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For Those Contemplating ACDF!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am three days post op (which I know isn't much) from a C-5/6 ACDF and thought I would post what I have experienced so far for those that are nervous about getting one. I know many of the success stories end up leaving the forum and we are only left with some of the negative outcomes.
Well I had my surgery Thursday morning and only took pain pills that day while I was still in the hospital. I have not had to take a single pain pill since I got home Friday. I have been concentrating on taking it easy as far as lifting but I have already walked half a mile outside yesterday and had a nice nap afterwards. My shoulders are only slightly soar (hardly noticeable) and my throat pain is gone (it was only minor pain to begin with).
I am told that a "pain train" might hit but so far nothing. The only weirdness I have experienced is it seems like food can get caught in my throat and I have to "hack" it up..almost as if there is a "ledge" in my throat that food can land on now..hopefully it is just swelling and will go away.
I slowly am trying to turn my neck to it's limits and it seems like I have lost no range of motion..or very slightly.
I can definitely feel something in my throat when I lean down but I guess I will get used to it.
The best part is that I have not had to sleep on a recliner..I sleep normally in our bed. It is a temperpedic (along with the pillow) so that might make a difference. I just slowly get into bed and support my head and neck with my hands when I lie down or turn over..no pain in the morning.
I've lost about 6 lbs so far from decreased appetite but I am already getting it back.
I can tell that I am weaker than normal and more easily fatigued which is why I continue to take it easy..the hardest part is not overdoing it because it honestly doesn't feel like I have had surgery. I don't know how I am not in pain after having this surgery (with screws in my bone and discs taken out with pliers, etc).
No complaints so far.


  • I'm three years post-op after a three level fusion. The very worst part was the sore throat, and for me it lasted for weeks. I ate my Thanksgiving dinner that year out of a food processor. I suspect the sore throat longevity directly correlates to the length of the surgery. The surgeon was in my neck for four and a half hours with my esophagus moved over to Venus. It took months for it to come back and I still can't sing confidently. But, singing vs. walking upright? Game over.

  • I am almost 6 days post op now and I never had any onset of pain. Since I have been taking it easy I have scarcely been able to tell that I have had surgery. I say this to encourage those that are frightened of an ACDF. Granted, I only had a single level done and I am only 6 days post op, but I was very frightened of this procedure because I read many horror stories online. People kept telling me that most of the successful patients don't occupy this forum and, therefore, skew one's opinion.
    I never had any itching at the incision site, I am able to lie all the way down and get 8 hours sleep, no shoulder or neck pain, nothing.. I have not touched the Vicadin prescription that I was given.
    The hardest part is not trying to over do it. I know that if I do something stupid then I could be in major pain in a heartbeat. Either I am really lucky or had a good doctor but I just wanted to inform those that are looking for something positive about the procedure.
  • Scott,

    Congrats to you on your success. I also think success depends on what the surgery is for to begin with. Wether you have myelopathy, stability issue, or a herniation, disc bulge and the amount of levels involved. While ACDF is the surgery performed on all the initial problem may dictate the outcomes. For example in myelopathy you are just stop the progression but no chance on reversing the damage that has been done.

    It is always good to hear success stories though. So whatever your doing just keep doing it and hopefully you will fuse and have no other issues. Then soon you will have this all behind you and be back to busy everyday life, which I am sure is your ultimate goal. So keep up the continued success and congrats on doing so well. Take care.
  • Great news Scott.

    Keep Healing :O)

  • Hi TitanNeck!

    How are you 3 years after your 3 level ACDF?

    I'm almost 4 months and doing better all the time. I have a great PT now so I'm very hopeful. I went through some crazy stuff but I hope all that is over.

  • Hi Scott,

    It is great to hear such a good positive recovery, I have an ACDF C7 and ADR C6 scheduled in Jan. I was given the option of a 2 level ACDF but think I would like to experiment with the ADR in hope that adjacent effects won't occur at other levels?

    Like yourself Pre- surgery I am not in great agony, and at times wonder if I should go through with it because of the horror stories you read. I have been off work for two months and have varied boughts. Days when I try to walk it could knock me for a day or 2. Yet if I do nothing for a few days I only have mild tingling in my left arm. The worst thing I have noticed is fatigue, I was a fit and active 37 year old only requiring the normal sleeping hours before this, now I sleep 12 hours a day awoken with varied pain issues through the nights and still feel tired each day.

    When I last spoke to my surgeon he advised that I have 2 discs dried out both bulging into the spinal column but not causing problems, yet bone spurs and one disc is pinching a nerve going down my left arm. He sees the level above needing treatment as it could go the same way, as he is in there he said he may as well do 2.

    I just feel the pain I experience sometimes doesn't justify me going through with this as I feel sometimes its a case of a milli-metre or 2 in height and I think I could be OK? I only take medication when I really need it and that is only to go to bed with.

    My fear is never being able to return to sports and normal activities but the surgeon advises the fusion is a good thing and can be stronger than ever? I think he plans to disect both dried disks, fuse one and ADR the other also cleaning the bone spurs away.

    I would be grateful for any advice or future updates from yourself and any others. As you said it really is hard to get a complete picture on this as people move on. On a scale to 1-10 how major an operation would you rate this. Did you do Endoscopic? I was not offered that.

    Anyway I hope everything goes well in your recovery and commend you and people like Yankee for coming back to us on the other side.

    PS Does anyone know if this operation restores any natural Lordosis?


    MRI results:
    There is movement artifact on several of the sequences. Alignment maintained but there is loss of the cervical lordosis.

    There is a partial fusion of the posterior aspect of the bodies of C7 and T1. Degenerative disk disease is seen above this level.

    At C5/C6 there is a broad disk osteophyte bar more prominent on the right but with narrowing of both exit formina again more prominent on the right. Canal dimensions are adequate.

    At C6/C7 there is again a broad disk osteophyte bar with narrowing of both exit formina but adequate canal dimensions.

    2 Months of PT
    Meds: Diclofenac, Co-Drydamol, Tramadol, Ibruprofen, Co-Codamol
  • I'm not sure what "endoscopic" is. They didn't give me the option of using my own hip bone, which I am glad..they also don't believe in neck braces so I have not been wearing one.
    You sound like you are worse off then I was before surgery, with two dried up discs, you definitely need to get one of the surgeries soon (fusion or ADR). If I were not in the air force then I would have tried to get the ADR approved with my insurance..but after having the ACDF done I am happy either way. Sure with an ADR I might be jogging again already, but when my bones fuse I know that is a good permanent solution.
    By the way, I don't know if it gets worse when the bones fuse but it seems like I have no loss of motion that I can detect when I slowly turn my head side to side.
    One week post op now and feeling good.
  • Hi Scott,

    It is great to hear that you are feeling good !! I had my surgery on the 6th anterior disectomy C5 C6 with fusion, and started having severe pain on my right shoulder and arm. I went to ER two days later and gave me pain meds and then my doctor ordered a cortison pack script for 6 six days. Luckily my shoulder is starting to feel better every day :) but I am not able to sleep in bed and was told to wear this hard collar for two weeks :( and it is driving me crazy lol. My post of appt is the 23rd and I hope to throw this collar out my car window on the way home !! But again great to hear of your speedy recovery :)
  • I have to ware my hard collar for a total of 16 weeks!
  • Scott, I'm glad you're doing so well. That's what we all shoot for after any surgery and it looks like you've hit the bullseye.

    I wore a hard collar for four weeks after my ACDF and I found it comforting. It also helped to get doors opened for me and getting to the front of the line quicker.

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