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ACDF of C-5/6 and 6/7 Next Week--Freaking Out!

sdallenhoussdallenhou Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:52 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I have had 11 operations of different sorts over the years--including some big ones--but none has freaked me out beforehand like this one is doing, especially after reading this forum. I am a 53-year-old man living alone in a three-story townhome with my dog, and I wonder about managing the stairs (glad I have handrails), driving, going back to work, the collar, etc. I have a desk job and hope to go back after one week (doc says two, but I told him that sitting in a chair at work is the same as at home). I know that I'm going to drive after a couple of days--I have always found ways and I do have to eat. If I knew what to expect and how to prepare my home (and mind) for this, I would feel much less anxiety. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



  • Hi Steve,

    I had the same surgery 6 weeks ago today! Although I'm recovering I'm still at home and will be until the end of June. This is Major surgery and it takes time to heal. You won't be doing much of anything for the first 10 days. Whatever you do don't lift your dog! 5lb maximum for the first 4 weeks! My Dr. still hasn't given me the green light to drive yet as your ROM is not adequate to safely drive. If you were to get into an accident your liability would be huge! You'll have no problem managing the stairs or general walking in your townhouse.

    Good luck! If you have any specific questions, feel free to throw them my way.
  • Steve,

    I had fusion (ACDF) for C5/6 and then a little over a year later C6/7 and like 6pack brought up ...ROM! Even though my surgeries weren't done together, I was out of work for 4 months with the addition of C6/7, and when I did start driving, I had to be very creative with my mirrors because I had to twist my body to see, as my neck said NO.

    A single fusion can keep people out of work up to 6 weeks or more. Just try to keep that in mind. I am within weeks of finding out if I have to have a revision plus additional levels, just so thrilled..NOT. You don't want to tell yourself that you will be working in xx weeks. Your doctor and your body will be the decider's of that.

    Also Steve, please, please, please do not look at this as 'average' surgery. Any spine surgery is major. If it helps, I was freaked out on my first fusion too. A very sharp object near my spinal cord had me scared out of my wits! Just try to relax, and trust your surgeon. Oops, you must already have done that if you have approved him to do the surgery. Please keep us posted. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had to wear my collar for a good 6 weeks. I was off work for 3 months and I too had a desk job! I couldn't imagine trying to keep my head straight and work at the same time!
    I am now going in for my 2nd surgery...Posterior Laminectomy w/ Fusion and instrumentation for C-3 thru C-7. My last ACDF third level didn't heal properly (after 4 years) and my OA is sort of eating my spine up...worsening OA = more bone spurs and deterioration. DON'T PUSH YOURSELF!
    For ANY reason because you may do more harm than good!
    Good luck and God bless! I will keep you in my prayers!
  • Thanks, everyone, for the kind words and advice. I have done most everything I can to prepare for this--including having wine last night with a close friend who is a physician and hitting him with a barrage of questions. I have complete trust in my doctor, but I'm still dreading the lifestlye changes that are coming my way.

    Steve in Houston
  • Steve,

    Good luck with surgery, and let us know how it turned out as soon as you can. As far as the driving in reality you could be driving once you are off any pain meds. Like You i live alone and have to do for myself. So like you I figure away out to do things. Just be sure to use your mirrors and not your neck. But also keep in mind the hardware is very strong and can with stand a lot. But the bad thing is if you do to much you pay for it latter. One thing you can do is walk and when you think you have walked enough walk some more. Some people come out of surgery heal up and are back to everything they did prior. So who knows maybe your that guy. Good luck with surgery.
  • I have learned that this is just another manageable challenge--but it is an annoying one in unexpected ways. I'm taking Norco 10/325 (1 or 2 q 6 hours), Xanax 0.5 (with the pain pills), Phenergan 25 mg (with the other pills), and a Medrol dose pak. About an hour before it is time for my pain med, I feel the need for it--which is typical for me.

    One of the most annoying and frustrating things for me has been the enormous increase in my tremors. I've always had tremors, and they increased on the left before surgery. Now they are so extreme on both sides that it is incredibly difficult for me to type on my iPhone, dial phone numbers, use ATMs, and anything else requiring fine motor skills. I teach piano lessons, and I noticed that I no longer remember music I knew well before surgery and I shake so much when I play what I remember that it is useless. Ugh.

    I remember practically nothing from my one-night stay in the hospital other than an orthotist coming in to change me from a Philadelphia collar to a Miami J collar. The J is more comfortable but more fully restricts my range of motion. So I wear the J except for shower time, and then it is the Philly. I like how that is working out.

