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ADCF Surgery, is it worth it

ouch63oouch63 Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hey out there,

Scheduled for ADCF surgery for C5-C6 in a week. For those who have had it done is it worth it? I am an athletic person and heard stories that you loose movement, have constant numbness and tingling, to it really didn't help after all as the damage was done.

I did the Spinal Injection and that was pretty cool but didn't do much. Pain management and no sleep, or loss of part of your life, that is the question!




  • i had discopathy lamonectomy from c4 to c7 have plte on front rods and srews in back a month ago i still have severe numbness in left hand and weakness in right they say will go awwy after time i hope but best of luck to you.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859

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    Jim, as you read through these forums you will find a number of people who had great success with the ACDF surgeries and some that did not.

    I've had it done twice (C4/C5 and the C6/C7) using bone from my hip. Since I have multi-level fusion, I also have a titanium plate and screws between the levels.

    I had great luck with these surgeries. Almost immediately after surgery I was pain free from what was the problem prior to surgery. I had to wear a hard collar for 6 weeks, 24x7. But many doctors do not even do this today.

    Physical therapy played a key role in establishing
    range of motion and flexibility. I do have some permanent limitations and range of motion. But it is something I've gotten used to and almost ignore.

    Being athletic, should give you an upper edge on your recovery time. What the end results in terms
    of any restrictions is something you need to discuss with your surgeon
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • there is normally good result as there is very little movement there and less weight .my sister in law had it done about 6 years ago and she is fine {she is a nurse in her 50s} so you should be OK good luck
    its lumber fusions that can be a problem due to the load that the lower disks have to carry
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • For me 2-level ACDF was not a matter of choice. Pain was too much to bear. I was also young (mid-30's) and relatively athletic.

    The surgery was extremely successful. Fairly easy recovery post-hospital. Hard collar was the worst part. No remaining pain in hand, arm, shoulder or back.

    Fully fused after 9 months. Released to full activity at that time.

    I currently play basketball weekly, wrestle with my kids, and go to gym with no issues.

    I get back of head headaches on occasion. They are different than pre-acdf headaches. I have limited ROM looking over my left shoulder. Only time I notice is when backing up my car. I also have some permenant loss of stregnth in my left tricep but it is rarely noticable to me.

    Everyone is different but I would do it again in a heartbeat. Good luck.
  • The decision to have surgery is a personal choice that needs to be discussed with a NS or OSS. For me it was the right decision, but it took more than 5 years to make it. I had headaches, pain, pressure, numbness, tingling and the list goes on. The pain became unbearable and my quality of life was not there. I am 3 months out and doing so much better than before surgery. If you have specific questions feel free to ask. Good luck. :)
    12/9/2010 ACDF C5-6 C6-7
    2/14/2011 back to work
    2/21/2011 started PT
    3/14/2011 bone growth
  • My ACDF 3/4,4/5,5/6 was done because of severe phase of degeneration (over 10 yr period) with symptoms being numbness in both hands, face numbness initially and progressing in last phase because of multiple progressive bone spurs (osteophytes), causing neuropathy arms, legs and spinal cord involvement (impingement).

    I did not live with intense pain in my neck/shoulders, more flare-ups when doing more activity than normal or long periods of time, computer, lawn work, etc.

    My surgeon(s) following my cervical spine degeneration monitored those levels with MRI when symptoms were more chronic and assessed to "only do the surgery if pain became intolerable and symptoms of radiculopathy progressed in extremities (arms/legs)"

    Want to offer some factors I have learned in my process, this is long, but feel it may help you for where you might be.

    Re: When To Do Surgery
    That "rule of needing surgery" is still true for me - - I have progressive degeneration thru out c-spine t-spine, predisposed early in life with deformed levels C-1/2/3 at birth and scoliosis conditions.

    Re: Risks in Surgery - Intervention to Spine / Recovery

    Hope you know there are risks with this major surgery and the recovery is unlike any other surgery such as knees, hips, hands in my opinion, as it is a longer duration of neuro-muscular, tissue and ligaments all affected by the interventional surgery which is the most complex part of your body.

    Re: Factors of Hardware, Recovery & Successful Outcome - Symptoms Resolved / Stablilization/ Complex Factors

    Many times it is involving hardware (instrumentation) and you add more to the risk, in that it may be needed and providing more stability with instrumentation, but that means hardware factors in being part of the complex success in recovery.

    Re: Choice of No Instrumentation / Bone Implant Only

    Depending on the degeneration and the number of levels needing intervention surgery, surgeons assess each case as to doing bone implant no instrumentation spine levels, choice of doing bone implant. Again depending on your spine conditions, it is good to assess with the surgeon explaining best way to fuse levels successfully.

