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Surgery in a Week- and doubting my decision- any help or advice

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I am a week out from my ACDF for my c-5 through c-7 of my spine. Needless to say I am nervous and scared and hope that I am doing the right thing. For over a year I have been suffering from neck pain. I was oversea's and was cared for by military doctors who said it was muscle spasms. We just returned stateside and I decided to get my care on the civilian side. My primary doctor immediately had MRI's ordered. I suffer from migraines also and was thinking that maybe a breast reduction was needed due to being heavy chested and I thought it was causing strain on my neck and triggering my migraines. I recieved physical therapy and no help with that either. Once my MRI's were back my doc referred me to the nuerosurgeon. Went to nuero on the 22nd of October and the doc said I needed surgery. He showed me my MRI's, the 3 hiernated disks, the pressure on my spinal cord, and areas of mylepathy that are developing on my spinal cord. He stated that at this point no physical therapy, chiropactic care, breast reduction would take care of the problem. He stated that he did not want me to think he was just pushing surgery for no reason, he stated that he does over 500 surgeries a year and he encouraged me to go home and talk with my husband. He did say that I needed the surgery sooner rather than later. My husband and I made the decision to have it and they scheduled me for this coming Monday.

First off, I am very scared due to the nature of the surgery. Second, I am second-guessing my decision as I hope that I am not jumping into the surgery without utilizing other alternatives. Lastly, I wonder about long term affects, is there up keeps to this surgery. I am a very active person and just want to get back to life as it was. I am only 31 years old and still am young especially to be having all these problems. I am looking for any advice or suggestions.



  • Hi Sara. I totally understand your fear of having this surgery done. Did the surgeon say why it is urgent? Are you risking permanent nerve damage? My only suggestion would be to get at least 1 more opinion and maybe 2. I always feel better making a major surgery decision if I have the opinion of at least 2 docs. Please take a look at the Surgery forum as you will find a list titled post op must haves. This is very important because you will be prepared and it will make recovery much more manageable. Good luck to you and please keep us posted with your progress.
  • I am currently waiting for my stupid insurance company to approve my C5-6-7 ACDF. My NS said the exact same thing about no point to PT or injections. Nothing is going to refill my discs (they are collapsed).

    I now have constant nerve pain in the arms/hands/shoulders and I keep my muscle spasms under control (for the most part with meds). My pain meds don't really work on the nerve pain but it helps the headaches and the neck pain. Even my feet gets shooting nerve pain at times with this it is not fun thats for sure.

    I am also larger upstairs. Maybe when this is done I can try to get my insurance to approve a breast reduction (yeah right! a girl can dream can't she).

    When I had my PLIF done I also was having second thoughts even after the surgery when the pain was aweful, but I can tell you it was worth it 100%. In reality most cervical fusions are bout 90% effective. I figured if mine is even 70% better I will be a lot more comfortable :O)

    Good luck,

  • Hi Sarah,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around you will find lots of useful information here. In my opinion you have myelopathy and without surgery it will only progress. I don't think you will find a doctor that will tell you to put off surgery. Myelopathy will keep progressing and surgery is performed to stop the progression of the disease and may not undo the damage that has been done. I strongly urge you to look up and read what you can on myelopathy. If your symptoms of it aren't so bad this is the time to stop it. Many of us struggle with tripping and walking, perform lots of task with are hands. So if you are not at that point yet you don't won't to go there.

    Surgery is a difficult decision and understand your fears, but what you are risking is far greater. The best you can do is research your surgeon have confidence in him or her and proceed forward. If your not comfortable with this surgeon seek another one out. If you do so be sure to tell them you have been dx with myelopathy they will get you in quicker, I am sure.

    I myself have myelopathy and there are some more members on the boards. Unfortunately we waited a bit long and some of the damage could have been avoided. I am a three level fusion from c3-c6. If there is anything I could help you with or answer a question for you please pm me. Keep us posted on what you do. Once again welcome to spine-health. Take care
  • Thank you for your input. As I have been told I am developing myelopathy I do not want to suffer from the long term affects of this disease. I have started, within the last 3 weeks to develop pain in my shooting pain in my arms and shoulders, along with feeling burst of electric shock in my finger tips, to occasionally dropping things. I feel comfortable with my doctor, I did research him, and even switched to him as I was assigned to another nuerosurgeon before him. I was even told by my primary doctor that he is really good. I believe I am fortunate that I am still able to be very physically active, with occasional clumsiness of loosing my balance or stubbling into my husband as we walk side by side but I always just thought I was clumsy. Thank you for your input on this. I am sure I will be proceding with my surgery but was just second guessing my decision.I will keep you posted.