    Eating. Ugh. With every bolus I attempt to swallow, I feel anxiety over whether it will go down or choke me--and both happen frequently. SMALL bites, extensive chewing, and a sip of water just before swallowing help the odds. On night #4, I choked rather severely after trying to swallow a sip of water. Taking pills always takes 2 or 3 tries--and I'm a guy who has easily swallowed 7 pills at a time for years.

    I'm curious about my incision, which is still securely covered by Steri-strips, because it appears to be vertical. Hopefully not.

    One thing that slightly irks me is that the only time I've seen my surgeon was at my initial consultation. His PA is excellent and helpful, and I am seeing only her at my first follow-up on day 8.

    I go back and forth between sleeping in my recliner to sleeping in my bed. I happen to have a recliner that is so comfortable that people comment when they sit in it, and my bed is luxuriously comfortable, so when I change from one to another I'm thinking about how comfortable the place is. The grass is always greener.

    I hope to get to go back to work Monday, but we shall see. I will definitely be up for it (and bouncing off the walls) after two weeks off, so I had rather get back to it. I've had 11 other invasive surgeries under general anesthesia, and I know that the first day back at work will have to be short and then ease into longer days until I'm back to normal functioning.

    I'm dealing with my insurance not wanting to cover the cost of a bone-growth stimulator. M doctor's office told me they had said no, and when I called the company they said there had never been a request and have them try again. Ugh.

    Riding in a car hasn't been great. The worst of it was when a friend braked suddenly--I felt like I had taken a karate chop to the spine. I haven't even been tempted to drive yet, which is unusual for me because I have always ignored advice not to and driven right after surgery (usually same day). Not with this.

    I allow myself the tremendous luxury of having the brace off for just a couple of minutes when I'm lying back in my recliner in a fixed position for an extended period. It isn't much, but it is refreshing.

    So I would tell others freaking out about preparing to have this done to prepare their home and then chill out. You will instinctively know what you can and can't do--with the exception of lifting, which you will feel like you can, but don't lift anything over 5 pounds.

    Thank you for reading this overly verbose posting.
  • Surgery was a month ago (see "ACDF of C-5/6 and 6/7 Next Week--Freaking Out!" post of 4/26/11) and am in less pain most of the time. My surgery was about pain (not weakness/numbness), so I won't know how successful it was until the post-op pain between the shoulder blades, etc. is gone. I know that some of my most severe pre-op pain is gone.

    Surgery was 5/6/11, and I am booked to go on my annual trip to Key West for 15 days in mid-July. I have had to face reality: Two levels of fusion will not be far enough along for me to go on a trip (alone) and party. So that is being rescheduled. Remember that the surgeon doesn't fuse bones together--he/she puts things in place so that the body may cause the bones to fuse together. I'm not going to risk a non-fusion.

    I'm wearing an Orthofix Bone Growth Stimulator around my neck for four hours every morning--and that is NOT fun. The control panel sits on my stomach and nauseates me, which isn't fun. While it is on I feel more discomfort--of the variety of getting something like an ultrasound done--in my neck. I hope this $3,000 contraption helps. Speaking of the price: They "sell" these to their patients, so I own it--but they have it programmed to never turn on again 365 days after first use. Clearly they don't want people competing with them by selling used ones, but it is rather underhanded to program something to never work again (without the physician calling the company to get it reactivated, probably for more money).

    I have pain only late in the day and badly at night, for which i take 2 Hydrocodone 10/325 pills with 5 mg Flexeril. I don't get much relief.

    Maybe the worst part of this has been the very specific orders I've been given about what I cannot do. Load/unload dishwasher or laundry, iron, vacuum, lift more than 5 pounds--all of this for SIX MONTHS. For a single person living alone, this is very difficult. I believe in complete medical compliance when the stakes are this high, so I'm being 98% compliant--but it is rough.

    Regarding anxiety before the surgery: Chill out. This is truly manageable, though not fun. You will be limited for a while if you have this procedure--but isn't the condition already limiting you?

    Steve in Houston

  • Sounds like you are doing well and are on your way back to life!

    Thanks for coming and letting us know how things are going for you. It is encouraging for those of us that haven't had surgery, but are possibly facing it in the future.

    Keep healing >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Hi Steve, I'm new here and just learning about the different surgeries and terms etc. I want to wish you a speady recovery and hope you get back to a normal life again very soon.

