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C1-C2 Cervical Fusion - Post-Operative Symptom

matrix72961mmatrix72961 Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:50 AM in Recovering from Surgery
Approximately one month after my C1-C2 fusion, I had an ex-ray of the fusion location. The doctor had reviewed the imaging and said that everything looked very well. He said to continue walking to keep from developing blood clots. I'm wearing my brace 100% of the time and am resting well. However, even with a brace on, there is naturally slight movement, if nothing else, just within the skin. Obviously, even a brace cannot keep things COMPLETELY fixated. My head has been facing upward though the entire time. When motion occurs, every so often, there is a slight crack sound coming from the surgical location. The doctor is aware of this and is saying not to be worried...I still am. Does anyone else know if it is normal to have this take place, and what is cracking...the bone from my hip, the device screwed into the two vertebrae, muscle, etc.? I'm just looking for confidence that things are going well. Thanks


  • I don't have any experience of surgery on my neck, although I do have pain and other symptoms.

    Fusion on C1-C2 is quite unusual, I believe. I think it is also quite a difficult surgery. I would be very interested to hear more about your surgery and your recovery. You are still very early on. I have had a fusion on my lumbar spine, which all in all, has gone pretty well. I do feel a slipping feeling over my fusion, so had it x-rayed. My surgeon says that all my hardware is where it should be and that it is the ligaments either side of the fusion that need more time to tighten up.

    I do get very loud crack sounds coming from my neck occassionally and very often what I call my 'snap, crackle and popping' noises. I think this is usual with degenerated necks. I think it might be caused by my facet joints rubbing together and catching. Not sure about that though.

    As your doctor is aware of the cracking noise and is not worried, then I think that it is probably normal.

    Hopefully someone else who knows more than me will come along and be able to tell you more.

    Again welcome! :-) :H
  • Hi, it's been almost 4 months after my surgery, everything went well, great recovery with almost no pain.. I just started PT last week and is also going very well. However, last night while I was asleep I started feeling some tingling in my right arm, from under the arm to my pinky and ring finger, it feels a little numb... I' kind of worried about it, does anybody know anything about it?
  • Hey Joel,
    I am 2 weeks post op and would be very interested in hearing how your recovery has been. I had donor bone harvested from my hip, which doesn't hurt at all compared to my neck! Although my headaches are done (thank goodness!) I am having prety bad pain still at the surgery site along with muscle spasms. I am wondering if this is 'normal'??? How long after surgery were you able to quit taking pain meds and muscle relaxers?
    thanks in advance, and hope your recovery is going well!
    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • Hey guys,

    It has now been just over six months post-op of c1-c2. I just had another scan two days ago, and the doc says that healthy bone has grown and I can finally resume "normal" physical activity, including running. He says that the cracking sound in my neck will now be normal. I wanted to know if any of the rest of you also have that. It is no big deal...just a small "crack" five or six times per day if I move my head just right. There is absolutely no pain...in fact, I cannot even feel it.

    Just wanted to know if I was the only one or not. Otherwise, surgery seems to have gone very well. Thanks guys.
  • I guess I am one of the lucky ones *sarcasm* I had the joy of experiencing this surgery twice. I have had RA since I was 12. (44 now) I underwent the first posterior C1-2 fusion with bilateral C1 and C2 pedicle screws and Rods with a Right iliac crest bone graft harvest in March of 2007 and the revision was in February 2008. In this surgery they went in and did a C1-C3 instrumented fusion and Left iliac crest bone graft harvest. I did not really know what the outcome would be going in as my surgeon discussed several possibilities, including occipital cervical fusion, halo bracing, C1 to C4 fixation. I knew for sure that they would remove at least the C2 screws, and make a new attempt to refuse and restrict motion at C1. But essentially my first fusion did not take and my C1 was again teetering on the brink of an internal decapitation without immediate surgery. I was afraid to sneeze at this point. Neither surgery was fun to recover from. The first surgery I did not have to have a cervical collar. I was quite grateful. Before surgery I was having numbness, tingling, cervicogenic headaches, burning and muscle spasms. After surgery I was pretty much symptom free until late fall. Recovery was approximately 12 weeks. In January I saw my surgeon for follow-up thinking everything was great and unbeknownst to me it wasn’t. I had surgery again and since then I have had ongoing cervicogenic headaches and muscle spasms. With both surgeries I experience cracking sounds. I am not sure you ever get used to them.
    Now 5 years later I am having major occipital nerve pain. Stiffness, daily cervicogenic headaches, burning and spasms. One ER doctor thinks a nerve could be compressed. My doctor is at Mayo. I have been waiting since March to get in to see my Neurologist and Neurosurgeon. Finally I have an appointment. Most doctors take a look at my neck and all the hardware and want nothing to do with me. Most Xray techs are in awe of how much hardware I have. I know nothing should be moving around but I also know that the fusion can cause faster degeneration of the disks on both sides of the fusion. Ie; my ankle fusion form 8 years ago is presenting problems to joints and bones on both sides. I have also heard of people that develop bone spurs etc at the fusion site and have had to have surgery to remove them. I tell myself that nothing should be wrong but I feel miserable. I have numbness and tingling throughout my body. The nerve pain and zingers it shoots out are driving me bonkers. The headaches are extremely tough to deal with. I think I am half hoping I need surgery again and that this can be fixed but half of me thinks I might go off the deep end if I had to have surgery again. I mean I cheated death twice. I certainly have no butt left for bone grafts. Speaking of that. Holy crap. Sometimes I think that was the worst part. The surgical sites still hurt. But I guess I am still worried that they will tell me nothing is wrong. So anyhow I finally see my surgeon this week at Mayo. Wondering if anyone else has had to have a repeat or even a three-peat done.

