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Any replies truly appreciated......

graciegirlggraciegirl Posts: 249
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

This is my first visit here to intorduce myself. I would also like to wish everyone WELL!

I am a 60 year old/young gal in fairly good shape in spite of some health issues. I quit smoking in 85, have osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis(due to menopause at 33)have well contolled hypertension and after a knee accident still keep quite active and walk as much as I can.

I had an accident in 1990 and fractured my neck. I have done fairly well all these years despite some back pain with bulging discs and some radiculopathy in my right arm in 2007 that lasted all summer and then just disappeared. I have the radiculopathy back now since April 11, 2011 and it is getting me down and am experiencing some weakness in my hands and some weird feelings in my lower legs as well. I have had many epidurals in the past many years that seemed to help but the last four this past two months didn't offer much in the way of relief. I have 4 bone spurs pressing on the nerves.

My MRI that I had in June states: On examination, foraminal closure is positive, reproducing her left radicular symptoms.

An MRI scan of the cervical spine demonstrates spondylosis at the C5-C6 and C6-C7 levels, with left-sided foraminal stenosis at both levels, corresponding to her left C^- and C7- distribution symptoms.

I have been prescribed prednisone, traction and Norco. I am currently relying on 2 tylenol + 1 full strength asprin a day and an ambien at night followed in the early morning by half to one full Norco. This takes the edge off my pain to make it bearly manageable/bearable.

The neurosurgeon says I am a reasonable candidate for surgical intervention with an anterior cervical discetomy and fusion at the C5-C6 and C6-C7 levels.

I am wondering what you all might think advisable having been through these types of surgery. I am in a quandry of what to do next. Am I in "good enough" shape for this surgery?

I thank you in advance for any insight you might offer me. Thank you all so much. I hope your days are good ones.

Gracie girl



  • Hi,
    Welcome to spine health..lots of info here and lots of people to ask questions and offer support.
    I am 58, and had the anterior surgery last spring, to fuse C5-C7. Due to a non union, we just re-did the anterior and added the posterior also. The surgery is I would say uncomfortable, not really painful. YOu'll spend one night in the hospital, and may have trouble swallowing for awhile, but that goes away. I found the worst part was waiting for the surgical tape to be removed, as that was uncomfortable, but other than that, had no problems and pain was minimal for the anterior approach.
    Best wishes..
  • You sound like you're in good shape - congratulations. I had gone years getting periodic epidurals, and they helped until fairly recently. Over the past year I had gotten sort of electric waves down my arms and arm pain. That's when I knew something else was going on. I have ankylosing spondylitis and osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. So...I had the MRI and got opinions from 3 surgeons, all who said do the surgery - ACDF. If you read other posts here, people have had success with this surgery and the recovery seems easier than other back surgeries.

    Take a look around, and ask any questions.

    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.
  • HI Gracie,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around the forums and you will find many whom have had ACDF(anterior cervical discectomy with fusion). With that said it sounds as though you have only had one opinion, which I always think second opinions are well worth the time and money. It is understandable to be nervous regarding surgery and that is surgery of any kind. You will find all kinds of out comes on the forums from the surgery. The one thing to keep in mind is when reading the forums those of us whom stick around for along time, either have endured permanent nerve damage, or have myelopathy, neither of which you want.

    The question for you is how much you trust the surgeon and have confidence in his/her abilities? Myself personally I fully trusted my surgeon and what he could do for me and my situation. Also keep in mind as you read that while ACDF is the common procedure for all neck surgeries, not all of the reasons for surgery are the same. So you will see some whom end with wearing hard braces, to collars to nothing at all.

    Did the surgeon say what type of bone grafting material he or she would be using? Such as allograft(cadaver bone) or autograft(your bone)? The only reason it maybe of concern in your situation is your ability to fuse. Also if you put the surgery off, what is the window before they wouldn't do such a surgery or feel your not a candidate? I know recently I was at my surgeons office and met a lady whom had 2-level fusion who was in her 70's, and she seemed pleasant surprised and happy with her results. It is true that most only stay a night in the hospital, depending on how well you do post-op will dictate your hospital stay. I myself have had all my surgeries done through out patient surgery centers, even though I did spend the night. It was the less than 23 hour time window. I am one of the unlucky ones in that one surgery has turned into multiple surgeries. They always give you the list of risk of surgery and unfortunately a lot of those risk found me, but my case is not the norm.

    Have a look in the FAQ section at the top of the page and you will find a link to 38 questions to ask your surgeon. See what of those question you can answer yourself, and then any left over be sure to ask your surgeon, or here. Also if you decide on surgery in the surgery forum at the top of the page is very good thread on things to have post surgery.

    Anyway I just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If I can be of any assistant don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted on your decision and how you get along.
  • Thank you for all the wonderful welcome gestures. I hope everyone is having a day with low pain. Today is not really great for me but i am trying to do my homework. I am still a bit lost and with the radiculopathy have trouble staying on this computer for very long... only a few minutes at a time.