    Your last sentence makes alot of sense. "...Isn't the condition already limiting you?" Yes!
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Hello newer folks! ... Welcome to Spine Health!

    My best suggestion is to learn the meaning or refresh yourself with the meaning of the words:

    Convalesce – also see

    As said above - spinal surgery is not 'average' surgery. Any spine surgery is major.

    Please give your body and mind time to heal and your lifestyle time to adapt as needed.

    Give yourself a break - the business world will continue to spin without you for a while.

    Warmest Regards,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Hi everyone Im a newbie! but am so glad to have found a forum with real people to reach out to. Im in the freaking out stage of facing the surgery in 10 days to do a fusion 2 levels, but after reading a lot of your posts am wondering if I am being given too much of a rosy picture from the Surgeon. IF everything goes to plan I am told that I could be out of the collar and back at work 4 weeks? seems a short period of time but what do I know. I know from reading most peoples stories that I should not freak out too much about the day of surgery, more about the weeks to come. Did anyone have wild freaky thoughts about feeling the hardware through their skin??? sorry guess I have seen to many scary films! also I have been told I will loose 14% range of motion, what the heck does this stat mean or should I say feel like? will my neck really hurt if I go to far? The other question I have is there anyone out there that has had all this done 10 years or more ago and are still doing well with no further surgeries? the surgeon prepared me for obvious wear and tear on the above discs which also may lead to another fusion down the line, this does not sound a whole lot of fun. Is everyone recommended to have the bone grower, never heard or spoke about this with my Dr?
    Thank you for any replies
  • I am scheduled for fusion at C5/C6 and C6/C7 on the 22nd of this month and am learning a whole lot more here than I ever could with the limited time seeing my surgeon. He had told me I would not be needing a neck brace and then his own nurse during the pre-op screening handed me a collar and told me to bring it to the surgery; that I would wake up with it on and to only remove it for a shower. I had hoped to return to work on July 18th, but that is not looking too realistic based on what I am reading here.

    BTW: is there an easier way to "code" what I am having done? Writing out "fusion at C5/C6 and C6/C7" is a hassle.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Welcome to S.H. to the both of you!

    1. Sabrena (I love your name) A Surgeon (I believe) always will paint a rosier picture than the facts may allow. If they came right out and said ... This will hurt like heck ... you may not resolve your pain (but it will keep you walking and using your arms - hands)you have a good chance that your problems may progress more rapidly (other disc's)... and that the failure rate is XX%. Would you go on with the surgery?? For me the pain was at the point twice that I would do anything to (almost) to attempt to get pain relief or reduction.

    Some one recently said they were at the point that they wanted to reach in and remove the faulty disc on their own. I can relate to that feeling.

    So the question is ... where are you at as far as actual pain level(s) ... encroachment into all areas of your life ... and have all other conserative modalites of aleviation been exhusted ... and is spinal cord involvement and loss of motor function - use of arms - legs - breathing at hand?? Speaking of hands - do you have pain and or numbness and or lose of strength in one of both arms - hands and/or is the pain so bad that ya can't sleep at night?

    If so .... surgical intervention is the only way I have been able to move forward and backward and forward again.

    Prins ... Again Welcome .... easy "code" ACDF C5-7 ..
    we will know that you are status post Anterior Cervical Disk Fusion. There are many other codes that you may see. I am glad you have found this forum to be helpful ... I wish I had found it prior to my first ACDF .... Maybe it wouldn't have failed -if I had better knowlege and changed a number of things I did such as returning to work at 12 days post surgery - partly because my surgeon painted a "rosy picture" and I was somewhat un-informed.

    Warmest regards,

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    After my first surgery I used a bone growth stimulator and the fusion failed .... My second surgery I didn't use a growth stilulator and I was fused at 6 weeks and my surgeon didn't believe in them ... so some say yes, some say no, the only one who is right will say "I don't know".