    I was 45 when I had 3 levels done, my neurosurgeon did not want to do instrumentation, knowing micro-discectomy done anterior approach with bone implant (bone bank) was best choice for my age to successfully fuse and he did not want to do instrumentation (typically plates & screws) to the already complex curvature above those levels.

    My ACDF with bone implant was done, wearing soft collars for 4-5 weeks, at 4 months I showed good progressive fusion, at 9 months I was fully fused.

    Re: C-Spine Mobility Post-Op & Free of Pain/Numbness

    I had change in movement of my neck, from left to right, and flexion up and down because of 3-level fusion, but it was not significant! I had still what I considered good range of motion for driving and most functions of turning my head. My slight scoliosis was involved there, but I was amazed how much mobility I had post-op. Re: Symptoms my numbness in arms & legs immediately; hand and fingers numbness gradually got better and was gone by one year. Very good outcome!

    Be very good for you to learn as much as you can about degenerative spine, options you may have: best approach of surgery; best choice of fusion; and when to do spine surgery. Keep in mind the conservative approach of "needing surgery" - - not for tolerable stiffness/pain assessing "need for surgery" orthopedic or neurologist physicians and ortho and neuro surgeons, i.e. what is status of disc degeneration, spinal nerves and spinal cord.

    Risk of doing such a major interventional spine surgery for a degenerative condition becomes clear when any of those vital elements: your spine nerves and spinal cord is being compromised (compressed, impinged, encroached) and your symptoms of affecting corresponding extremeties.

    Hope this helps - - know it's a lot I offered to you, which has been a part of my process, as well as what I've experienced over the past 40 yrs with spinal degenerative disease and assessing need for surgery.

    I have learned to become fully aware and seeking all information I could from medical anatomy, pathology of degeneration, what is being done to lower risks in spine surgery, what is being done to improve procedures, implementation and recovery from spine surgery.

    Spine-Health is great support and has been part of my assessment process, in addition to dialogue as an advocate and educated patient.

    Hope to learn more of what is going on with your c-spine that brings you to considering surgery - - it's a big decision but you can get much support here.


  • My opinions

    You mentioned that spinal injections were cool. I assure you there is absolutely nothing cool about fusion. Fusion should be the absolute last resort. You will be losing a natural part of your body. You neck will never move the same as it does now. As one surgeon told me, "I can't give you back what God gave you."

    What you heard about losing range of motion is true.

    Did your surgeon rule out laminetomy/foraminotomy as a surgical option?

    Did you get opinions from a few different surgeons?

    Do you know about adjacent disc disease? Be sure you read about it. It's a concern for anyone who has a fusion, especially so I think someone who is very active or does heavy lifting. You can end up with a domino effect. I had a C5/C6 fusion. About two months later I picked up a heavy computer and the next disc down collapsed. Dumb mistake on my part.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    I had the same surgery on Oct 4, 2010. For me, yep, it was worth it. I can turn my head better than I had in years, my arm/hand pain and tingling is gone. I wore a soft collar for about four days (I think) and didn't have any PT. I just did A LOT of walking after surgery.

    My NS didn't give me any real restrictions but common sense tells you not to do more than you should. If you're like me and do it anyway, you'll know soon enough that you shouldn't have. lol.

    Let me know if I can help you in any way. With just my experiences of course since everyone/situation is different.

    Good luck,
  • It's just been 2 months since my cervical surgery (C4-7), but my symptoms were such that there wasn't much choice (I still have problems with my legs, g.i. system and even had facial symptoms - apparently via the Cervical Plexus nerve system).

    I am pleased with my recovered range of motion, but there is a bit of stiffness, and I think it would affect some energetic athletic activities requiring fast movements (versus, say hiking or the like). But since I've developed fibromyalgia I've found those kinds of things difficult for me anyway (e.g., tennis, swimming).

    I think that with any treatment you have to weigh the pros and cons, potential risks and benefits, etc. Do you think your life would be better as it is now or with some other alternate treatment? Or would it be better with surgery? I think that sometimes there's no way around it that even the best option may result in some limitations from what you've been used to in the past.

    From my experience I think that you should expect some affect on range of motion. I don't know if there are ways you can compensate for that in your preferred activities, but that might be something to look into to.

  • Thank you Debbie!

    I am an active guy and I am soooooooo on the fence about this so just trying to reach out. Doctors can tell you anything but end result is it's your body and quality of life. I am like you and I do things ahead of schedule, lol! I hate hate this question (Doctors ask this all the time) but what was your pain level? Was it Chronic?

  • Thank you for the inspiring words about the ACDF. I am facing a C6=7 fusion in a month or so, and I really don't know what to expect. I am in near constant pain (almost one year), and use way more pain meds than I am comfortable with. I am hopeful the surgery will end this madness of ineffective treatments.

    "My Blood Type is Be Positive"


  • Howdy!!! For me, the waking from surgery for C5/6 was amazing!!! The pain was GONE!! I actually had my first in my life "happy tears!!!" The scary part is "spinal surgery"! I was freaked out about a sharp object near my cord...that was alleviated when I awoke!

