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Could Use Advice about Cervical Radiculopathy Surgery (C-5)

Aaron211wcAAaron211wc Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
My apoligies up front if i am using this incorrectly (1st time user). I am 32yrs old,and currently serving in the Navy and have been for the last 12yrs. After getting some bad news and failed physical theraphy attemps, it looks like surgery is the only option. The doctor that wants to preform the surgery is a Naval spine surgeon, but i must admit Navy doctors scare me at times. He is talking about going in through the front of my neck, replacing the Disc with a bone graft and using a plate and screw to hold it in place. I take it this would be some type of fusion? Forgot to mention that my C-5 is herniated and pressing on my spinal cord. The pain has been driving me crazy for yrs because they had misdiagnosed me several times due to shoulder pains.I guess what i'm asking if i decide to have this surgery what could i expect? Would there be a for sure loss in neck movement/range motion? Is there ever the possibility that i could return to weight training, hell or just be normal again, I know everyone recovers different. Any information or experiences you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Date with the doctor is 17May2010.


  • Aaron,

    First off, a hearty Welcome to Spine Health! The people on here are "real people, with real issues" and not doctors. Might confuse you a bit though, as some know their stuff really well. Also, use the "search" feature as you go along, a wealth of information there!

    Please see my signature. My first fusion was for C5/6 and like you mine was abutting the cord. I am ex Army and can understand your reluctance of military surgeons, but from what little I got exposed when in, there are a bunch of great ones there!

    What to expect, hummmm.. pre op tests to be sure you are healthy enough to go through surgery - blood work, chest x-ray, EKG, general physical exam. The surgery unless something weird comes up is normally less than 2 hours for 1 level. ACDF = Anterior entry (front of the neck), "C" Cervical, Diskectomy and Fusion - bone graph (most times in a 'cage') a plate and screws. Normal for a fusion. They remove most of the disk (yep, not all in most cases, but most of it), input the bone graph, yours or a donor, set it in, confirm it is correctly positioned, and then for added security and stabilization, add the plate and screws. Most don't have a lot of post op pain.

    As for weights and such. I can't answer you there. I use to do weight lifting, but it was way before my neck issues. Heavy duty, probably not, but again, we are all different. That will be up to your body and what your surgeon decides after you are fully fused and healed. I hope this helps. Please let us know how it goes, and again welcome to the site!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Forgot the other question you asked. For my C5/6 I really didn't notice *any* range of motion changes worth noticing? I actually felt like I had a little more as I didn't have pain when I turned my neck anymore, so I actually felt like I got mine back, and maybe a little more?

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I have had all of my spine surgery and care done by the Navy and I would choose to use a Navy neurosurgeon any day! They are awesome and are more leading edge in technology than most civilian practices, they have to be. You are in good hands!

    Welcome to Spine Health

  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You can find a lot of articles and videos (animated) that talk about and show all about an ACDF. You'll also find the members here are very supportive and knowledgeable and can be a great place to visit so you don't feel alone during all of this.

    I had a 3-level ACDF in Oct. 08 and it's not as bad as it sounds. When I first found out they were going in through the front of my neck, it kind of freaked me out but this is the best way to do a cervical fusion because they don't have to cut through any major muscles, they just move everything aside to get to your spine. Like Brenda said, they'll remove some or all of the disc and put in donor bone, usually with some off-label BMP (helps bone growth) and then solidify everything with a plate a screws to keep it in place and keep the area strong.

    Some of the side effects during recovery are a sore throat or trouble swallowing (because they intubate you and move your esophagus and other stuff to the side), a little pain and dried blood in three spots, one on the top of your head and one above each ear from a brace they put on your head during surgery to stabilize your head and to pull your head away from your body to make room to remove the discs and put the new stuff in.

    I can say that even with a 3-lvl ACDF, my range of motion is pretty darned good and I feel pretty normal. I've had a complication in that my C6/7 hasn't completely fused and there's still movement there (not supposed to happen, but sometimes does), but I'm not having any significant effects from it other than some residual neck pain and muscle spasms, but that shouldn't happen with you if you fuse. You have a great chance at a full recovery and fusion with a one-level ACDF. (As a side note, the C6/7 level is the most difficult to fuse due to constant motion, so I'm glad you're not having to have that one done.)

    I believe you have an excellent chance at getting back to a normal life after recovery, but remember that this is serious surgery and that recovery takes time. So be patient during recovery and follow your doctor's restrictions until he releases you from them. That'll give you the best chance for a full recovery.

    One thing I want to tell you is that you'll see more bad stories on these forums than good because the members that have had successful surgeries usually go back to their normal lives and don't come back because they no longer need the support that's given here.

    I hoped some of this information helped you. Many of us find that the anticipation is worse than the surgery itself and I hope you find that as well. Don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have along the way, we'll be here to help you.

    Take care and if there's anything I can help you with, you can PM me any time. Please keep us posted.

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