Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

ACDF Long-Term Testimonials

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hey guys,

Have any of you ever come across any long-term testimonials from patients whom have had a single level ACDF anywhere from 10 years or more ago? My NS told me that there is about a 5% chance that I would have surgery again due to adjacent disc degeneration. I am 32 years old and like to run, life weights, play golf, etc. I want to continue to do this after surgery.
Also, have any of you ever heard of someone "upgrading" from an ACDF to an ADR? My NS also mentioned that this is a possibility in the future. They would just have to cut through the scar tissue.
In all my research I have read just as many good testimonies from ACDF's as there are from ADR's and vice versa.
Last question, for those whom have had ACDF's: is the loss of range of motion in the neck unbearable or is it almost normal? Is it something that you consider pretty minor in the long run now that you have lived with it?


  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey Scott,

    I don't fit in the long term category but I am a little over the 2 years of a 3 level ACDF, corpectomy, discectomy, both anterior, and posterior. I'm not familiar with ADR's being performed after an ACDF. I would think you can resume your lifestyle as before, I was warned by my neurosurgeon to stay away from high impact sports such as water skiing, bungee jumping, etc....
    As far as my ROM, I do have some loss turning my head to the left so I have to be a little extra careful driving when changing lanes but I am surprised it is not worse. My chances of having more fusions is almost 100% as most of my spine is deteriorating due to OA.
    Take care,
  • I had one level ACDF of C5/6 in January 08. There are days I forget it was even done. Only notice loss of range of motion when backing up my car. I do have to avoid activities that involve my bending my neck down too much as it results in a flare up of pain for a few days.

    Best to you,

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,846
    I had an ACDF in 1994 for C5/C6. Then in 2000 I had a second ACDF for C6/C7. Here they placed a plate crossing those levels with screws.

    As far as range of motion. I have about an 85% Left to Right motion and about 80% Up/Down.

    The two biggest problems I have with these are:

    1- While driving, turning my head to the left when attempting to pass. I put in one of those extra long rear view mirrors which does help.

    2- If I try to look up for any period of time, my neck will start to burn a little. And this may sound funny, but if I tried to fold a pair of pants and try to hold it under my chin, NO WAY... cant do it.

    But overall I consider these surgeries to be successful. If I get flare ups, which I do, those percentage ranges decrease quite a bit
    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
  • ^ Ron that is my biggest fear looking over my shoulder to check my blindspots while driving..
  • I had a 3 level 12 weeks ago so I'm not healed but I've learned to raise my car seat as high as it will go then tilt the seat back to a 30 degree angle which puts my hips at a good angle to turn from so I don't mess up my lower back.

    I also raised my head rest as high as it goes so I can rest my head on it. I put on the side "blind spot" mirrors too. LIfe goes on and with a little imagination and research most things are possible.
  • Hi Ron!

    I had a 3 level ACDF. Did you go to PT to gain that much ROM? If so what did they do to help you. If not what did you do to gain that much range?

    That's wonderful you did so well with those surgeries.. My ROM is really limited but I'm early in the game. I'm afraid to push it too much because I don't want to stress my remaining discs. I have no interest in more surgeries. Does moving your head affect the remaining discs?
  • I had a 2 level ACDF at C5-6, 6-7 on July 13th. I actually have more ROM than before surgery, as I was in so much pain I couldn't turn my head to the right, and just a bit to the left. Up & down is a different story. I agree with Ron, I've had to change how I fold pants :))) Not sure of the long term, but so far the ROM is great. I haven't had any PT yet, but am going to be going for other issues, so I'm sure they'll work on the neck as well.

  • My first anterior cervical fusion C3-C7 was done in 2007 and had to be performed again in Feb. 2008 due to not fusing, also screw(s) breaking and backing out. I have difficulties with ROM left to right as well as up and down. You tend to not realize how much you do use your neck, until you are limited. If have bad headaches if I turn my neck too much, particularly on the right side. Can no longer drink from a can without using a straw (good thing I don't drink beer!). My right shoulder dropped 5-6 inches after the first surgery (no one can understand why...?) thus creating low back problems because I am now crooked. So now dealing with L4, L5 and S1 issues. Consider me a "neckie and a backie"!

