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Operation on an old injury and need information

TannasNanaTTannasNana Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Looking for any info from anyone who has been through surgery:
My husband had L5-S1 surgery in July 2000 from a Jan 2000 injury and still has problems. Now going in for C6-C7 surgery day after Thanksgiving-only problem is the injury occured in 1988 and the army is just now doing the surgery. Has gotten to point that he is loosing control of his hands and arm-cant turn key in car to start it, dropping things he thinks he has a grip on and can turn his head to the side and his hands "jump" like if an electrical shock is going through them. Anyone have any experience with an injury that wasn't operated on for such a long time? Any thoughts on recovery rate or what to expect at this point?

Original injury was a C7 fracture which was missed until almost a year after the fracture occured. At that point nothing was done other than tell him "you will one day need surgery" Not sure what to expect and how to help him. Still has problems from lower back so worried this one will be worse due to length of time between injury and surgery. Any ideas and thoughts are appreciated.


  • GENERALLY SPEAKING, there are very few medical emergencies when it comes to back problems. When a patient is advised that one day the problem will probably require surgery, it usually means that through the years degenerative changes will occur that eventually may cause problems.

    I am assuming your husband has not had the symptoms you describe all along? I gather that what you describe has gradually gotten worse to the point where he is today. Would that be accurate?

    The fact that your husband still has problems from his lower back is not an indication that the cervical surgery will produce the same results. The L5-S1 seems to be a particularly tricky area. It seems like many people end up with continuing problems at that level, myself included.

    The cervical and lumbar segments respond differently, so try not to worry about that issue. It seems that fractures are often left to heal on their own. At this point I think what you can do is not look back. Try to maintain a positive attitude and do everything you can to be supportive and to believe that this surgery will help your husband's current problems with the cervical area. Attitude is very important. I believe it is important to not dwell on the past and after the surgery, just take it one day at a time. Follow the surgeon's discharge instructions exactly and stay positive.

    The weird thing about spinal nerves is that they are unpredictable and there is no way to judge an outcome, particularly ahead of time. To me, this is the most frustrating aspect of spinal surgery.

    I'm glad your husband is finally going to have surgery on that cervical area and I hope that things turn out better than expected.

    I'm sorry I haven't said much to help ease your anxiety. Please continue to post with your questions and concerns as you move along in the process.

    Good luck to your husband, and to you in your supporting role.

  • Gwennie-thanks for the info! Sometimes it just seems like a lot to have to digest-lol He has had some of the symptoms for a few years but never really thought they were connected to the cervical injury. It's strange to learn how many things are actually connected to each area and things that are affected you wouldn't think would have anything to do with the areas.

    After his first surgery he has a lot of bad problems with his liver. He was in Desert Storm and has 11 of the 13 Desert Storm Syndrome symptoms and NASH is one of them. Other surgery caused a lot of problems with his liver but at least this time I know what to expect.

    Any suggestions from someone who has been through it on things to do for him once he gets home to help keep him more comfortable? My cousin is loaning us a nice recliner for him to use and I have tried to make things easy for him to navigate through the house when he gets home-got some comfy clothes for him to wear after. Any other things that might help him his first few days home?

    It's nice to have so many people to get thoughts and ideas from!

  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You'll find a lot of info on this site and the members of the forum are great.

    I've had a 3-lvl ACDF and had the same weakness in my arm that you describe before my surgery. I also had many other symptoms like pins and needles and numbness, but all of that was gone when I woke up from surgery. This is not to say that your husband will have the same outcome, but to let you know it CAN happen.

    Do you know if the surgeon will require your husband to wear a neck brace after surgery? That can make a difference in what's needed home postop. I had to wear a hard collar for four weeks and for the first two weeks, I couldn't shower by myself because I wasn't supposed to lift my arms over my head. Plus, in the first few weeks after cervical surgery, most people are terrified of moving around too much for fear of further hurting their neck. Me included. So, anyway, a shower stool was very useful while my husband helped me shower and wash my hair. That was the only time I was allowed to take off my neck brace and I felt very vulnerable.

    I'm really glad you're going to have a recliner. I couldn't have lived without mine the first few weeks - that's where I slept, watched TV, read, played games, etc. It was my home base. LOL

    Your husband's throat is going to be soar at the least and he might have difficulty swallowing. With that in mind, stock up on soft foods and choraseptic spray. You might even get some Ensure so that if it's hard for him to eat, he can drink one of those to get the vitamins he needs.

    You'll need a change of bandages and tape to change out the bandage over his incision each day.

    You'll probably want to take care of giving him his medications also. He needs to take his pain meds as prescribed to stay ahead of the pain because if it get ahead of him it's hard to get it back under control.

    I also bought a rolling table that adjusted up and down and tilts to keep next to my recliner. I rolled it in front of me to use as a TV tray when I ate, and inbetween meals, it held all of my "stuff" within easy reach.

    Take the little bucket thing home that'll be in his hospital room. It helped me with brushing my teeth - you're not supposed to bend over, so I put it under my chin to spit in while brushing.

    Anyway, without writing a novel (oops, too late), these are some of the things that were helpful to me. There's a list of post-op must-haves at the top of the Surgery section so you might want to read that. Some of it is obviously for someone who's had lumbar surgery, but it's a good reference for anyone that's about to have surgery.

    Good luck and please keep us posted. Feel free to PM me if you have more questions or just want to talk.
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