In Feb 2009 I had a 3 level Artificial disc procedure in Bogen,Germany. I could tell immediately after surgery that my pre op pain was 100% gone and by 3 months I was 100% pain free. Problem was that my 3 mo x rays showed C6/7 ADR was subsiding, possibly the C4/5 also. My doctor advised me to stay pat and see if the subsiding stops. Well, it only got worse and before I knew it, the C6/7 ADR was right on top of the C5/6 ADR!! It was like my vertebrae bone was getting eaten up as the ADR was sinking. FInally, my German doc arranged for me to have my surgery with him in Lacrosse, WI. This was of course a rare event for him as 99% of his surgeries are done in Germany. I think he felt a responsibility or obligation to fix me. This was nice to see. Well, they did numerous bone density tests which revealed very strong bone denisties. They just couldnt figure out why my disc was subsiding. ANyways, Their plan was to remove the subsiding ADR and fuse me at that level while still saving the other 2 ADR's, assuming I had enough Vertebrae left to hold the bottom 2 ADR's. Corpectomy (removal of the vertebrae) was a possibility if he didnt feel I had enough bone left to fuse me with. Well, they open me up and lo and behold they are shocked at what they find. It was something that no one ever even remotely expected! I had a raging STaph infection!! And it was hiding as undetectable. They did blood work on me during surgery and it came back negative for elevated white blood cell count. The only way they confirmed what they saw was by doing a durect culture from a piece of bone that vusually showed infection. So, they removed all 3 ADR's and did a 3 level fusion via hip bone graft and a corpectomy or partial corpectemy (removal of what was left of the C5 vertebrae) at the C5 vertebrae.
Never had much pain after surgery. In fact, as long as i was laying still in bed I had no pain. Stopped all pain meds 1 week post op. By week 2 I was able to fast pace walk for 20 minutes without limping from my hip. Though last few days the hip has gotten a little tender so I have a slight limp again when I walk. I returned to work pretty much full time within 2 weeks!! I did have numbness in my thigh which thankfully had turned into soreness, which I believe will soon yield to having full sensation back. My german doc explained that he graphs hip bone differently than the american docs and said it would yield a much better result and so far based on othetr hip graph patient stories recovery time, perhaps he is right. He graphs it from the middle center , via shavings off the side I believe, instead of taking it off the very top part of the hip as american docs do. At least this is how I understand it.
I had gotten 4 second opinions with top ADR doctors (since we cant post doctor names, Ill post tehir initials for those of you who are familar with who the top ADR docs in the US are. (JR and RD in los angeles). None of them, inlcuding my German doctor even remoteley suspected that the cause of my subsiding ADR was an undetecable infection. During the 6 hour surgery, they took photos and documented everything. Apparently my case is extremely unique, a first. I was told that I will be a case study for the medical community. Ya see, the few times so far that someone has caught a infection in the spine, an infection will show itself very quickly as the patient will be very sick, fever, pain etc. They will immediately go in and remove the hardware. BUt not me. This staph bug stayed under the radar and was eating my bone for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Im now on IV infusion therapy for 2 months to rid of the staph infection.
So far, the 3 level fusion has been painless and I felt pretty good after 7-10 days. NOw the challenge is to fully fuse as fusing at 3 levels is harder to do. Im waiting on a bone stimulator from my doctor so I can speed this process up.
I dont know what to expect in regards to ROM loss. Though Ive been told by people ho have had 3 and 4 level cervical fusions that the loss is not very noticeable or bothersome, mostly up and down loss more so than left to right loss. I've read about many people who have had 3 and 4 level cervical ADR's done , many over 10 years ago and they are still doing great with no adjacent level issues. This was great to learn about.
Lastly, regarding adjacent level degeneration, I was told by the neurological nurse that C1/2 & C2/3 and C7/T1 are very rare to blow. C1/2 & C2/3 are constructed very differently than the other C levels. She said basically, C4 thru C7 are the most vulnerable discs that give out due to adjacent level degeneration pressures, and as I already have those levels fused , I have a better chance at not needing further surgeries due to adjacent level deterioration. This also matches what I read on the internet. SO, now I feel alot more positive about having so many levels done. BEsides, I had no choice, I was EXTREMELY miserable pre surgery, pain level 9 in the evenings and life was a living hell. I surely had no future if it wasnt for surgery giving me my life back. I didnt want to be a narcotic pain pill junkie with a pain pump and besides, the pain was affecting my overall health and compromising my immune system. Life was pure hell. Anyways, I gave the ADR's a try, but it just wasnt in the cards for me to keep them. That's life I guess.
I know Im not out of the woods yet as I have yet to fuse. If I dont fuse that might cause issues down the road and require another surgery. But so far, 2 weeks post op, I am 99% pain free! I feel fortunate. I am fortunate that surgery has fully relieved all my pain given how horrible it was presurgery.