    Fingers crossed that you wake like I did, happy as a bloody clam!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    I hate the "pain scale" too. That's very hard to describe and can be so different from person to person. I consider myself to have a very high tolerance to pain. I've come close to tears a few times but it would take a LOT for me to actually cry over pain. My son says he could shoot me in the foot and he doubts I'd cry---bet I would. lol. (Then he would! hehe) Anyway, my pain varied from 3-7 depending on what I'd been doing. This went on for ten years or more. The last few years were worse when the pain was in my arm and hand too. I couldn't sleep. I've slept better since the surgery than I had in a year.

    I still have low back problems and if they could "fix" it like my neck I'd be there tomorrow! I worried myself to death over making the decision to have this surgery and all my friends here on SH helped me so much. It was a hard decision but I'm very glad I did it. I know that there's no guarantees as to what may happen because I have two other bad cervical levels but so far it's great!

    My ROM is better than before surgery from side to side. I do notice that I can't put my chin on my chest as easily sometimes. Since I had to turn my head carefully for so many years though it feels like new now!

    I wish you luck in your decision and understand the anxiety. Let me know if I can help.

  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    Hi Jim. Just wanted to check and see if you decided to have the surgery. If you did I hope that it went well and that you're doing great. Let us know when you can.

  • They should make different pain scales! I had natural childbirth, so that's my 10. Is anything EVER going to come close??
  • I was scheduled for surgery tomorrow and was ready to do with all of your input and experiences that you shared which helped me so much! There are so many of you so much worst off than me.

    But my other medical conditions (Goldbladder Cancerous Polyps) took priority and my Doctor and I decided this morning to not perform the ACDF surgery. I will treat with pain management (Spine Injection) which I have had before and does work and reavulate ACDF in the future.

    For you that want to try that first I highly suggest it. A little scary as a robotic arm inserts the needle in your spine but recovery is 5 minutes.

    I wish everyone the best in recovery and will stay in touch. Who knows I could be back on at any time.

    Jim :)
  • Jim,

    Goodness! Scary to hear you have cancerous polyps. Wow! Yeah, I would say that takes priority. Hopefully they can get those suckers out of there, and keep you out of the woods. Please keep us posted on how it goes. Many positive thoughts and hopes that they can keep your pain under control. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • 3 hours to my surgery. Have everything ligned up personally it's just the unknown that I don't look forward to but I have to have it done. I am loosing strength by the minute due to nerve damage.

    Will hopefully post soon :)OUCH
  • Wishing you a successful surgery and recovery! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • I am thinking of you and hope that your cervical surgery will go to plan and that you will wake up with good pain control and that before long you will be aware of a big improvement.

    I'll look forward to hearing from you soon to learn of how you are feeling and how it all went.

    I am also interested to know more about the cervical steroid injections that you had, and how much help they gave you.
    I am being referred to Pain Management for cervical injections, and quite honestly, I am not sure that I want them!

    The surgeon says they are less risky than surgery, but that they are only for pain control and that they won't change my condition. He says that he doesn't think I am a candidate for surgery at the moment, and wants to try conservative methods to relieve my pain.

    I get a lot of headaches and am wondering if these injections will help those. While I am having these headaches, I decide that it will be worth it to control the awful pounding pain I get, but when my pain levels are low, I think that I can manage without them. (I am a coward about needles!!)

    We will be here Jim, waiting to hear how you are doing and cheer you on in your recovery.

    Take care :-)

  • Jelly that is so normal! When I was in the middle of a flare I always thought, "I WANT SURGERY NOW", when I was having my usual pain (2-5 daily), I thought, "I don't know if surgery will help much".

    Good thing I got it done, because it turned out to be much worse than the mri showed!

    Jim- Your surgery must be done now! You are probably in recovery or something. All the best to you! Soon you will be doing much better. Let us know.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Hope surgery helps mine did not but have theses issues under my surgery site

    c4-5 a small broad based disk bulge is present eccentric to the right with a small annular tear. there is near complete effacement of the ventral thecal sac causing a moderate central canal stenosis. there is no significant right foraminal stenosis hoever a mild left foraminal stenosis results from adjacent uncovertebral hyperrtrophy and facet overgrowth.

    c5-6 there is a small broad based disk bulge with complete effacement of the ventral thecal sac causing a mild to moderate central canal stenosis. MIld to moderate bilateral foraminal stenosis result from adjacent uncovertebral hypertrophy and facet overgrowth.

    c6-7 a small broad based disk bulge is present with complete effacementof the ventroal thecal sac causing a moderate central canal stenosis. MIld bilateral foraminal stenoses result from adjacent uncovertebral hypertrophy.

    hope you feel better
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