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New member needing answers for upcoming cervical disc surgery

ksouthernkksouthern Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
Hello to all- I am posting my current issue as of 6/24/2011-
I had a cervical disc fusion in 2006- C/4-5 C/5-6 C/6-7 fused w/ titanium platelets and screws. I have had ongoing pain ever since, as well as prescribed monthly medications. About 6 months ago my right thumb (especially) and first finger have been totally numb! I drop my keys, pencils, etc. I was ordered an MRI on 6/11 and I went to see my neurologist 3 days later since he had planned to do a steroid injection (Depro-Midrol)but when he reviewed my MRI results he said he didn't feel comfortable giving me an injection and told me I had spinal cord compression- he then got my neurosurgeon on the phone and sent me straight over to their office. I saw the PA and he immediately placed me back into another neck collar (just for protection)and ordered a mylegram to be obtained. Well,after the mylegram, which was 5 days ago I went back in to discuss my situation w/ the surgeon. He said the mylegram showed that the opening was about 10 mm instead of 8 that the MRI showed- this was a positive note. However, he said I have a bruise on my spinal cord and he recommends placing a rod where my fusion is currently at and going through the back of my neck instead of the front this time. He said I stand a chance of paralysis if I were to be in an accident or fall down. He told me I didn't have to wear my collar to sleep at night and that is about the only good news I have heard the past 2 weeks! So, I am wondering if placing a rod to stabilize my neck (and fusion) is the right thing or is there any other options? I surely do not want to go back into surgery again. I am thinking I may need a 2nd opinion. Please--any advice would be greatly appreciated!


  • Welcome to Spine Health!! Sorry to hear you have symptoms once again. None of us here are doctors, but are patients like yourself.

    I had fusions at C5/6 and then C6/7 and started having issues 5 months post op from the second one. With that, had a new MRI, and not a lot showed at that time, but x-rays showed my C6 vertebra cracked. Since apparently that does happen in some cases (stress fractures), I was put on hold for a year to see if it self resolved...it didn't. Had a new MRI in May, and now more issues going on to include losing another level along with problems within the fusion.

    You might want to ask the doctor to clarify what is going on. E.g..what caused this bruise on my cord? Is it due to movement within the fusion levels? Is something new going on in there? When we have an ACDF, they don't always take out *all* of the disk, and sometimes we reherniate, calcify, etc. A rod can lock things down (which makes me wonder if you have movement?), and to me beats a full revision.

    Please let us know what they tell you. Remember too, additional opinions is never a no-no. If you need 1 or 10, get them so you are comfortable and fully briefed on what is going on and your options. Again, Welcome aboard!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I am a multiple neck surgery patient and my last surgery being the posterior cervical. It was the best thing I could of ever done. Although it has not taken away all my pain, I am doing better since the surgery. The posterior approach is a harder surgery then the anterior. It has a longer recovery time and for the first week for me it was pretty bad. The swelling is more severe with the posterior approach. It is a big surgery so if you would feel comfortable with a second opinion I would do so. That being said, since I have had this surgery I was able to return to work, I no longer worry about getting in accidents because my neck is now stable. I am not pain free and take meds daily to control it but I am much better since the dreaded posterior approach. If I can answer any questions you may have please feel free to PM me.
  • Thank each one of you for the replies you have given. Very much appreciated. I feel as I should clarify in more detail what my results are reading and it may be easier to understand what I am trying to write in my own words-

    MRI: Postsurgical changes from previous C4-C5-C6-C7 anterior cervical fusion. Susceptibility artifact is associated w/ metallic plate. Of note is moderately degenerated C2-C3 and severely degenerated C3-C4 disc characterized by diminished stature and signal. Degenerative end plate osteophyte and annular disc protrusion noted. Moderate central stenosis and bilateral C4 foraminal stenosis seen at the C3-C4 level. C2-C3 demonstrates a minimal right paramedian disc protrusion. Of concern is prolonged T2 signal w/in the cervical cord @ the C3 level. This is concerning for spinal cord contusion/myelomalacia.