    I use a u-shaped neck pillow for support while in the car or sitting on the couch. I also use a special neck pillow in bed - can't use a regular bed pillow for some reason. This was all due to an auto accident and I was awarded Social Security disability this summer - I wasn't able to return to work after this happened in 2006.

    Wish you the best of luck....some people's success rates are better than others. Never lose faith, always have hope!


  • I'm so sorry Suzy!

    Any idea what prevented the fusing? Did you use a bone stimulator? Having to do the surgery over would be so tough.

    You sure have a good attitude which is so important. My brother was super active and for no reason we can figure got Parkinson's in his 50's. He has such a great sense of humor and gives so much to everyone else. I admire people who are given tough stuff and make the best of it. Sounds like you're one of those people.

  • Was my answer after a 3 level fusion. My first operation was C5-7 in 2007. In March of this year my C4-5 joined the party. I am a tractor trailer driver (or was) so I am quite used to using convex mirrors. Would still like a backup camera for backing up. I do have backup sensors that do help greatly. :)
  • I had C5-6 ACDF in 1997 with great success for over ten years. There was some residual left arm weakness but no pain or real problem with ROM. Last year I started having pain, numbess, etc on the same side and had C6-7 ACDF with plating done. I have recuperated very well except for some voice issues. I did end up with a paralyzed vocal cord but am doing much better now. I had an injection in the paralyzed cord to bulk it up and can talk, drink, eat, etc. without a problem.
  • Yes, I faithfully wore a bone growth stimulator every day, four hours a day...I can't remember how many weeks I had to do that...I'm not a smoker either, which I guess is sometimes why people have problems fusing. I was told having a multi-level fusion is more risky for not fusing than having a single level fused. It was rough, very rough to be exact. My surgeon I don't think believed me that I was in so much pain! He had poor bed side manners to begin with, which didn't help matters much. Long story - but needless to say, he didn't do my second surgery!

    Thanks for your kind words - I try to make the best of each day as it is presented to me!
  • Thanks for all the replies! This really helps my wish for an ADR. My NS has submitted an order for an ADR utilizing the Prodisc-C, I hope it goes through. I am active duty air force with Tricare..I give it about 60/40 (not in my favor). My flying is on hold until I recover from the surgery so if I get denied by Tricare them I might just give in to the ACDF. It's a single level: C5-6 but I know I will be looking at another fusion in 10 years.
  • Scott,

    As far as success there are so many factors that go into that. One if the surgeon sees you have fused, considered a success. If you are left with some residual pain, is that considered a success. Also going into surgery how bad is the pain? Following surgery if the really pain is gone but you have pain and fuse is that considered a success? Your surgeon will tally that as a successful surgery, however you may not feel so successful. I think by in large you seeing varying degrees of outcomes with fusion surgery as the varying degrees of issues to do fusion surgery. Why many aren't even a candidate for ADR surgery.

    AS far as the need for future surgery. I think by in large that is going to boil down to some luck and what the other levels looked like prior to surgery. There is a newer member in chat, who I chatted with recently who has ADR. HIs ADR is the problem as it is covered in bone and has spurs on it. Basically has a fusion anyway as the movement part of the ADR is covered in bone. But I am sure his ADR was checked with a no problem or issue as it is several years latter. One of the biggest problems with the statistics is the length of time patients have been studied, for one reason or the other. My primary has ADR and is so impressed with it at the 1yr mark.

    Even though my outcome was not what i would have liked. I am better off from where I came from. Prior to surgery I was hardly able to get out of bed and the risk of paralysis was extremely high. So I think success is going to be in the eye of the beholder. I truly believe while your surgery pain heels in few months your body continues to heal for a year or so out. The challenge for most is the long haul.

