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For those who've had ACDF

OoouchOOoouch Posts: 13
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,

I am 6 days post op. Wondering how long you went prior to having a follow up appt with your surgeon. Mine wants to see me at a month out...I'm wondering if this is normal of if I should be seen sooner? I think I would like to try working next week but cannot without surgeon's approval. And, my appt with my surgeon isn;t for another 3 weeks. Is that normal? Thanks!


  • I was seen at 2 weeks (cleared for work (non-physical aspects, driving), 6 weeks (cleared for other minor activity/fusion x-ray), and 12 weeks (fusion x-ray, cleared for all activities (with caution and within reason). Was not required to go back after 12 weeks, don't know if that is weird or not. Can't really tell you what to expect, as I am sure all surgeons have their own timetables.
  • I was seen one week after surgery, then 3 weeks later, then about once a month. You didn't say how many levels you had done. My surgeon didn't want me to go back to work when my employer demanded that I return at 3-1/2 months out or be fired. (This was a contract nurse manager that was brought in after I was out on surgical leave.) But mine turned out to be a very difficult procedure; aside from 3 levels fused and 2 hemi-corpectomies, I bled alot during the procedure and it was hard to control. The surgery ended up taking 4-1/2 hours. Now this is not the norm I ever saw in our operating rooms, not by a long shot; this was just my case and the fact that my cord had been severely compressed for so long.

    If I were you I would not be in a rush to return to work a couple weeks after such a major procedure, when you have to take every possible care to avoid any conceivable knocks, bumps, blips, and whatnot that can interfere with your fusion. You will likely have serious lifting restrictions for some time -- please don't try to fudge this, you could pay for it later.

    I don't think any surgeon worth his salt would release an ACDF patient 2 weeks out from surgery. I'd be surprised if he does at 4 weeks, unless your employer has a light-duty job that you can do, and that's all that you actually do.

    Take care, I hope you have a great outcome from your surtery!
  • Howdy Ooouch!

    My first ACDF was sort of 'normal' time-line wise from what I've seen of others on here.

    10 day first post op with my NS. Checked incision, verified by exam of my healing status - used steri-strips, so he lets them come off on their own.

    4th week, NS followup, small exam, scrips adjusted, some limits lifted - collar removed. Driving allowed if no pain. No work return yet.

    6th week. First set of x-rays (lat, flex, extend). More so to be sure the hardware and disk/vertebra all proper still - see if fusion starting. (gray-ish cloudy look around graph) Back to work *if* light duty. I worked as a pilot and law enforcement officer, so was NOT released to those activities... fly a desk as he put it yet, fly a chopper, NOT.

    By the forth month he did release me to chasing people and flying again. At a year, all restrictions released due to my physical exam, and x-rays showed awesome fusion status!

    I hope you are feeling better day by day Ooouch! Just don't push it, you might end up paying a much higher price if you don't take care. Patience is a Virtue, and I know that bites, but sooooo true! *hug*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks. Mine was c5/6, c6/7 - so, is that 2 levels?
  • Aviatrix36440 said:
    By the forth month he did release me to chasing people and flying again. At a year, all restrictions released...
    Brenda, you goober (as in nut!), what possible restrictions could have remained after you were released to chase people and fly whirlybirds? Enquiring minds and all that!!!

  • I should have said earlier that I was in a hard collar 24/7 for 9 weeks, then a soft collar until return to work, but soft collar while sleeping for about a month after that. Every surgeon, and patient, is different. :)
  • Charlotte,

    "A girl can't kiss and tell" now can she? Okay, okay, I could then sumo wrestle, umm...play football...okay wall climb without a net! (G)

    In all seriousness though. My NS usually doesn't clear his fusion patients for any type of hard or contact sport for at least a year. Hard impact jarring and such - bad for fusion if not complete! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    After my first 3 level ACDF ... I was in such a hurry to return to my beloved job ... I called the surgeon's office and asked them to fax me a return to work slip. They (without any question)complied with my request. I guess they weren't used to people actually wanting to go back to work. I don't beleive the they checked my record, talked with the doctor or anything. I received a slip with a rubber stamped signature stating I could return to work without restrictions. This was 12 days post surgery. And I did just that ... returned to work.
    In retrospect I can now say BIG MISTAKE!! A little over a year of MISERY later I was heading back to surgery. I had non-union(non-fusion)implant impaction, and adjacent disk disease (blown C3-C4)and some other problems too ewwey to mention. Maybe you may learn from my mistake(s)?