    Thank you
  • saraflemming said:
    First off, I am very scared due to the nature of the surgery. Second, I am second-guessing my decision as I hope that I am not jumping into the surgery without utilizing other alternatives. Lastly, I wonder about long term affects, is there up keeps to this surgery. I am a very active person and just want to get back to life as it was. I am only 31 years old and still am young especially to be having all these problems. I am looking for any advice or suggestions.
    Hi Sara and welcome to Spine-Health. Since you've decided to move ahead with the surgery (and I think that was the right choice, by the way), I'll post about the other concerns you mentioned.

    It is very, very normal to be scared before the surgery. I had never had any health issues before I was put on the fast track to a 3-level ACDF (C4-7). The thought of someone working on your spine is understandably intimidating but many have had it done with great success. If you're having anxiety issues, you might want to talk to your surgeon about it so they can offer you some anti-anxiety medication in the days leading up to surgery.

    I don't think there are any "upkeeps" to an ACDF, but you'll probably find that you protect your spine, cervical and lumbar, much more than you ever thought. It's often said on here that once a spiney, always a spiney. That's not to say that you'll have any more problems in the future, but having cervical spine surgery puts you in an elite group of neckies. :-)

    It's impossible to know if you'll get back to life as you know it now after surgery, but at your age I suspect that you have a greater chance than some of us. If you read through the posts here on Spine-Health, please keep in mind that most of the members that had successful surgeries have moved on with their life and don't post any more because they no longer need the support given here. A few stay to continue to share their knowledge and support, however.

    Be sure to check out the Back and Neck Surgery section - at the top there's a post-op must-haves stickey that will help you decide what you need to purchase to help you through recovery.

    I have question for you: you mention that your MRI showed 3 herniated discs, yet you're only having a 2-level ACDF? Why is that, do you know? Will you be wearing a collar after surgery?

    Anyhoo, without writing a novel, again welcome to Spine-Health. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions or just want to talk.

    Take care and please keep us posted.
  • Hi Cath,

    Thanks for your input. I am still new to all the terminology and made a mistake in how I wrote it down. I do have three herniated disks and after looking back through my reports it is the c4-c7, I guess the way it is written is c4-c5, c5-c-6, and c6-c7. And yes I was told I would be wearing a soft collar for sitting and eating, and a hard collar for walking and leaving the house and I have to wear these collars for 2 months.

    Thanks again,
  • Oh, so you're going to have the exact same surgery that I had. Good for you...NOT! LOL

    Neck braces are prescribed by some doctors and not by others, it's such an individual doctor thing. I found my hard collar comforting because my neck just seemed too vulnerable without it. It's kind of a pain, but everywhere you go people will open doors for you and help you any way they can. When I was switched to a soft collar only, people just thought I was trying to sue somebody - very little sympathy.

    Nice to meet you and I hope you find all the answers you're looking for although so much info isn't found until after the surgery. It's also great that you have such confidence in your surgeon - that's a very importing thing.

    Take care, Sara, and good luck with your surgery.
  • Having had a 2-level ACDF in Sept, I can understand your fear. Waiting for the surgery is very hard. You should be glad you were able to get scheduled so quickly. I had a 2-month wait from decision to knife. That is a lot of time to sit and ponder how my world got so bad so quick.

    When I found out about my herniated discs, I couldn't beleive it. I am only 36 and thought I was way to young. However I have found many on this board who are in our 30's and some even younger (late teens/early twenties). I am sure its small consolation but your young age will be a big help during the recovery process.

    As far as long-term, there are no guarantees. However I found that my condition continued to worsen as I approached suregery and it became my only option long-term or not.

    Best of luck to you. Having spine issues is a bad deal. Few people (even spouses) understand the issues and pain we deal with. People on this board understand what we are facing physically and mentally and are a great source of info about how to have a successful recovery.
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