    Myelogram: Ventral impression upon the thecal sac an mild impression on the cord at C3-C4 as seen on MRI. Cervical nerve roots not well seen.
    C2-C3: there is a disc osteophyte complex abutting the cord without mass effect. No foraminal stenosis.
    C3-C4: severe degenerative disc disease. Disc osteophyte complex effaces the CSF and abuts the cord. Effacement of bilateral C3 nerve root sheathes likely related to bilateral foraminal stenosis.
    C4-C5: bilateral uncovertebral osteophyte w/ persistent mild bilateral foraminal stenosis
    C5-C6: persistent uncovertebral osteophytes w/ mild bilateral foraminal stenosis
    C6-C7: uncovertebral osteophytes result in severer right and mild to moderate left foraminal stenosis. Residual posterior osteophytes abut the cord w/ minimal flattening.
    C7-T1: no spinal canal or foraminal narrowing. Severe degenerative disc disease.
    There is a mild mass effect upon the cord at C3-C4 level due to disc osteophyte complex. On the supine CT scan the disc osteophyte complex abuts the cord w/out mass effect.

    Wheew...I barely understand any of this terminology. Definitely going for a 2nd and 3rd opinion asap. I guess most of this news has "sunk in" since last week and I don't feel as overwhelmed but still very worried and in the process of doing as much research as possible. Does anyone understand what my results are reading? As far as the bruise- I did take a fall almost 2 years ago when I slipped on some wooden stairs that were covered in ice/snow- my butt hit about 3-4 steps before I could stop myself (I had my daughter's hand and when we started to fall I just wanted to protect her head and I took the blunt of the fall) Besides that one fall, I have not had any other accidents..thank the Lord. :) Any advice or kind words are more than welcome and greatly appreciated! "Things go wrong in life so we can appreciate them when they're right!!"
    Bless each one of you- Kimberly
  • Kimberly,

    As non doctors, but patients, we aren't allowed to 'read' or 'interpret' scans, sorry. It's obvious you do have a lot going on via your scans, but your doctor is going to use them as part of the puzzle. His exam, these tests, x-rays, maybe nerve conduction studies - all of that will give a good doctor a real idea of what all is going on.

    Some of the terms might help?

    Abut = To bump up against, making contact with.
    Osteophytes = Bone spurs
    Osteophyte complex = a group of bone spurs together.
    Stenosis = Narrowing
    CSF = Cerebrospinal Fluid

    Please let us know how your appointment goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I agree with you about getting another opinion, and make sure you want to use the same surgeon as before. Was your doctor able to explain how/why the issues have arisen or returned?

    Take care.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Hey! Why do you say use the same surgeon? For my particular situation, I feel like I may need another surgeon because I am NOT feeling comfortable w/ the one who performed my prior surgery. I did get the operative report and I plan to take it to my next appt. for the 2nd opinion. Thanks!
  • ksouthern,

    I had the same surgeon for two of my fusions, fusions of which I am having more issues with. I for one (even though I still think my surgeon is good) am looking for a different surgeon - this time I'm looking for an Orthopedic spine surgeon vs Neurosurgeon.

    Some theorize that using the same surgeon is best since he/she knows your case. In some ways I agree with it, but my little voice (and I'm sure you have a little voice) is saying "time to get another" surgeon to fix the mess... In the end, YOU have to be comfortable regardless of if you use the same surgeon, or another - YOU is the key. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hi, I am a newbie to all of this. I have had neck pain for many years, but Tylenol would help. Last year I began to have tingling and numbness in my legs. Had MRI done complete spine by the time it was all over. Told I have degenerative disc in most of my spine, but the cervical is the worse. Have compression of the spinal cord C3. At that time I was told to stop everything and sit all day to slow down the process or live life and see what happens. Since I have taught aerobics for the past 30 years I did make the change to water aerobics. I am 60 years old but have always been able to do anything someone much younger than I could. Not anymore. I do anything and the tingling would get worse. Well Tuesday it really ramped up. I now have electric shocks all over my body from head to toe. They move all around. My shoulders feel heavy and achy shoulder blades. I called the neurosurgeon I had seen last year and his PA told me it is time to consider surgery to prevent being paralized. Surgery doesn't scare me, but after reading all the bad reports of life after surgery...wow. I am really scared, worried, isn't there any other way to handle this. I am having trouble taking a deep breath, but I am smart enough to know that is probably panic. I know lots that have had C5-C6 with no problems, but I would love to talk to someone that has had C3 fusion. I have been told it could cause me long term breathing problems, lose my voice, trouble swallowing, and could still be paralized. Are the doctors just covering their butt or does this really get that bad? Ok I am rambling, sorry. Any advice would be so appreciated.
  • HI,
    So sorry you are so miserable! I have had cervical fusions (C5-C7), 1st was anterior, but did not fuse properly, so just re-did it, anterior and posterior this time. I would suggest a 2nd opinion or 2, before things get worse. If you find a good dr. your results should be ok. Don't get panicky, as that will make you feel worse! Those pains and electic shocks need to be dealt with very soon! Good luck, and let us know how you're doing as we're a friendly bunch on this site, and always trying to help and offer support.

