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new here. fusion recommended, please share your thoughts/experiences with me



  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many whom have gone through cervical spine surgery, including myself. As far as being nervous and scarred that is only natural when it comes to surgery. Something you can do for yourself, is to understand your condition, what procedure they are suggesting, and research the doctor. If you look in our FAQ section you will find a link to a article preparing to meet with a spine surgeon.

    My guess is the surgery they would do is a ACDF(anterior cervical discetomy and fusion). Basically they go in from the front of the neck remove the damaged disc and replace it with some type of bone grafting material(allograft=cadaver, autograft=your bone, or BMP=bone morphegenic protein). Once that is done they will add some hardware to hold it all in place more than likely a plate with screws. Your surgeon should have samples of all these products so you can see them. We also have a animated video here explaining the surgery. Now they could also be suggesting a ADR=artificial disc replacement.

    I would look at the list of questions in the article i referenced and create your own list of questions and then make a appointment and get all the answers. Of course we can explain somethings, but your best bet is get it straight from the surgeons. You would also need to know how many levels they will be doing surgery at. To know the number of levels count the Disc they are removing. That will give you a better idea of how long on the recovery.

    AS far as recovery and your wedding, it is possible to do surgery now and your up and doing well by your wedding if it is in the fall. Your surgeon could give you the best time frame on recovery based on what procedure he/she is going to do. Typical recovery is anywhere from 8-10 weeks. But I have seen some back at work as early as two weeks depending on what type of job they do and the number of levels the surgery was done on.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted.
  • Thank you so much for getting back to me. Hopefully I am using this reply correctly. The surgery will only be at the c5/c6 level. I go back in two weeks to discuss everything so the list of questions is a great idea. I really appreciate the help and kindness of your post.
  • Hi Robyn
    As one newbie to another - welcome.
    I am just 2 weeks post op for a l5/s1 fusion which I kknow is a different op than what you are considering, but - I waited 25 years of chronic pain before getting the courage to be operated on (that plus there was no future other than the rest of my life in increasing pain and descreasing mobility!)
    Part of my problem was finding the "right" doctor - we only have one spine and one chance at getting this done right so, if your instinct is telling you this is the right person then go for it - if you are hesitiant then go get a second,third or fourth opinion until you find "your" doctor.
    Good luck and keep us posted - as I say I am only 2 weeks out so every day is a new day for me so all I can say is that the underlying pre-op pain is greatly reduced - replaced with operation pain of course but i know that will pass in time.
  • I had a single level ACDF done a week ago Tuesday - Level 5/6. I am back at work as of yesterday for a few hours at a time. Pain wise I am mostly at aches in the back of my neck, a sore throat and a bit of difficulty swallowing. It's too early to tell about the effectiveness.

    Your most important decision is your doctor. Is s/he super confident and does a ton of them - then he may be your choice. S/he will have crappy bed side manners but will get the job done.

    One level surgery took my neuro less than an hour to complete and I walked out of the hospital the same day.

    I am not wearing an Aspen collar, though I was given one. The Dr. specifically said not to bring it to the hospital - he feels it's a crutch and does nothing for strengthening your neck muscles. He does require the collar for 3 level procedures.

    I delayed the procedure for 4 years - and it was only a matter of time before I had to get it done. If after all your shots and therapy nothing had improved, then go for it. Do it soon and your 2" scar will fade and no one will see it at your wedding!

    Lastly, you are only 29, I am only 55 - do you really want to suffer with pain and discomfort for the next 60 years?
  • Hi. I've been a lurker for a while, but am first time poster.

    I'm 26; was rear ended in a car accident in 08/09, which resulted in very similar injury to yours. Mainly C5-6, but with smaller bulges in the surrounding discs.
    I started physical therapy and conservative treatments after the accident (chiro, massage, acupuncture, pain psychologist EVERYTHING EVER SUGGESTED). Did PT for 5 months. 3 steroid injections (2 from the rear, one from the side), one discogram that confirmed C5/6 was indeed the problem. I still do acupuncture almost weekly because I think it helps with the emotional stress of chronic pain, but it never "cured" my injuries.

    3 doctors later since the accident and I am now seeing a highly respected surgeon in my area. With the help of a Patient Advocate Team I am attempting a battle with my insurance to cover a total disc replacement (these are very, very, rarely approved by insurance without a battle).

    At my age I just am not willing to settle for a fusion without at least doing everything I can for the newer technology. If you're interested I can send you some links to some case studies on ACDF vs ADR that I've read.

    I totally understand the fear of making the wrong decision. Often times I find myself just trying to mentally make all these problems just go away. "If I were just more at peace, if I just meditated more if I just could make the spasms stop my body could heal...!"
    I feel like I'm too young for this, but I cant make it go away. I'm ready to move on with my life. Have a second child. Find a new job. Start going back to yoga for crying out loud!

    Anyway, this was hardly advice, but please know that you are not alone.

  • I am 6 weeks post-op from an ACDF at C5-C6 using a donor bone. There are huge risks involved in any type of spinal surgery, but when the pain interferes with quality of life you should definitely consider the operation. Like you, I tried every conservative therapy, but nothing worked. I do not regret the surgery, because I feel 50% better already.

    I am going in to see my surgeon for the first time after surgery. Hopefully he will tell me he sees signs of bone growth! Feel free to PM me if you want more information about my recovery thus far. And welcome! :)
    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 went for another opinion with a surgeon who only does spinal surgeries. He, too, agreed on the need for c5/c6 discectomy with fusion with donor bone and titanium plate. So much to think about. I am still just so worried to make the wrong decision. Pain is daily. I miss at least one or two days of work a week. Anyone else out there around my age that has had one level ACDF, I would love to hear about your stories/recoveries. Very scared!! I am very concerned that the levels above and below will act up and lead to further surgeries in the future.
  • I could not have afforded to miss 1 - 2 days/week of work with pain. I was older than you when I had my surgery and mine was two level, but I was suffering enough discomfort that I needed to do it. I was able to avoid the surgery for almost 8 years after diagnosis though. But everyone is different. If you have exhausted every other option and need to keep your job, then you have a big decision to make. It was not the "be all, end all" to my pain that I had hoped for, but I do know that my spine is stable in that area now and it did end the terrible pain and weakness I was suffering in my right shoulder blade, arm and hand.
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