  • Melanie...Wow you poor thing. I had my C!-C2 fusion last October. They used donor bone on me because I am in my early 40's and they told me that hip bone grafts can be painful. I have only had post op xrays so I don't really know how my fusion is going. I have recently been getting the zingers or nerve pain on top of my head, but I thought it might just be the nerves regenerating. You make me think twice though. I hope you are doing better!
  • Melanie,
    I am also a "lucky one" like you. I had my first C1-C2 fusion in April 2011, and they used wiring and donor bone from my left hip. My fusion failed--the donor bone resorbed, making the wires loose. They were basically continually rubbing on my C2 nerve, causing horrible occipital neuralgia. So, I had a revision surgery done with pedicle screws (the ones in my C1 are 35mm long, which is scary!), donor bone from my left hip (again), and BMP (which is controversial). They told me that due to the anatomy of my C1, this is the last chance for a fusion. My revision was done in January 2012. I still had pain after my surgery and went through 2 C2-C3 rhizotomies, which worked for 5-6 months each.
    I am now unable to work due to continued headaches, and inability to move my neck more than 25 degrees to with side or 10 degrees down. I've been on short term disability for almost a year now, which ends this week. I applied for Sicial Security disability, but due to my age (39) and education (Masters Degree), I question whether or not I will be approved.
    Hope all is well, and you are recovering from your second surgery. I know it's a long road. Last time, I wore the Miami J collar 24/7 for 4-5 months. Ugh.....
    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • Wide OpenWWide Open Posts: 1
    edited 10/10/2015 - 10:56 AM
    Hi I'm new here July 21 I was told I had c1/c2 instability . Ten weeks later I'm told I have occipital neurolgia I live in Dayton Ohio I have an appointment for a nerve block at a hospital this week can any one suggest I good doctor to handle both of these issues

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  • I also have c1/c2 instability. What are your symptoms? How much movement are you experiencing? Have you been told to fuse c1/c2?

    My only symptom really is a clunk when I look up sometimes, no pain.
  • Hello All. I had the screws,plate, rods etc five months ago as I had Atlanta axial instability also. Also the bone graft using sonar bone. The operation and recovery for me was awful. It took them three hours to get the breathing tube down me as nothing was in the right place when they opened me up. I was born with my skull fused to my vertebrae and over time this had caused the joint at C1 to give way effectively my head was falling into my neck. I am 43 and a professional person. Five months on, the pain in my neck and head is a lot better but I still feel pain and discomfort from the surgery points. My neck is now fixed to a certain position so I can't move my neck sideways at all. I have been told it is all the muscles repairing themselves why the pain has been so bad with the slightest movement for months. I have developed numbness and over sensitivity in my left leg and foot. I am limping to get around. It is not painful just can't feel anything external like hot or cold but internally feels like it is on fire. It keeps me awake every night I don't sleep. I had an MRI and they said it isn't nerve damage. Course it is! I was really hoping I was not going to be in this much pain and discomfort five months post op as I need to get back to work for financial reasons. Due to start next week but really worried how I am going to cope even on a phased return. Thoughts are with you all xxxx
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    I was just curious if you had EMG to try to find nerves that may be effected?
    Also, of course I'm not sure, but have you tried to use a cane while up and about?

    I have not had surgery, but sensitivity with right foot, mostly ankle and then leg.
    ...general weakness of legs that suddenly give out. I still have tendency to fall backwards. So cane helps my balance.

    The cane helped me greatly, and immediately!....and also improved my posture. I still limp but not near what happens when on my own.
    I'm not sure how, but it also lessens my pain.

    When on my own, people will ask me...why not use your cane?...They tell me, and I know it's not a pretty sight watching me get around in a way that I've now become used to...some sort of contorted limping to get around.

    I wish you the very best in finding relief to your symptoms!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

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