  • I agree with Frannie that it sounds like you need to move forward with treatment soon.
    What does your surgeon say?
    I also have cord compression at C3/4 and C4/5 but we are trying to manage it with conservative treatment. I suspect that I will end up having surgery, but hopefully not for a while.

    I am having regular physiotherapy and am waiting to have EMG/nerve conductions studies and cervical steroid injections.
    I have an appointment in October to see my neurosurgeon and will have a whole spine MRI scan just before that. I hope that these nerve tests will give some information on what is going on and where the problem lies. I am getting symptoms all over the place, including my legs and feet and around my abdomen. I do get pain over my left shoulder blade sometimes that also causes me pain if I take a deep breath. Was it your surgeon who told you that C3 could cause breathing problems?

    I will follow your story with interest.
    You have found a great place to get support and information on your spine problems.
    Please do let us know how you get on. :H

  • Hello all- haven't written in awhile, but haven't felt too well and have had lots of appointments to attend. I have shocking news to relay regarding my upcoming surgery set for September. the neurosurgeon I am seeing is the top guy, head of his department, and I trust what he is telling me. I had sent him my written reports of all my MRI'S and Mylegrams, and I hand delivered my images of both tests the day of my appt. His very 1st question to me was, "Did the surgeon who performed your surgery in 2006 tell you why he left TWO screws out?!" I almost fell off the table. Just not that- the platelet is too long, which is pushing up on my vertebrae (C3) and causing the spinal contusion to worsen! I have copies of the operative report where it clearly states SIX titanium screws were torqued into the pilot holes he had drilled. How in the world does a surgeon leave TWO dang screws out?? No freakin' wonder I have felt like crap the past 5 years or more! So, I am having his mistakes corrected and it consists of C3-C7 being fused. First surgery was a 3-level, this surgery will be a 5-level. Wow...I'm scared. I'm worried and concerned, but I am also completely numb in my right arm and hand. I'm 38 years old, feel like 48. Also, I have contacted three attorneys who feel like my situation is medical negligence, but may not be medical malpractice. It's a twisted world out there and I am somehow twisted up in it. Sorry to be "Debbie Downer", just need some positive thoughts and prayers sent my way! Will update soon. Good night to all!
  • Being almost 49 and feeling 80, I hear ya! I would be so torqued if I had that result from my surgery. *HUG* So sorry that is what the main cause has been for so many years. Wow!!

    Hopefully this surgeon can knock a lot of what is going on "out of the ballpark" for you. My NS when he saw I was having problems starting around 5 months post op on my second surgery, basically blew me off. I like you am seeing a new surgeon (my 3rd opinion) this week.

    I am looking at 5 levels as well thanks to it working into my thoracic (top). I am so glad you have trust and faith in your new surgeon. I will follow this thread to see how it goes. Glad to hear you have answers, but sad to see "why" you've been through all of this. *HUGZ* of support!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.

  • I hope that you managed to get some sleep, but suspect that you had an active mind!

    Hearing that your surgeon ommitted to put in all the screws, must have caused all sorts of feelings! It now sounds like you will need further surgery to deal with things and, if there is damage starting to affect your spinal cord, it is a good things that your surgery is scheduled for next month.

    Although needing to have another surgery would be well down on everyone's list of things to do, if that is the way to sort out the pain you are having, then as long as this time you have a skilled surgeon, it should be worth it. Appart from dealing with your pain, you need to get the pressure off your cord to stop permanent damage.

    I will certainly pray for you. Let me know more information and the date of your surgery.

    I am also in the process of having various tests done to ascertain if I have myelopathy that needs dealing with in my neck. I have some symptoms that indicate that my cord is being damaged, but other symptoms don't indicate that. My MRI didn't show any damage to my cord (high signal). I am about to have EMG and nerve conduction tests and hope that they will give a clearer idea of how much compression I have.

    Have you had those tests? If so, did they show what was causing your symptoms?

    Be sure that you will get plenty of support here and there is also lots of information as well as people sharing their experiences. Welcome to our gang! :H

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