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Questions on posterior cervical surgery

jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am more then likely going to have to under go posterior surgery, my plate is backing out and my neck is not stable due to fusion not complete from previous surgery, I hear this surgery is a hard one so I just want some feedback from all those that had to have this surgery. Can you tell me of your experiences?
I realize everyone is different but what kind of range of motion do you have? What is your pain level? How long did it take to recover?


  • Hi Susan,

    I have had posterior surgery twice and compared to the anterior surgery is some what more painful. The worse involves the spasms from the muscle they need to go through and the positioning during surgery. I wouldn't say the pain was so bad I couldn't function as I lived alone and did fine on my own following surgery. I did have to call and get some valium for the spasms about the third day out, which did the trick to get me past the worst part. What will they be using for bone grafting material if the fusion isn't complete? Have they tried a bone growth stimulator? Was your original fusion surgery using allograft bone? How many levels will they be redoing? You can pm me anytime with questions. Keep us posted and take care.
  • Hello,

    I had posterior Dec. 2, 2009 C4-7 with rods, screws and bone graft from my hip. I had front neck surgery Dec. 8, 2008 C4-7 with plate, cage and 8 screws, I did fine for three months then started having new pain and in Oct. they said my plate was loose and I did not fuse.
    I did not have any problem with bone graft hip cut but the posterior neck surgery was more painful than the 1st surgery. I am still wearing the neck brace (but not when sleeping) I may need to wear the brace for another 7 weeks. My pain is still bad due to walking around 9 months and not fusing, the doctor said I have a 50% chance of my pain not improving, but I won't know until I fuse (Mid March?).
    I do not regret having the 2nd surgery, the doctor feels I will fuse this time using my own bone graft (they did not use my bone the 1st time, a different doctor). He did tell me before this surgery this would be more painful than the 1st surgery due to cutting the back of my neck. My biggest complaint is I can't drive until I loose the neck brace.
    I hope your surgery is successful and your recovery is short. Don't ever give up and remember you are not alone.

  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I was a three time failure fusion from previous surgeries so i was somewhat of an experiment for my doctor/ I had corpectomy at c5 and c6.w/a cage and plate and I also have 12 screws. He ground up my own bone and used stem cells to regenerate the growth. He is very impressed with the amount of bone that has grown but cannot tell if it is enough for my neck to be stable. His words he is very concerned. He gave me a choice go ahead and do the posterior surgery or wait 30 days to see if my plate backs out anymore and see if anymore bone growth occurs. We all know if the fusion is successful the plate is useless but it cannot continue to back out or more problems will occur. He also fused c4 thru c7. I chose to wait the 30 days with instructions of my dos and donts and when to go to the emergency room if certain things arise. He has scared me of this surgery because he himself said as a surgeon he does not like to do posterior surgery because its so hard on a patient.
  • Susan,

    Have they performed a CT scan? That will show the most detail of the bone itself. He is absolutely right about it being so hard on the patient. The base line they are using is compared to the anterior approach. Did he talk to you about the amount of scar tissue that is building? With the more surgeries the worse the scar tissue gets. The only reason I bring this up is I am in the same boat with having 5 cervical surgeries and needing a 360 now. The scar tissue is definitely a concern at this point and time. With that being said will the surgery also be performed from the front to get the hardware out that is backing out and then going in posterior to rebuild the fusion? I am glad you know the signs to look for and they have a plan for you if something should change.
  • Susan

    Mine was posterior and while the muscles are sore the surgery itself wasn't that bad. They did a 6 inch incision from about mid-neck down to get to the t1/2 area. I have my operative report. They had to move the muscles to get in and then do some drilling to get around to the side toward the front.

    I had whatever they put in before they closed up. Then I had percocet every 10 hours in the hospital. That was Monday morning. I took percocet twice a day on Tue and Wed and then once on Thur night. That was it. Then I took tylenol.

    Three and a half weeks later my muscles are sore but I am back to work and doing almost everything. I still watch lifting because I feel like I am tearing muscle in my back.