    Keep in mind all those great recovery stories are long gone from the forums, as they are back out living a normal busy everyday life.
  • I agree that most people don't even post on forums that have successful surgery. As for me I finally made up my mind and am choosing a fusion for my C 5/6. It's a single level fusion so I am praying that it won't affect my life too much. I am 32 years old and am physically active. I like to play golf, run (higher intensity), and lift weights (not too heavy). My son will be three in January and I want to be able to do stuff with him. I fully realize that I have an almost certain chance of future surgery, what can I do.
    Part of me wants to forget about surgery but everyone says my nerve damage will only get worse. The hardest part is that it is on again/off again chronic..meaning the pain and numbness comes for a month and disappears for a month. But over the last few years the "on again" symptoms have gotten progressively worse. Ironically the last bout flared up from a single push up when I had been lifting weights and running for a long time before hand. I can do pushups even now because I am on an "off again" phase. I do always, however, have numbness and tingling in my left arm and sometime my right. I can feel it right now while sitting and typing. I can also always feel some type of tenderness in my neck in the morning and when I move my neck to it's gimbal limits.
    It's hard for me to justify surgery but everyone tells me to get it early in order to avoid more nerve compression and damage.
  • scott

    i will be a year out of surgery on nov 13th. as far as being able to do the things ive done. i still can. some even better.i agree with ranger when he said not to do the high impact stuff. stay with the light weight exercises and dont turn your hesd fast. i had level 2 acdf c4-6 done. i lift weights again, carry about 25 lbs and walk all day as a mailman and also referee soccer 3 days a week. i feel great. ive learned to take it easy with things. just not mr he-man anymore. just me!!
  • What do you consider high intensity? Is running at a pace faster than a jog considered high intensity?
    Do doctors say not to lift more than 25lbs permanently?
  • right now i do heavier weights on my bench i press 120 lbs and dumbbells up to 50 lbs. only because the bench gives me support. i dont strain to lift the weights either. as for dead lifting something ive been sticking around 40 lbs. also i have been sprinting on the soccer field as a ref for the last 2 months 3 times a week. it depends on how you feel. i was in shape before surgery so it didnt take as long to recover. just take it slow at first. i did!
  • I am a Police Officer with 27 years Service who has recently had to undergone a level one ACDF C5/C6 Fusion and Plating. I'm presently recovering 4 weeks after the operation and all has, it would appear gone well. I have acceptable aches and pains in my neck after surgery.

    My concern is my job understandably needs physicality and the ability to overcome criminals who may want to resist or attack me. I have enjoyed being strong and fit up until 4 months ago when I was struck down with shoulder and arm pain. Which has been fixed (Thank the Lord) However to be frank Im a little nervous at the moment. Don't feel well enough but getting there to do Push ups etc. Will I get well enough soon to do exercise and lift weights as I did before but more importantly and to be blunt get into a fight possibly day after day and win and not break my neck. (Imagine someone grabbing me by the neck. Has this happened to you?)

    I would appreciate any views please. I really don't know what to expect from my body for the future

  • Welcome to Spine Health!! I retired a little over a year ago (Fed Agent/Pilot), and like you my first fusion was the C5/6. For mine (same fears - bad guy issues/encounters) my surgeon kept me out for 6 weeks, and then 6 more weeks of light duty. After that I was cleared for full duty, but to be careful till fully fused. By the time a year came around I almost forgot I had surgery - yes I felt that good and strong again.

    A month after that sadly, my C6/7 herniated rather violently and caused nerve damage. I was kept out of work for 4 months, returned to light duty, and then it was determined I wasn't getting most of the strength and function back along the C7 nerve root to the right, I had to then retire. Hopefully you won't run into adjacent level failure. Mine was predisposed due to a pretty bad helicopter crash and years of bad posture flying helicopters, not to mention helmets and the daily gear we wore.

