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preparing for surgery

dmdocddmdoc Posts: 13
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have enjoyed reading the posts here! I have a scheduled anterior cervical fusion c5-c6 on August 11th. I am trying to prepare myself for what to expect during my overnight hospital stay and during my recovery. I am a nurse (neonatal) and not sure how long to expect to be off work. The doctor is using an artificial bone graft and hardware brackets that look like "greater than" signs. Any suggestions, advice, is greatly appreciated.
Thank you!


  • Best wishes with your surgery. I had only lower back surgery no neck surgery but not sure anyone will realy know how long before you recover because it will all depend on the outcome. Your dr might have given you a target time for recovery and if all goes as he plans hopefuly it will then that period of time. But most of us take diferent times to totaly fuse so very hard to say i think.

    Good luck. Others here who had neck surgery might give you some tips what to expect. Ps". Welcome to the site
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • HI!

    There are a couple of "stickys" on this form. If you look near the top you will see, "how long will it take" and "post op must haves" I recommend you read those, lots of great information!

    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
  • I didn't find the surgery on that same level to be bad at all, other then a very, very sore throat for a few days. Didn't need/use a collar after getting out of the hospital and didn't have to go to PT. I worried about it much more then I should have. It was done 7 years ago and I've had a number of other surgery's since then and I do remember them much better for reasons I won't get into here. I would think you would be good to go in a couple of weeks, but we all do heal differently.

    Good luck as nurses are the best.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I'm sorry you have to have surgery, but glad you found us.

    As for the hospital stay, don't bother taking too much with you. I way overpacked - extra underwear, robe, books, game, additional sweats and t-shirts - none of which I used. I was in one of the yucky open-back things the whole time without underwear because I had to pee every 45 minutes the entire stay.

    I wore my lounge pants, underwear, t-shirt, bra and shoes to the hospital and wore the same ones home, since I'd only worn them on the drive there. They were still clean. The nurses keep you busy, plus you'll be sleepy, so you won't really feel like doing much but going to the bathroom and watching TV in between naps.

    Do read the "Post-op Must-haves" sticky, but don't let it overwhelm you. Many of those things are for lumbar surgical patient recoveries and other things are just nice-to-haves. Must-haves for me during my home recovery was a recliner, a rolling table next to it, bendy straws (but I was in a brace), a grabber (to pick things up off the floor), and a helper for a couple of weeks. I also used a shower chair as I couldn't bend my head back to wash my hair, so I just sat there and let hubby to all the work.

    Prepare to have things ready for your mind as well as recovery gets boring. Games, movies, computer, etc. Also be sure to take your meds as scheduled to stay ahead of the pain, don't let it get so bad that you can't get it back under control.

    If you're having arm/hand symptoms now like pain, tingling, numbness, etc., many of us have woken up post-op with all those gone completely. Mine were and I was having awful, excruciating symptoms. Hubby said I was clapping and giggling that I could feel my hands when I was wheeled into my room (I don't remember that).

    Alex is right in that everyone's recovery is different in terms of time, but try to measure it in weeks, not days - you'll drive yourself crazy. Mine was a three-level and I had a hard brace on for four weeks and a soft collar for eight, so I didn't go back to work until six weeks, and then just part time. Just when I was ready to go back full time and my FMLA ran out, I was laid off. Go figure.

    Anyway, the anticipation is many times worse than the surgery itself. I hope yours is early in the morning - it's so much easier. My ACDF was the first one scheduled, but for my lumbar, I had to wait until 3:30pm. Dang, I was hungry.

    One more thing - when you start feeling better, continue to follow your no BLT restrictions and not overdo it. So many (if not all) of us got to the place where we thought "dang, I feel pretty good" then did something we shouldn't and set ourselves back a day or two. So be sure to take care of yourself, even when you start to feel better. You'll find that one day you'll realize that you're only having post-surgical pain, not the pain from nerves and stuff right after surgery.

    Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give you as much info as I can. Feel free to PM me if I can help you in any way.

    Take care and have fun before the big day when you can.
  • Dear Dana and everyone else,
    I too am preparing for surgery. The Dr. says that I need fusion for C 3-7 and some procedure for T-1. I am petrified to have all that done. Does anyone have a good experience with fusion? I have so much about it since Friday's appt. and none of it seems good. As a 57 year old teacher, I need to be able to move easily, be able to lift and hand out textbooks and basically do my job. I read about the need for future procedures after a fusion. My doctor seems certain that my D.I.S.H. requires fusion for correction.
  • (Dana, I don't want to hijack your thread here, but want to help Debra).

    Debra, Welcome to Spine-Health. For starters, you will get more help if you start your own thread in this section, but I'll answer you anyway. But again, consider starting your own thread.

