed. What my surgeon said is that the large one came off easily and then he found 3 smaller ones under it, which also came off easily, and once off the cord opened up immediately. When I spoke to him about my left leg in the hospital he just said that with any surgery is there is a small amount of hemorrhage, and that all of these symptoms will get better as I heal. I also spoke to him 2 times since sugery, both times he assured me what I was feeling was normal. I still wonder, even though I know everyone heals at a different rate and differently. What would you suggest I ask my doctor?

Thanks so much,


  • No I have not had any x rays or MRI's since surgery. I expect that I will have at the least an x ray tomorrow. He and the first surgeon I saw agreed that only 1 level should be done, even though there were more levels involved. My surgeon said that he didn't feel the other levels warrented the surgery, and would just weaken them that would the weaken the already weakened discs above and below them. I have some disease of C2-T3. What I also had found interesting is that my PM doctor suggested to me that I only have 1 level done too.

  • Surgeons usually try to do the least amount of surgery that will address the problem and the symptoms...particularly with fusion. They want to leave as much motion as possible. So they have to use their judgment once they get in there to determine what is enough but not too much.

    It will be very important in physical therapy that you address any postural issues that you may have. You will want to do everything possible to avoid the "domino effect" where the adjoining segments end up taking the brunt of any movement.

    If I were you, I would sit down tonight and write out a list of questions, and rank them in order of importance to you, in case you run out of time and don't get to them all. I usually just leave my papers in my lap and let the surgeon lead the conversation. As the conversation evolves, we almost always end up covering all the topics on my list. Also, usually one question leads to another related topic, so you aren't really just going down your list asking questions, unless you aren't listening to the surgeon's answers.

    I imagine you will have at least an X-ray. That should lead to more questions and/or answers!

    I understand your desire to want to know what happened in the surgery. Be sure to contact the hospital and ask for a copy of the operating room notes that the surgeon writes after the procedure. This can be interesting reading! It may fill in some of the blanks for you.

  • Ilene,

    When you see the surgeon tomorrow you need to cover why when you woke up your leg was numb and what you are experiencing with it. I would first lead in kind of light hearted as I am sure they will do x-rays first to check the placement of hardware. I suspect that your surgeon ended up using a hard collar, as he found some instability once the spurs were removed. Of course I am no doctor just my guess. Don't worry that they didn't do more than one level. Typically in almost any other surgery, the more they fix something the better it is. Unfortunately more is not always better with the spine. Not knowing your age remember after the age of 30 almost everyone is going to show issues in the spine, most aren't aware of them till they become symptomatic. I guessing by your surgeons clinical findings that he thought only the one level was causing you problems. One thing I can think of is did your surgeon discuss myelopathy with you prior to surgery?

    One important thing to remember although neck surgery is not as painful it indeed can be a very long recovery. Since you had a cord compression, I am going to say it will take quit sometime for the nerves to calm down. I have seen members take up to a year and then one day, they are saying wow I don't feel that anymore. Nerves just take so long to heal. However, I also caution you if something all of a sudden just don't feel right don't ever hesitate to call the surgeon. There is another member here by the user name "neck of steel", who woke from surgery with the same issues you are describing. I will send her a message and see if she has any other advice that may help you more. Anyway let us know how the appointment with the surgeon goes tomorrow. Take care.
  • Sorry I didn't see this post to answer it until tonight, after you have already been to the doctor.

    I hope you were able to get answers to your questions. Even though you seem to be healing, I would suggest an MRI be done so that you have an idea of any cord damage or if there is something else causing the weakness and numbness. It concerns me that you are having weakness in the opposite leg compared with pre-surgery. I think this should be investigated, but then again, I hope your doctor discussed this with you today.

    My story is somewhat similar to yours, except that I could not walk and ended up staying in the hospital for 8 days and going home with a wheelchair. I later went for a few days of inpatient spinal rehab to learn how to better care for the SCI related bladder/bowel issues. This is also where I began an intense 3 hours per day physical therapy routine. A post op MRI showed a contusion to my spinal cord which resulted in permanent issues. I was diagnosed with Brown Seguard Syndrome, which is where half of your body is weak and the other half altered sensations. Well, all of it was weak, but the left side weaker than the right, with the right side being more painful. It is interesting to note that this is normally something caused by a knife wound to one half of the cord. No puncture wounds for me, just some really bad luck! I am not trying to needlessly alarm you, but in my opinion it is important to get a good diagnosis so that you know what kind of therapy or treatment you will need to help you get back to yourself again.

    Now hopefully your issues are just caused from some inflammation that will go away with time. Really there is no way to know what is going on without further testing, and that is why an MRI would be applicable here. I had an mri either the day of or the next day after surgery (can't remember), and was only told that there was some swelling, and that everything went well during surgery and they really had no idea why I came out with the problems I did. After a few weeks I went to another doctor for a 2nd opinion, and he is the one who pointed out the contusion to my cord, telling me that the damage to the cord would never heal. My point being that sometimes it takes seeing someone else for you to get a diagnosis. A 2nd opinion is never a bad idea.

    One other thing I would like to mention, so maybe reassure you on your decision to have one level done. I made the decision to go ahead and have 3 levels fused, when it is possible that doing the worst one would have relieved the majority of my pre-surgery symptoms. I chose to do all three because I didn't want to be facing surgery again. A part of me thinks that if we had stuck with only having one done, I may not have come out with the problems I did. The more work you have done on your spine at one time increases your chances for complications. So try not to second guess yourself about having just the one level done. It was probably a wise decision, especially given the problems you are having now.

    I am interested to hear what your doctor said today. I hope you make a full recovery and the strength comes back quickly. Let me know if I can help.

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
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