    I wish you well on your return to work, and stay safe my brother!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Ski trama required immediate fusion of C6/7 - left arm triceps, middle pectoral, forearm and finger nimbness. Rivoting pain on left shoulder blade. The surgery took pain and numbness away. Rehab to regain feeling and strength continue, regularly. I work hard on back muscles (pull-ups & over head press with 35 lb. dumb bells) and core, much less on front side. My head is glued to headrest always and I have become very familiar with rear view mirrors and not waving to people while I drive in my small town. I ski aggressively and play contact hockey 2x per week. I am 47. Lately I have more and more muscle soreness in my back of neck, especially after a game. Yes I'm old, and a hockey player that enjoys the game and comraderie associated with playting team sports. I gave up mountain biking and running for road bike racing and enjoy it - almost as much. Problem is I fear that I may be playing on borrowed time. Muscles can only be so strong and I need someone to tell me to age out of hockey ...... help!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey Jeff,
    Core strength is very important, keep working on that along with cardio. Careful with weight training with anything heavy overhead, that will be tough on the cervical spine. I believe in staying active but anything that involves contact or impact to the joints as anyone gets older should be avoided, hence running on pavement, possibly checking in hockey. A few years ago I put the road tires on my mountain bike and several years ago I hung up my hockey stick. But I have been finding ways to replace physical activity in the gym. I probably loved hockey as much as you do "back in the day" but there comes a time when you need to give up the full contact games.
    Take care,
  • I will be having a level 1 C6-7 ACDF on March 28th. I am an auto mechanic by trade but 2 years ago I started doing counter sales after a right hand carpal tunnel release. One year later I am having weakness in my right hand a pain in my neck/back. I have been diagnosed with cervical myelopathy from cord compression at the C6-7 level and a compressed ulnar nerve. Likely looking at a surgery after the ACDF depending on the outcome for the ulnar nerve. Thanx for the info on recovery.
  • March 2002 I received my C5-C7 ACDF after a pretty serious accident falling from a deck railing to the top of my head onto landscape rocks 13' down. Not only did I fracture my neck but lacerated ligaments and tendons in my neck. The surgery went significantly longer because I had bone spurs, and significant degeneration, in fact the doctor told me after the surgery that I had a neck of a 60+ year, I was only 37 at the time.

    My life post ACDF has been a journey. The first year was hell, could not even lift my 2 year old for months. Because I was not as physically active as I had been during my life I gained a little weight, muscles began to shrink from little use. Sleeping was horrible, plagued with chronic pain I became very depressed, which only exacerbated my physical pain. Very vicious cycle. Because my husband (ex-now) had wonderful insurance my neurosurgeon referred me to a very expensive pain clinic. I was excited about going, and in the beginning I was the most active participant in my group, however the daily drive to the hospital 45 miles from my home, the 6 hour class x 8 weeks began to set me back. My endurance was minimal. This depressed me even more. The doc there did prescribe Cymbalta for my neuropathy. This helped tremendously, for a while. (I should add I was not taking any pain medication after my accident/surgery other than the topical pain patches non-narcotic).

    Any way, fast forward before I bore to death. I am 48 years old now, for 5 years I ran my own small landscape company this was brutal tough work on my body, however because I was in such great physical condition my body bounced back from this pain pretty quickly. Two years ago I went back to school, I found an inside job which is sedentary by far I have more pain since taking a sedentary job.

    I will always live with pain. I still have neuropathy in my thumbs, i live with a burning in my ribs below my right breast which I am completely baffled by. I am over sensitive to things irritating my skin, I am Hyper Hyper sensitive, if a dog hairs is in my shirt it drives me crazy because it feels like a sliver digging into my skin. I have to move, rock, get up, wiggle of something often or my body gets burning sensations at various points of my back. If I sleep over 4 hours I am guaranteed neck pain all day and worse of all is occipital neuralgia, and the worst debilitating headaches with nausea that are relentless and nothing relieves the pain. Always happens on a thursday evening and lasts the entire weekend. Just enough to screw up my weekend. Sadly I no longer have any medical coverage so I live with what I am handed. I am also very good at hitting my head as I get into a vehicle. I "think" I am ducking my head, alas not quite possible and wham. It really is pretty funny by this point. Any way. Thanks for letting me share.

    Oh one last thing. It is very discouraging living with chronic pain that seems to go hand in hand with my injury and subsequent surgery. it takes a toll on my mental health and probably a large contributor to why my marriage failed. So if you are suffering, find a support group where you can be surrounded by people who understand what you are living with.
    Keri Harpel
  • I'm a 19 year old fit and healthy guy and I broke my neck in a backflipping accident 3 months ago. They told me i narrowly avoided surgery and made me wear a neck brace for 3 months. Around the 2 month point I was doing good, my neck was stable. Then I got X-rays on my neck last week bending it forward and backward. Now I'm told I need ACDF surgery on the c6/7 because the x-rays showed that my spine was unnaturally curved when I bent the neck forward and backwards. My surgery is on Tuesday and I'm pretty nervous but I hope to make a quick and speedy recovery and get back to athletics and hockey. I've never had any numbness or weakness which is good news. They are getting an MRI and CT scan for me the day before surgery and I pray for a miracle that my neck is somehow healed! Well that is wishful thinking but the surgery is the right choice for the long path...