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364

    pre-post op item - check lists:

    Handy List for Surgery

    Food Items
    • Soft foods including: Yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicles, jello cups, pre-made puddings & tapioca, protein bars, cereal, microwave oatmeal, bananas, chicken stock, microwave dinners, frozen pasta entrees, pre-made mashed potatoes, cookies, chocolate, lettuce, salad dressing, cheese, lunch meat, hot dogs, bread, bakery items.
    o Check for other soft foods that are healthier than this list ☺o People had a difficult time digesting food. Reports include nausea, increased thirst and fatigue so quick meals were essential.
    • Drinks – Plenty of bottled water bedside, Gatorade, Powerade, coke, ginger ale, other soft drinks, yogurt drinks, Ensure or Boost protein drinks, milk, chocolate milk, orange juice, other juices, tea, coffee with cream/sugar/sweetener, Black tea with honey/lemon that soothes the stomach.
    • Frozen fruit for blending smoothies in a Magic Bullet or blender
    • Protein Powder [will assist with bone fusion, particularly if you cannot chew much]
    • Bag of ice – small cubes
    • Ice chips to help dry or sore throat
    • Flexible and long straws
    • Paper plates and plastic cups
    • Candy, sugarless gum
    • Mints
    • Vitamins
    • Magic Bullet (or similar blender) for individual servings o It is great for individual blending/smoothies, etc. It is carried in most dept stores, kitchen stores, etc. It is great at blending up ice and much more convenient to have the individual serving size than the full size blender. Magic Bullet also has a website.
    Bathroom Items
    • Shower stool to Chair to sit in shower with soap/shampoo/shower gel on another chair for easy reach
    • Non-slip mat for shower
    • Hand shower
    • Long-handled Back scrubber
    • Nylon bath poof instead of wash cloth; easier to hold
    • Exfoliating skin towel. [Body Shop has these and they are great for rubbing off the dead skin and helping you feel fresh, especially if stuck in bed]
    • Toilet riser with or without side handles - $15-$25
    • Bedpan if necessary
    • Walker and/or cane per doctor

    Personal Items
    • Deodorant body wipes / wet wipes for freshening up (Drug Store has near the Depends. They are a large size.)
    • Pre-moistened facial cleansing cloths
    • Dry shampoo $5 from specialty beauty store
    • Powder – Shower to Shower or other
    • Face cream (I would suggest small sizes)
    • Hand cream
    • Body lotion for itchy skin
    • Lip balm, Chapstick
    • Mouthwash
    • Throat lozenges / Chloraseptic Spray
    • Kleenex
    • Wound dressings per doctor
    • Thermometer to check temp after surgery
    • Stool softener / Suppositories for constipation (Some found they couldn’t keep the pills down and/or they got stomach cramps from the pills)
    • Prune Juice taken with a dose of Milk of Magnesia for dire cases of constipation - it takes about 2 hours, then you are good to go (pun intended).

    Handy Items
    •Grabber/picker – preferably 36” long. Perhaps one in bedroom and one in living room. $10-$25
    • Long handled shoe horn. $5
    • Grabber-like thing to pull on socks with, or think about wearing flip flops or open-backed shoes.
    • Pill Organizer or notepad to keep track of what you need to take when and to make notations of when you take your meds.
    • Bedtray
    • Bell, cell phone or walkie talkies to contact caregivers
    • Microwaveable hot packs –great for aching shoulders, etc.
    • Satin sheets for easy sliding in and of bed. Or satin PJ's.
    • "Turning sheet" strip of heavy fabric that you put under you so that you can have a signficant other pull to turn you over as needed, particularly good for those first few days.
    • Cold packs in freezer prior to surgery
    • Phone near the bed. Get a wireless or wireless adapter from Radio Shack o Cellphone and charger o Blackberry, Treo and chargers
    • IPod, headphones, charger o Update your playlists
    • Books, magazines, audio books, crosswords, Sudoku o Booklight
    • Extra batteries for remotes
    • Remote controls for TV, DVD, etc.
    • Plastic containers to hold and organize items you will use while confined to bed. Also to use after mouthwash or for small trash. o Put all the reading materials, crosswords, pencils, etc. in one. Put personal cleansing items in another.
    • Small, lightweight pitcher for water next to bed
    • Paper towels near bed
    • Small wash basin near bed
    • Small bucket for nausea next to bed
    • Small garbage bags nearby
    • Towel that lies flat on the bed beside you. Put items you may use on top then just pull the towel toward you to retrieve items you can’t reach.
    • Extra pillows to help with comfortable positions
    • Additional sheets, blankets, pillows near recliner, sofa, chair in living room
    • Wheelchair, if necessary
    • Recliner, if possible. Some find recliners work, others don't - they can be hard to get out of.
    • Think about placing every day items at waist height even if it means storing on counters.
    • Pedometer for post-op walking program

    • Slip on shoes o Croc shoes with the open back. They are ugly but they are easy to get on, provide great traction, comfortable to wear and were recommended by the hospital.
    • Slippers - not too loose with good soles
    • Soft socks – NAP socks from Brookstone are awesome & keep your feet warm at night. $20/3 pairs
    • Bathrobe
    • Pull on pants – make them a size larger so they don’t bother your incision(s); check elastic so it’s not too tight.
    • Front buttoned shirts or zipper tops for trips to PT and doctor
    • Jogging suits
    • Sweat pants
    • Yoga pants
    • Front button pajamas – numerous sets
    • Camisoles or tee shirts to wear under brace, preferably cotton so it breathes. Ladies -try the ones with the bra built in.