    I would suggest you learn the meaning of the word -

    Much luck ...

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  • Oh my lord, Dave... I'm stunned, just stunned. TWELVE DAYS???

    Did the surgeon EVER do a follow-up with you? Tests, anything??? Did the same genius do your second surgery?

    He may not have known about that fax at the time it was sent, but I'm finding it hard to digest that an experienced practice/office manager didn't have that piece of paper slide by their desk before or soon after such an awful, awful mistake. Staff would be shot dead by the physicians for opening them to malpractice that way!

    It was in no way YOUR mistake, lots of people want to jump the gun.

    I'm just...stunned.

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    But yes I had a follow up at 1 month. No a different orthopedic surgeon cleaned up the undertreatment and the mess left by a neuro. I am now a firm beleiver in surgeries being done by orthopedic surgeons ... as we have ortho problems causing neuro problems .... not the other way around.

    Off my soap box now before I slip a disk!



    Now come on Char you and I have been around healthcare long enough .... you are not really stunned are ya?? Shoot I'm not .... seen and heard much sillier!!
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  • What kind of work do you do? My opinion is that 6 days is a bit too soon, even if it is a desk job. Actually especially a desk job because you would do a lot of looking down and that is really hard on your neck post op.

    With my first 3 level ACDF, the orthosurgeon told me I should be able to go back to work at 2 weeks. Maybe some people can do that, but I almost never hear of that on here. Didn't happen for me either. I have a sister who had a one level acdf and she was back to work that quickly and did fine. But I wouldn't push it any faster than you have to. Give yourself time to heal. If you start working and tense those neck muscles up, it could slow down your healing process. I agree with Dave, convalesce.

    Interesting enough, my first surgery was with an ortho and I had a neurosurgeon for the 2nd one. Honestly I don't know if it makes much of a difference which one you use as long as the surgeon is fellowship trained and very good at it. There are some surgeons who can do a great job on lumbar spines but make messes of the c-spine. Good neuros, good orthos. I prefer a neuro because there are so many nerves involved. Just my personal preference though.

    Dave, were you still in a brace when you went back to work? I'm impressed, but you and I both know how things ended up. Pushing too hard isn't a good thing.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • Love the name! And, that is me...now, I only had ACDF done on c5/6, c6/7 and I am 6 days post op and am ready to go back to work - I have a pretty easy desk job. And, work is being great, I would like to go back to 1/4 days a few times a week next week and see how I do and then possibly increase. I am doing some work from home but can't help but think it would be good for me (mentally) to get out of the house for a couple of hours a few times a week. Still a bad idea? I will double check with surgeon as well.

    Thanks everyone - I really appreciate your advice and experience!!

    And, again...is c5/6, c6/7 a 2-level fusion?
  • Ooouch said:

    And, again...is c5/6, c6/7 a 2-level fusion?
    If they were both done together, yes that is a "2 level fusion" Ooouch. :) I am also with 2 levels, but a year and a couple of months apart!

    Really, as everyone is already saying, don't push going back to work so soon! Too many people start feeling good, then they start 'normal' activities and they inhibit healing. Talk with your surgeon, and but clear with him that to work, you will drive this much [time] type of work etc. Take care, good to hear you are on the mend. :) *hug*


    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Only would wear the brace when I wasn't customer facing or flying about the country.... didn't look too cool. But then all night in the hotel rooms I'd brace up and pop percs like crazy. Funny how dumb things you did are, when you have a little retrospect.

    I guess we only have one chance to really do things right.

    Warmest regards for all us fighters of foramens!!

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  • Mine was at one level C5-6. Cleared after two weeks for teaching job-basically surgeon knew that I had less than two weeks of school left. Administered and graded semester tests is about it. My situation was injury related with no other levels affected and I am fairly young (early 30s). I do not feel like I was rushed back to work, and in my case felt like it was reasonable (not to mention less stressful) to actually return to work to finish out the year. Cleared to play golf and tennis at 12 weeks, that was about 14 months ago. I agree that 2 weeks would be too early for a multi-level fusion. Good luck with your recovery!
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