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Help!! Need advice re upcoming 3 level neck fusion surgery

makadommakado Posts: 19
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am having surgery to fuse c4-5,c5-6&c6-7 in my neck very soon. Unfortunately I have a fused left knee(can not bend it at all)and my right knee has no cartilage left and needs replacement. I also have stenosis in the vertebrae of my lower back. I use my hands and arms to lift off of bed or chair or toilet etc. I can not get up without pushing off with my arms.

Will I be able to do that after having neck fusion surgery i.e. put weight on my arms and shoulder to lift off? My other option is to have knee replacement surgery first. Please help me make this decision. I am 60 years old. Thank you for any input.


  • HI Makado,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many going through the same surgery as yourself. I myself am a multi-level fusion.

    AS far as your position with being able to lift yourself following surgery, that would all depend on the post-op restrictions. After all my surgeries the max amount of weight I have been allowed to lift is 8lbs which is a gallon of milk. The question would also be what they are using for bone grafting if it is your bone or cadaver. But I really believe this is a question you should be discussing with your surgeon. The bigger question would be how bad is your neck? If your risking paralysis then doing a knee replacement first, I wouldn't think would be advise able. But I indeed would have this discussion with the surgeon before proceeding with surgery.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Keep us posted on what you decided to do. Take care.
  • Thanks tamtam. I am going to call my NS. My neck is not that bad right now. I do feel some pain in the neck especially if I try looking up or turning it. I have very limited range of motion left but there is no danger of paralysis. Recently I started getting headaches caused by nerve pain referring to the front of my head when I lied down to sleep at night but using a soft collar at night has put a stop to that. I do have some pain in the fingers of my left hand. Occasionally I get worse pains in the fingers and shoulders but an epidural once a year or so calms it down. I was hoping to have this surgery and take care of the problem long term but then suddenly realized over the last couple of days that I may not be able to lift myself off a chair or bed or toilet etc after this surgery.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated especially by someone who has had this surgery. Will I be able to lift my body off a chair etc putting my weight on my arms and shoulders after surgery? Thank you.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I've had the same cervical surgery you're going to have and I found myself most comfortable in my recliner during recovery. When we bought it, we considered whether to get the kind that lifts you up also because I had the same question you have, but it turned out that I had no problem lifting myself up out of my chair.

    But, with that said, I have no problem with my hips, so it's hard to compare. When you talk to your NS about this, he/she might consider having you wear a hard collar, if not already planning on it, to help protect your neck when you lift yourself up.

    Good luck on your decision and I wish you a very successful surgery. Please keep us posted.

  • Here is the reason I would think it best to check your with your surgeon. Is that most members whom go through a cervical fusion have the use of their legs to push with while pushing with their arms at the same time to stand. But what your describing sounds as if your only going to be able to push with your arms, and your legs is what you are just stable on. This might explain it better. I had a broken ankle that required surgery with plating following cervical surgery. The ankle issue was not a result of spine surgery, but more a result of the frequent miss haps of tripping and stumbling. The most important part was they couldn't let me use crutches for what it would do to my cervical spine. When you use crutches it is all arm strength, which is going to trigger right back to your cervical spine. So they had to come up with a bracing way that i could place weight on the ankle immediately following the surgery.

    So what i think is important here is that your surgeon observes the way in which you need to get up from a seated position and decides wether or not that is something you will be able to do following cervical spine surgery. A hard collar will help you maintain the proper neck positioning when getting up but you will still be placing all that weight on your arms. As I said before even with a hard collar on, following surgery, the weight restrictions were just a gallon of milk. So I think the surgeon needs to decide on direct observation if it is something you can do or not. Most surgeons would be brutally honest as they don't want a failed surgery on them. Multi-level surgeries have a higher failure rate to begin with, so no needed to take the extra risk with it. Does this surgeon know of your need for knee replacement surgery and how bad it is?
  • Thank you for the input Cath & tamtam. My surgeon is always in a big hurry so he doesn't know about my need to put my weight on my arms to lift myself up or to sit myself down. I left a message for him today and his office said he will get back on Thursday. Maybe I should have the knee replacement done first so I won't have to put all my weight on my arms and shoulders to sit and get up. I don't know :SS

  • I would certainly give your surgeon all the information about your problems and let him make the decision of whether you will be able to move about after surgery, or will need to have your knee replacement done first.

    He probably needs to watch you move and get up to see how much stress it will put on your arms and neck.

    Do let us know how you get on. :-)
  • I had a C6,7,T1 and T2 fusion. at the time i had the surgery i had two very weak legs because of bad hips and lumbar stenosis. after the 10 hr. surgery on the day after the surgery the physical therapist had me walk a few steps with crutches and my legs failed me. i went down quickly. a screw came loose even though i had a neck brace. i feel your legs should be as strong as possible but as everyone else states check with surgeon. a brace is a necessity. by the way i had plenty of strength to push up with arms after the surgery. my good wishes are for you.

  • Thanks Joan. Did the screw come out because you fell down or because of the pressure on your shoulders from the crutches. It is good to know though that you were able to put put your body weight on your arms and shoulders to push up off the bed or a chair.

  • hi navi
    i think the screw was loose from a combination of the surgeon not putting it in straight plus the fall. and yes arms were plenty strong for crutches and pushing up in bed. i'm a heavy person also so that adds to the difficulty but i could push enough with arms.

  • The best way to get up after almost all surgeries is to log roll. They teach you this in the hospital. To get out of bed you roll to your side and then stomach. That way you use your legs. But with one knee fused you might not be able to do this.
  • Thanks for your input Joan & Kris-NY. I definitely cannot do the leg roll. I will have to use both my arms and that will put the weight of my body on my shoulders. I am not overweight - only weigh 165lbs and am 5'9'' but after reading though the experiences of forum members I am very worried about putting my body weight on my arms post surgery #:S
  • Well the NS finally called me on Thursday. He is a very busy man- considered to be the the foremost NS in San Francisco Bay area. I explained my concern and he said they try to be be very careful with nerves during surgery - "monitor them" so unless something goes wrong I should be able to use my arms to lift or lower myself. He did not seem to be concerned about my using my arms and the fusion process, saying the vertebrae are held together with screws and a plate.

    So, any comments, suggestions, opinions? I would really appreciate it!
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