    Anyway, if you've been reading a lot of posts on this forum, the reason you see mostly bad stories is because most of those that have had successful surgeries don't post here any more because they no longer need the support that's given here. They're off living their lives and don't spend time here any longer.

    I've had a 3-lvl ACDF and consider mine a success. I have problems above my fusion, but they were there before and just aggravated by my fusion.

    Do you have complete confidence in your surgeon? Does this surgeon only work on spines and is s/he fellowship-trained in spine surgery? Have you had more than one opinion? Those are things you need to consider.

    I know that surgery is pretty scary and yours is a big one, so I'd be sure to get a couple of more opinions to be sure all this needs to be done.

    Take care,
  • Thank you so much for the replies! I have been scouting the "stickys" they are so helpful!!! Cathie your post was amazingly helpful; giving me insight into what to expect post op. I will move my recliner now to the main level and set up a small table to have my stuff handy. I havent even thought of the shower before you mentioned it! Thank you...everyone keep the advice coming! So great I can learn from what worked for others, what you wish you had, and what you wish you didn't do. Best of luck Debra...The fear of the unknown is difficult. I have never taken off work for anything other than having the kids. I need my range of motion...being a nurse is a big part of who I am.
  • langteach said:
    Dear Dana and everyone else,
    I too am preparing for surgery. The Dr. says that I need fusion for C 3-7 and some procedure for T-1. I am petrified to have all that done. Does anyone have a good experience with fusion? I have so much about it since Friday's appt. and none of it seems good. As a 57 year old teacher, I need to be able to move easily, be able to lift and hand out textbooks and basically do my job. I read about the need for future procedures after a fusion. My doctor seems certain that my D.I.S.H. requires fusion for correction.

    Hi Lanhteach,

    Cathie has given some very good information and you should pay attention to what she has said in this thread.

    Your surgeon has suggested that you need a awful lot of work done. Yikes. Before I would even consider any work being done I would require hearing the same coming from another surgeon and one that only works on spines. What type of surgery is your Dr. suggesting, as in PLIF, or anterior entry. You must have some pretty significant symptoms or is your spinal cord being compromised and you are not having issues.

    What are you referring to by D.I.S.H.?? Your question about future surgeries is a good one. A lot of people that have spinal surgeries and fusions done do require more surgery down the road as the discs above and below the fusion sites now have to carry an added load because of the discs that were fused. Not everybody has further problems but most do at some point. A lot depends on how well you protect your back going forward as it has a major outcome on what happens to your spine going forward. Most Dr.'s will not really tell you this but it has been my experience as most Dr. will tell you that you can go back to what you were doing. Would you go ahead and have surgery if they told you no that you can't go back to what you were doing? Or would you look for a Dr. that says you can go back to what you were doing. Its a catch 22 for most Dr.'s don't really know whether you can or can't and end up telling you the best outcome. Age also plays into the equation also. As far as carrying around and handing out textbooks I most certainly wouldn't even remotely consider that as doable. You could get a cart and put the books on a cart and hand them out one at a time but as far as carrying a bunch of them down an isle you wouldn't catch me doing it and my surgery in the cervical area was only one level. Keep in mind these are my opinions and are based on having a number of spine surgeries by some noted spine surgeons.

    I guess to sum this up I would get at least one more opinion from a fellowship trained spine surgeon and make sure that it matches what you have been told by your surgeon. You also need to hear from whatever surgeon you chose that they routinely do the type of surgery they are talking about. You need to pay particular attention to whatever directions you are given for before, during, and after any operation.

    Good luck in whatever you decide to do.
  • Good luck with your surgery. I advise that you find out from your doctor what the normal process is for their patients. You're a nurse so some of this may be no big deal to you:

    1) Find out how long the surgery is supposed to be. Then you can tell anyone who is anxiously waiting.
    2) What is the procedure for before the surgery. This includes not only the prep like cleaning the area and not eating after midnight, and taking all the tests, etc. prepping for the surgery. Will your family be able to be with you up to the time you roll into surgery? Will you meet with the anesthesiologist before or on the day of surgery - let them know if you have experience with nausea from surgery - or just ask them to give you something to make sure you don't get sick.
    3) Going into surgery - do you want to be awake into the OR? I specifically needed to make sure my knees were elevated to avoid severe back pain I'd experienced during previous surgeries.
    4) Will you likely be admitted to ICU, MedSurg. or PACU and then go home? I can't believe some people actually go home same day, but I was 4 level. It helps those waiting to know where you'll probably be admitted. If it's ICU they won't freak out if they know ahead of time, and neither will you.
    5) What tubes, etc. to anticipate when you wake up? This includes catheter, oxygen, hard collar, or in my case I was still intubated. I was told ahead of time intubation was possible because of some esophogus problems and I didn't panic.
    6) What is the normal process in the hospital - progress to med.surg., when to anticipate any tubes out, when you'd get up, go to PT, be released.
    7) What restrictions to expect afterwards, and how long for the restrictions likely?