    Comfort Items
    • Lots of pillows, body, small, wedge, cervical, etc.
    • 3" memory foam mattress topper pad $100 approx.
    • Pressure mattress or pads
    • Have plenty of sheets, pillowcases, blankets, washcloths and towels ready for use. o Have sheets, blankets, pillows near a favorite recliner or sofa
    • If you are planning on much reading or computer (laptop) work post-op, consider a stand that adjusts in position and height like a hospital bed tray –Brookstone. $150; There are less expensive ones around $60-70. Make sure they fit under your favorite chair.
    • Linen spray to freshen sheets and pillow cases. Use lavender scent to relax and help with sleep.

    To Do Prior To Surgery
    • Shave, wax, pedicure, manicure, etc. right before surgery. If you have fake nails, think about removing since they may fall off due to anesthesia
    • Hair cut
    • Dentist
    • OB-GYN
    • Update prescription glasses, both reading and regular if you wear contacts since you won’t be wearing contacts much in the hospital or after surgery
    • Give all doctor names and numbers to caregiver(s) as well as next to your bed
    • Put together phone numbers of all concerned family members and friends on one sheet
    • Check with your doctor for handicap sticker
    • All grooming/personal supplies waist high to avoid reaching/bending
    • Organize essential items at home to be within reach, e.g. telephone, shoes, etc.
    • Arrange for care - someone to be with you for most of the first week post-discharge
    • Make sure you give your surgeon a list of your regular medications including the dosage amount.
    • Give blood prior to surgery and/or family members
    • Checks made out for bills, stamped envelopes ready or online payments done in advance
    • Have some cash handy for family members to run errands.
    • Pet care arranged
    • Car keys and house keys given to appropriate caregivers

    Boredom Relievers
    • Laptop
    • Magazines, books
    • Audio books
    • Crosswords
    • Sudoku
    • IPod (updated with playlists for recovery)
    • Nintendo
    • DVDs o Order prior to surgery if belong to Netflix or other service

    Take to Hospital
    (check with hospital in case you receive items during stay)
    • Button up pajamas
    • Back Scratcher, cheap bamboo - invaluable!
    • Bathrobe to cover up if use a Johnny
    • Hairbrush/Comb
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Mouthwash
    • Facial wipes
    • Body wipes
    • Hand Cream
    • Facial Cream
    • Lip Balm
    • Lavender linen spray or Febreze
    • For long hair, elastic bands to tie back
    • Loose clothing to come home in o Underwear o Front button top o Socks o Comfortable, safe shoes
    • Magazine, crosswords, notepad, pencil
    • Glasses
    • Laptop, if you want - a lot of hospitals have wireless access in the rooms

    On the day you come home:

    Make sure you put a plastic trash bag on the car seat for easy sliding in and out of the vehicle. Pillows and a careful, slow driver are also great suggestions!

    This list was originally compiled by Jujybean. Kinpain sent it to me when I was asking prior to my surgery. Since then I have read suggestions and edited the list accordingly - this list is truly a product of everyone here - THANKS!

    p.s. Obviously, there are so many items here that if you purchased everything, you would need a separate room to put things in, however, I included many items so people can make their own choices. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. Thanks in advance and hope this list makes life a little easier for you prior to surgery. Best of luck.


    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • It looks like you have added some items to the list on the FAQs page.

    I have saved it, just in case I end up having another surgery. :S

    Welcome Sabrena and Prins :H :H

  • I had an ACDF C-3 thru C-6 w/ fusion...autobone graft...titanium plate back in 2006. I was off work for 3 months and that was without complications.
    I will be having surgery on the June 29th...a posterior laminectomy C-3 thru C-7 w/ fusion...autobone graft...titanium plate. After 4 years my third level hadn't fused as well as it should have and I was having pain just as severe as I had prior to first surgery.
    One thing that helped me through all of this was the realm of information on this website from people who have been there!
    I wanted to know everything about it so I was prepared! good luck to you! Take it slow!
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