    Hi Fannie,
    It's nice to be able to compare notes with everyone especially those a little bit closer in age- 60 as far as outcome might go.You have been through alot i see, so many here have. I have been spared surgery this far other than a dozen or more epidurals, etc. The swallowing is what really kind of makes me nervous, don't know why that is one of the things that has me worried. Gotta breathe, though. :0 :) The risks in genral have me concerned as well. I also have fibro and CTD. I consider myself lucky compared to so many gals with those issues though.

    Hi Karen, nice to meet you.... although wish it were under different circumstances. I am glad to hear that this surgery is doable.and perhaps not quite as bad as I have been imagining. I'm sure it tkaes alot of recovery and work at it though.
    My life here in the country is quite physically demanding, (lifting, making wood, taking care right now of my husband who is older and just broke his tailbone and has Parkinsons though mild now. So i am trying to figure it all out ahead of time.

    Hello Tam Tam. Thank you for referring me to the other links. I will try to maneuver my way there and do my homework. I have had only a second opinion from my Primary Doctor so far. I live in a very rural area and am 100 miles from the nearest bigger city; where i swa the neurosurgeon. I'm afraid travel is out of the question to Minnesota or Deleuth. Maybe Florida where I have family.
    This neuro is going to use cadaver bone. I suspect because i have chronic pain all over but none like this dang nerve pain. It is horrendous at times. I am so sorry to hear that your situation has not been resolved better and you have had to undergo so many surgeries and have had some risks happenings involved. I am scared of the thought of blood clots. I guess you have to make a decision to live with this kind of pain or do something at some point.

    Anyway, I am so glad I found this forum and i am reading all i can.

    Gentle Hugs,

    ps I am scheduled for another office appt August 10th.to ask many more questions. My arms are getting weaker and I suspect it to be myelapathy.
  • Gracie,

    The doctors and hospital staff monitor the swelling in your throat caused by the surgery. I had some esophogeal issues prior to the surgery so they had a head & neck surgeon to open and close. I was told ahead of time if there was a lot of swelling I could wake up intubated. When I woke up I was intubated but I didn't freak out because I knew it could happen. I think it helped that I have sleep apnea and at least am used to having something to help me breath. I just motioned that I wanted a pad to write on, and just jotted notes. I had the pain button thing to help with any pain issues. The tube came out the morning after surgery. The catheter came out the next day (remember - I had 4 levels).

    It was tough to swallow, but they and we can tell you what foods might work better for swallowing. You can have them on hand. Slowly but surely the swallowing gets better. In addition to the swallowing I was also concerned because I belong to a chorus and had lost all the higher notes. Most of my voice has come back. My vocal chords had been somewhat affected by the surgery. I still sort of feel some pressure in my neck from the cage but it's not as noticeable. I have heard on line here that goes away over time.

    If you go through the surgery, just have as much done ahead of time as possible - stock up on thick soft foods like mashed potatoes and apple sauce, and if you have friends in your area, see if they could be available if needed. Since you're in a remote area, I don't know if there are grocery stores that deliver food.

    I'm 52 and the ACDF was my first spinal surgery. You do what is best for you. 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.
  • Hi Cathy,

    You guys are great here. Glad to hear the good news but sorry you are experiencing more problems again. Hope it will not involve any more surgery.

    Okay then, Frannie. I guess i can handle a "small frog" in my throat. Feeling better, at least in my thought thinking. Heh Frannie and everyone, just curious, my throat seems to be closing up a little even now, like i catch myself swallowing and thinking about doing it? BTW, how do you feel you are coming along?

    Karen, wow! lots of things to think about, eh? Good to know they will check this all out. How much tougher to have 4 levels? Whuh. Didn't know about the cage- thought that was only for the back surgeries. I'd be getting 2 plates/4 screws. I can't sing anyway. lol. Are you back in chorus ?

    Well, my dang arm is SCREAMINGAT ME NOW. tIME OUT.


  • HI,
    You're stressing!! Stop thinking about it, and see what happens...
    I'm doing ok...neck is good, though still sore at times if I do too much. My back, however, today is killing me! Such is the life of chronic pain...good some days and then there's those other days...! Glad I got SSD, as this body never knows day to day how it's going to feel... Having our annual picnic/overnight party this weekend, and I think I did too much yard work over the weekend, so today it's some med's and the couch....hope there's something good on tv!
    Don't worry, you'll be fine...and I can't sing either, unless I'm in the car with the windows down and the stereo blasting - then I can't hear myself :)
  • Gracie,

    I can tell you post surgery from a 360 I started developing some severe swelling which began causing me to struggle with breathing, I was not tubed. The nurse called the surgeon and rather quickly injected me with a high dose of steroids, problem solved. They did send me home with a medrol dose pak as well. So it kept that problem from continuing. I can tell you that post op as far as the pain in the throat on one of my surgeries I ate a roast beef sandwich within two hours of waking. On the other surgeries I ate complete dishes of pasta and salad and had no issues with eating. The throat deal kind of feels like streep throat if you have ever had it. So don't stress to much over it.

    Another thing I lived alone and from the time I arrived home was able to take care of myself, even though I had used my own hip bone. I also have bladder issues, and was able to self cath with a miami J.

