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ACDF Fusion - What to expect

cosmicsuzy1212ccosmicsuzy1212 Posts: 36
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am considering a C6-7 ACDF. I have been in nearly constant pain in my neck and my trapezius is in a full-time spasm. My spine surgeon says that I have a herniated disc and he wants to do the surgery.

What is your opinion on an allograft vs. autograft?

What to watch out for during first few weeks of recovery?

Is it possible that my pain will go away and my life will go back to the way it was before the days of opiates and injections?


"My Blood Type is Be Positive"




  • allograft vs. autograft

    Prior to my first fusion I asked my surgeon about using bone from my hip. He said the pain from the hip would be worse than the pain from the fusion, and strongly recommended I go with the bone from the "bone bank" which as I understand it is sterilized bone from a cadaver. I followed the surgeon's advice. Bone growth was good and my fusion is solid.

    I had a second fusion this past February. For this fusion (which I wish I had not had) the surgeon used something called "Peek".

    My comments/opinions about fusion:

    Having a fusion is not something to take lightly. It should be an absolute last resort after you have tried everything else that might help. With fusion you some range of motion, and you are at risk of adjacent disc disease (domino effect), which means you are setting yourself up for more disc problems in the future.

    Did you try physical therapy? If so, did you really, really try? I mean, did you do the exercises at home and not just at the therapy appointments? I ask this because I wish I had tried harder at physical therapy. Maybe I would not have needed surgery.

    Did your surgeon say whether or not a laminectomy/foraminotmy might give you pain relief?

    Have you gotten at least three opinions?

    Please try everything else before you try fusion. I regret having a second fusion. I avoided it like the plague, but I finally submitted to it because I was tired of being in pain and because my COBRA insurance was about to run out. That last reason was bad reason to have the surgery.

    If you do end up having a fusion be sure you ask the surgeon about the use of Ibuprofen after the surgery. Ibuprofen can interfere with bone growth. My surgeon told me not to use any Ibuprofen for a certain amount of time after the surgery, but I don't remember how long.

    As for what to expect, I recommend the "Post-Op Must Haves" sticky post in the Back/Neck Surgery Forums. And read through the many posts about fusions.
  • First off, Welcome to Spine Health. This is a great site, but still,...sorry you had to come here thanks to cervical (or any) spine issues!!

    As for your bone or donor bone, my surgeon said that now a days, there is almost no benefit difference in using one of the other. I'm a smoker and have used donor for both. My issues now aren't due to smoking but stress issues within the fusions.

    I know for me, the post op was instant for results! My first was more of a pain issue than anything else - 100% resolved when I awoke, the second I had a rather violent herniation, and the damage remained, but the progression was stopped - so to me, success again.

    Can the pain go away without surgery? Sure, for some people the disk dries up and shrinks back in, but once you go past a few months and it hasn't changed, or continuing without surgery can cause damage, you need to decide surgery or not at that point.

    Keep in mind (and now I believe it fully), C6/7 is one of the harder levels to heal, as we have a lot more movement at that level than most others. Please let us know how it goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thank you so much for the reply. I am looking for as much information about this surgery as possible. I have been in near constant pain since April 2010. I have tried CESI, Radiofrequency ablation, and two foraminal injections (with no relief). I am very active, actually work out 3 times per week. I did give PT a great try. I guess I feel as though I back is against the wall. No amount of pain medication really works, and I would be satisfied with a 50% improvement in symptoms.

    I have a busy life...kids, house, job (which I can take a leave from), but I am worried about recovery at home. What will it be like? What kinds of things can I do? What will it be like to sleep in a Malibu Collar? Tips and advice on keeping active and a positive attitude?

    I was so excited to have a relpy from someone who actually has had this surgery. Thank you so much!

    "My Blood Type is Be Positive"


  • Thanks so much for the kind welcome. I am just about as anxious as I can be about the surgery. It is not scheduled until May 3rd, so I have lots of time to ruminate about this.

    I have been in pain since April 2010. I have tried PT, PM (radiofrequency ablation, and CESI), and most recently two foraminal injections (with no relief).

    What is it like at home the days after the surgery? When did you start driving again? Sleeping with the collar? So many questions...

    Diane :)

    "My Blood Type is Be Positive"


  • Nice to meet you! :)

    On my first fusion (C5/6) if memory serves, I was able to ditch the Percocet after a week and a half! As for driving, I was given the green light at the 3 week mark - as I was out of the collar, and too off the pain medications. I was back to work 6 weeks later - but light duty as I was a law enforcement officer (retired now). My surgeon did restrict me on bending, lifting things, max weight (about that of a gallon of milk), and he added "Let your body know what you can and can't do - don't push it."

    Many of us too have the "good" and the "bad" days as we recover. Most any spine surgery is "major" surgery. Once you have a fusion anywhere in your spine, it forever changes the stresses, loading and dynamics of your whole spine! Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. You just might find "new pain" as your body adjusts. I'm sure your surgeon will tell you this too, if you have any concerns as you recover "call his office", as you heal better with low stress. His goal is to try and make your body better with his skills! Just some extra thoughts for you Diane.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I don't blame you for being nervous. For some reason, my nerves hit me the night before surgery and my family was hiding from me by that point. Ha Ha!
    I had C5-C7 done with donor bone. I had the five pound weight limit for lifting for at least a month if I remember correctly. Like Brenda, my arm and shoulder pain was gone immediately after surgery. I had never had major surgery before so I wasn't sure what to expect as far as recovery pain. It was difficult to get comfortable and I found the best position for me was propped up on lots of pillows in my bed. Many say that the recliner is their salvation but I could never get comfortable there. Sleeping wasn't terribly comfortable because the best position for comfort was semi sitting up, again with the pillows behind and beside me. My surgeon did not have me wear a collar at all. I was released to drive after one week, but was not all that comfortable driving for very long distances, but was able to go to my office for a few hours every day the second week, but my stamina was just gone and it took me a while to build back up to a full day of work. Fortunately I could work from home with my laptop and cellphone so that was a lifesaver. I had Percocet for 10 days, then went back to Lortab after that. I was encouraged to walk, walk and walk some more as often as I could. She did tell me to try and limit it to flat surfaces if possible. I cant't really remember the timing on everything following the surgery, but it seems like after about 5 weeks, a lot of my restrictions were lifted. The fusion went beautifully for me and I think I was fully fused after 3-4 months. The wound itself healed very quickly and barely left a scar. It was glued on the outside and I was allowed to shower the day I came home from the hospital (was kept overnight).
    I remember that milkshakes tasted really good for a few days because my throat was sore, but I didn't have too many swallowing issues at all. I could feel something but never choked on food or drinks. I did have pretty bad muscle spasms in the weeks following surgery and my NS prescribed a muscle relaxer (Skelaxin) that helped a lot with those.
    This reply is a bit disjointed. Sorry about that. I'm just giving you info about my experience as it comes into my head. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask.
  • Hi had a two level c5-7. I had an autograft because I smoked. It hurt me the first 2 weeks, but I walked alot. Now I don't feel any pain at all. Before surgery I was in constant pain for a solid 3 months. It has been over a 10 year period I've struggled with neck issues. I also developed horrible tendonitis in my left elbow before surgery. My "neck"pain is gone except for my pain which is part of healing. My shoulder was fine before the surgery, now I have shoulder weakness which also is tied into the elbow pain. My strength in my left triceps was non existent after surgery...it's slowly...very s l o w l y improving. I'm still debating whether my surgery was worth it or not. I'm still healing..but hope to know in a couple more months!
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