  • It sounds like you have been very lucky not to have worse problems as you have broken your neck!

    The recovery from an ACDF is probably one of the easier spinal surgeries to recover from. :-)
    You are going to have to be patient though while you wait for the bone to fuse. Being only 19 will probably mean that you will heal more quickly.

    Good luck on Tuesday. I hope that it will all be straight forward and that your recovery will go smoothly.
    This is a great place to get support while you are recovering from people who understand what it involves.

    Do ask any questions you may have. There are lots of friendly people here who will be glad to share their experience.

    I had a 2 level ACDF 6 months ago. Mine was from a very degenerated neck and I do still have most of my symptoms. My surgeon says I could still improve though right up to 12 months after surgery, so I am hoping that things will get better. I also had a lumbar fusion done 3 years ago.

    Do let us know how you get on :-)
  • Thanks I am grateful that nothing worse happened with my neck. What is a degenerated neck, is it hereditary or something that happens over age? Well I certainly hope your symptoms improve and vanish overtime there is nothing worse than permanent damage. I am very worried about how this surgery will affects my performance/limitations in sport. Do you reckon I would be able to play hockey and athletics again given I take the time to make sure everything is properly healed? I feel like my case is different to those with degeneration and I have the view that I will be able to do those sports again to my full potential. I will ask the neurosurgeon about it though just to make sure, even if I have to limit or give up certain sports then I will just have to accept it. I appreciate life a bit more at this point because I know I could've been a lot worse off! Thanks hopefully I will remember to let you guys know how I am going :)

  • Well, I suppose it is wear and tear, although I have been told that mine is more like an older person. I was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis with myelopathy. That is arthritis of the neck to us!
    I am 57, so there has been time for plenty of wear and tear. Add to the mix that I have loose ligaments and hypermobile joints, a small spinal canal and had lumbar fusion 3 years ago for a spondylolisthesis when my spine was tilting forwards so the loading was not as it should be. I also fell out of a tree as a child and knocked myself unconsious. That seems to long ago to have had any effect, but apparently not. Almost all the discs throughout my spine are dark on MRI and loss of height. Quite a lot of them are bulging and some were/are pressing on nerves and my cord. It was because I had 2 discs compressing my spinal cord and was getting some of the signs of myelopathy, which is cord damage, that I had the ACDF done. On MRI scan you can now see that my cord has fluid around it again.

    Your surgeon will advise what activities you will be able to return to as only he knows how bad your neck is and what it will be like after surgery. My surgeon told me that I could get back to normal everyday activities after 3 months and more adventurous activities after 6 months. He did say that there are some things I should never do again. I think he mentioned a roller coaster that throws your head around and other activities that could cause a whiplash type injury. However, remember that my whole neck (and spine) is not in a good state. He has warned me I may need more surgery in the future, and said if I had been younger he would have fused 4 levels of my neck. There are people on this site who have returned to golf, riding and other sports after fusion surgery.

    Have you seen the Useful Items List at the top of the Back and Neck Surgery thread? There are some ideas of things that will help you after surgery on that list. Don't be too worried about how long the list is. It is meant for lumbar fusions and neck fusions.

    I think you will find that while you are recovering, you will get board and come here to chat to others also in recovery. :-)

  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    hi louis_sch123,
    If you have any apprehension about this surgery don't be shy to get another opinion from another surgeon, it's become a very common practice, and even your Dr you are seeing now will most likely be supportive. If both recommendations are similar that should ease your mind in your decision.
    As for playing sports again, consult your physician but I would be surprised if you were restricted if post-op you fuse completely. After my first ACDF my surgeon said no water skiing or bungee jumping, never did the latter anyway. I am very active but avoid contact and anything to do with impact. But I've had more levels fused and will have more fused soon.
    You are young and that is huge for your recovery. Take care, ask lots of questions, and follow Dr's directives.
  • I don't have any apprehension the two neurosurgeons who are operating on me are highly experienced and I trust them. I will ask them right before operation if there's any other possible away that might help me avoid operation. I will ask for a straight honest answer there and that will be my final confirmation :). They already strongly recommended surgery and after the MRI and CT scans, if they say similar then I will accept it. I am nervous and scared but I know it's the right decision for my health and well-being :).
Sign In or Register to comment.