    When you see the surgeon next ask about your post op restrictions and if you can start a walking program soon after surgery. Walking is the best thing you can do post surgery. There are some good programs on the net such as 10,000 steps. But it will also help you prepare as to what you will need to have post surgery as in the way of help.

    Arm weakness is not necessarily a indicator of myelopathy. It can also be the nerves being compressed are what supplies the muscles and is causing your muscles to weaken. It also is another reason why surgery, might be your only alternative. Even if your developing some atrophy some PT following surgery will get that strength back.

    If I was in your situation and the pain is getting that bad, and your losing strength I would do the surgery. Your doing the right thing by doing your research and understanding the procedure. If your interested there is a animated video in the video section here of the surgery, that will help you understand the procedure.

    I would question the use of two plates, as they make a plate large enough to cover a two level fusion. On one of the surgeries they were adding a level in and connected two plates together, which made it sit to high and caused all kinds of esophagus and cord issues. Once I fused they had to remove the second plate. So I am curious why not use the longer plate?
  • I'm on SSD because of my CTD and knee accident. I still have lots of lifting and work here but can go at my own pace most of the time. My neck and arm pain is ferocious today after cleaning cabin last weekend. I am down for the day for the most part. Ya know, what I hate almost as bad as the nerve pain(not nearly as painful, but so weird) is the "bobblehead" feeling I get some days. It is peaceful and quiet here today which is nice though and I have taken my meds.

  • My surgery took 5 hours (they estimated 3-1/2) and I was told 2 for 2 level. I stayed in the hospital 4 days. I think it's 2 for a 2 level. Just more trauma to the system to absorb. I'm up and around but trying to watch how much I do. I did get up and walk as much and as soon as I could.

    I hope you feel better soon. Chorus is on hiatus until September but we have a picnic coming up. I'm looking forward to the fall.

    What's the "bobblehead" feeling? I hate the nerve pain feeling.

    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.
  • Sorry to hear you had to go through more than you had considered but that things will continue to go well now.

    Two hours for a 2 level? They told me outpatient but i asked could they keep me a few days as my husband broke his tailbone a month ago and just had an ablation w pacemaker. They said probably overnight.

    I came up with that term. Have you ever seen one of those bobblehead dolls? Not really sure of their name. From years back? Some people would put them in their cars and they would bobble. You would touch their heads and they would shake. Some days, it makes me dizzy and my head feels like it is bobbing, as though my neck is having a hrd time holding up my head.

  • Welcome Gracie!

    Sounds like you have a good plan going here! I had a double ACDF a week ago today for levels C3-4 and 4-5. 4 years ago I had C5-6 and 6-7 done. My surgery last week was wrapped up in about 2 hours. I also had a lot of issues with myelopathy, mostly left arm and hands. I did have a breathing tube and had a kind of sore scratchy throat and a little trouble swallowing for 4 or 5 days.

    But all in all, I am feeling quite well and doing much walking, that helps a lot! :-)

  • Tam Tam,

    Whew. Glad your doctor and nurse worked pronto. Of course you are in I.C. I would presume and they should be alert. Unfortunately, I have had some bad experience in O.P. Center surgery. I have that Love/Hate relationship with prednisone. I can handle some "strept throat." Good description for something i never knew anything about. You guys are not wimpy here. I will have my hubby by my side, but he is on the mend himself. Hope i can be a s tough as you all. I love to walk and miss my hiking through the woods here. It is hilly here and I will have to be extra cautious. No sidewalks to stride on. Tam, what are the indicators for myelopathy? I can look it up. Sorry. I will ask about the 2 plate scenario. I'm learning my p's and q's here.
  • Hello Charlie,

    Glad to hear you are doing pretty well. I hope to do as well as some of you seem to be. I must admit I am a bit scared. You all are helping me to put it all in better perspective. I am waiting til after my next appt to see where i go from there. I'm glad to know that a breathing tube is a possibility. I just want to know what may or may not happen. Hang in there and feel better soon! The old pain is starting to act up so I'm calling it a night. Hope you some healing rest.

  • Welcome to the Forum graciegirl. The picture on my profile is of a two level plate that was removed to make way for another one above the first fusion I had. Research your questions and don't be afraid to ask the Doctor about anything that you have questions about.
  • Thanks Mark,

    I see you had what I am looking at, in 2007. I also see so many of you end up with many more surgeries after the first. Is this what I should be prepared for?

    I am wondering about the plates to be used for me now. Also, I have a short neck, does this make a difference as well?

    Are you all finished w surgeries now?

  • Graciegirl,

    As far as having more surgeries each of us are different. My injury was due to a work accident that was very severe. We just didn't know how severe at the time. All the surgeries were to stop the progression of things, mostly to keep my symptoms from getting worse. I need to update things since I have had 2 more surgeries last February.

    I don't have a answer about your neck being short, perhaps someone else may be able to answer that.

    As far as what plates are used, I am sure each Surgeon has there preference in what they use. Hope that all goes well for you!
  • Thanks Mark!

    I surely hope you are having good days.

    How much problem with the insertation of hardware as far as body rejection?

    I am keeping you all busy with all my questions.

    I live 100 miles from the nearest"big city."

    I am going with that "local" neuro.

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