    Do take it easy after you're home. My Dr. wanted someone home with me 24/7 for the first 10 days. Walk as much as you're allowed or feel comfortable. Take your meds - don't let the pain get too high. Don't push it. If you're too busy one day, you can pay for it the next day...or two, and you don't want to risk undoing what was done.

    Again, best of luck. I think I'll do a general post of this info - maybe it will help others. 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.
  • Great information! I do get nauseous with anesthesia. I usually need Reglan or zofran. I will call the doctor to get more information about my hospital stay to reduce anxiety for me and my family. I am fiercely independent but now see I may need some help. I have great kids, a caring hubby, and supportive family and friends. I feel bad that my kids may be bored at home. We are taking them to hershey park this weekend to get in some fun. Oddly I will be sad taking off from work. I hope this will lead me to reduced pain and better use of my left arm. Thank you for the advice,
  • I had the same surgery in February this year. In my opinion, the hardest part for the first 2 weeks was swallowing. Some people don't have any issues and some have issues for months. My surgical incision area really didn't give me pain, although I felt achy in my muscles around the neck, shoulders and back.

    Having children and a family to take care of makes recovery a little more difficult. I have 2 girls ages 5 and 7, so I understand your concerns about the kids getting bored! The kids are home during the summer months so much more stress on me!

    Don't be afraid to ask for support from family and friends! You will need them when you have rough days. Good luck and keep us posted!
    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 had a 2 level in Dec and went back just before the Feb break, It was tough going back. I used a music stand so I was looking straight ahead and not down. the kids (4th grade) were great. I wore a soft collar and used different bandannas and scarves to color match my outfit. I am pleased with my results. It has taken me longer to recover and gain strength and ROM. It took me more than 5 years to bit the bullet and have the surgery. SO I am hoping that by the 1 year mark I will be back to myself. Driving was the most difficult part. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • i wish the best for those about to have surgery, and wishing a healing smooth recovery for those who have finished. There is a thread called "Class of August 2001". There are a couple of us having surgery in August posting there.

    I am so grateful to have found this forum!
    Good luck to all my fello Spineys! :)
    ALIF L3-5 Aug '11, butress plates added pos. Feb '12, 2013 revision decompresive laminectomy L3-SI, removal of hardware, exploration, allograft, instrumentation and possible bone morphogenic protein (BMP) 3rd times the charm!
  • As with any surgery, the more information and prepared you are the smoother it will be. As others have stated there are posted what to expect from the surgery and what you need at home after the surgery. I only wore the items that the hospital gave me in the hospital. Swallowing was the most difficult part I needed steroids to reduce the swelling. I had much soft food on hand for at least a month. I did however continue with the recommended time frame for pain medications including muscle relaxers. When I did get home I tried waiting until I "really " felt some pain and then took meds - mistake. It took almost 2 hours to feels some relief. If you weren't told have some stool softener and a laxative on hand. The anesthesia takes a toll on your body. I think that pain was worse than others. Sleeping in a recliner and having bendy straws were my 2most important items. Getting up and walking as much and as often as you can is also helpful. Your recovery time is based on the extent of damage found and the number of levels taken care of. I found that the longer the symptoms were present prior to surgery also impact the recovery time. I was told by my OSS more than 5 years prior to my surgery that I would need it but couldn't deal with cervical surgery. I waited until my quality of life deteriorated and tried everything possible to avoid surgery.
    12/8/2010 C5-6 C6-7 ACDF
    Feel free to ask specific questions.
    Good luck and have a painfree weekend.
  • FrenchFri, I had not heard that lenght of pain prior to surgery had an impact on recovery time. That is a bit worriesom to me. I have been dealing with this for 12 years.

    I too waited until I could not put it off any longer, A recent car accident did NOT help matters.

    The sticky post on what you need pre and post op has really helped. I was able to get quite a few things on the list that will really help me.

    I would have gone into this totally blind if it had not have been for this forum. My Dr. still has not spoke to me about recover time. The next time I see him will be the morning of my surgery! I found out that he ordered me a bidside toilet and a wheeked walker! It makes it sound like I will be "down" a LOT longer than I thought,

    Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it! :)
    ALIF L3-5 Aug '11, butress plates added pos. Feb '12, 2013 revision decompresive laminectomy L3-SI, removal of hardware, exploration, allograft, instrumentation and possible bone morphogenic protein (BMP) 3rd times the charm!
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