    I know you are more involved with the plate and fusion. Hopefully it won't be much worse. The good thing about posterior is they don't go near your throat or vocal cords.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I had the ct scan done last week along with xrays. Emg shows nerve compression at c7 and that is where the plate is backing out. If the surgery is done it will be removal of plate and 2 rods placed posterior. This surgery is scaring the crap out of me. The last surgery was almost too much to handle. He had to go in and break out previous fusions that had not fused correctly at c4,5,6,and 7. He himself admitted he had to beat the sh#t out of me to get done what needed to be done. That was a rough surgery.I am starting to get very overwhelmed even discussing another surgery. If it has to be done it has to be done but I appreciate all the feedback so I have an idea what to deal with.
  • I'm sorry I can't help but reading your last post even shook me up. I pray everything will go well with your surgery and hope this fixes everything and you have less pain. Sending out best wishes and a prayer for you. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Easy for me to say - lol

    Actually it sounds like it will be alot like I had. Probably easier since everything is right in the back. Pain from the surgery is minimal. A few percocet. The recovery doing it from the back is in the muscles. They move the muscles that run down the back of the spine out of the way. I can tell you that muscles get madder than nerves!! But overall I think I would still do the back if I was given a choice.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Wow Susan,
    I don't feel as experienced in that type of surgery as you are after reading what you have been through. I know tamtam is the first lady with expeience in this area, she has a wealth of information dealing with these issues first hand. I am 2 and a half years post-op of a corpectomy, discectomy, multi-level fusion of C3 thru C6 with a cage, strut, plates, rods, and screws installed both from the posterior and anterior approach. My pain level post-op was not too bad, my recovery went fairly well, and my range of motion has not suffered too much. Turning my head to the left is a little more restrictive than to the right so extra care when driving is a must. Due to severe OA my vertabrae continues to collapse so surgery will be necessary to stabilize the spine as time goes on. Significant changes have occurred that I know will have to be addressed. Your decision to have more surgery should be weighed upon what are the consequences if you wait or do nothing at all.
    My choice was decided on the fact if I did not have the fusion I was at high risk for permanent paralysis which is not an option.
    Wish all the best for you,
  • Hi girl. I had posterior surgery 04/09, C5-6&C6-7. My Doc said he doesnt like that approach, like yours said "harder on you". Slicing through thick muscles back there. Recovery wasn't too bad, the spasms about killed me, but I ended up with "Frozen Shoulder Syndrome" & it took 9 mos for it to heal. Avoid this if you can, ask your surgeon. They say this is not uncommon with back & neck surgeries. It is so very painful. That pain alone, made the surgery seem like a walk in the park. Posterior is a more painful approach, but I'd prefer it over anterior in the long run. It's all good.
  • I'm telling you guys PT is the answer to the muscle problem. I am 50% better than I was a week ago and this is only 4 weeks from surgery. PT makes me stretch the muscles the right way and it feels so much better.

    I was talking to the therapist today about the fusions. He said he can safely work with a fusion at 2-3 weeks post op and reduce the pain tremendously. Problem is the surgeons don't believe in PT since it is their competition.
  • My surgeon said I didn't need any PT grrrrrrrrrrrrr Now look where I am.... 9mos later after developing "Frozen Shoulder/Adhesive Capsule", from "guarding". Sometimes we need to be our own Doctor. Stretching is essential. I had very very poor advise post op.
    Kris, I was glad to hear you went back to work.
    Keep up the good work & S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G!!!
  • Kris-NY said:
    I'm telling you guys PT is the answer to the muscle problem. I am 50% better than I was a week ago and this is only 4 weeks from surgery. PT makes me stretch the muscles the right way and it feels so much better.

    I was talking to the therapist today about the fusions. He said he can safely work with a fusion at 2-3 weeks post op and reduce the pain tremendously. Problem is the surgeons don't believe in PT since it is their competition.
    I really don't want to start a battle here, but saying posterior can be a cake walk and then this post about it all being hinged on PT, those statements can be very misleading. I have had enough PT sessions that I think I'm now qualified to open my own clinic (ha ha). While PT was initially helpful, there is really nothing to be done with the hard muscle spasms I have. I have had amazing physical therapists and doctors. And any surgeon will tell you that posterior surgery is NOT a cake walk. There are enough of us on here who have had major reconstructs in our necks, having both anterior surgeries and additional posterior surgeries. Posterior is much more difficult to recover from if you have fusion. Take a look at my avatar--I know what I am talking about.

    What I can tell you in a positive way though is that while this type of surgery entails a longer and more painful recovery, it is typically less risky regarding cord damage than the anterior approach. Susan, you will have a good team of medical people working with you to help you be as comfortable as possible. Weigh the pros and cons of having the surgery, and then make a decision of whether to go ahead with it or be okay with the way you are. If the surgery is necessary, choose good surgeons and then trust them to take care of you. It won't be an easy recovery, but we will be here to help you along the way. Let me know if you have any specific questions.


    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • Sometimes patients can't start therapy right away. It would cause more damage than good in some instances. Some patients are in hard braces and can't even move their neck at all, much less do physical therapy stretches, etc. If your surgeon advises against therapy, there is likely a reason.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
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