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Post-op must-haves for c-spine surgery?

BuelaBBuela Posts: 67
edited 04/11/2013 - 6:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I found this fantastic list on things that are great to have after surgery:

Except it seems that many of these things are needed if you have lumbar surgery but are not necessarily needed if you have neck surgery.

Can anyone let me know what things are on the list aren't really needed for neck surgery, or what things aren't on the list that are very useful for neck surgery, or what you either had that was great or wish you'd had after your c-spine surgery?

FYI I'm likely having ACDF for C5-6 and C6-7 -- not confirmed because that's the ortho surgeon's plan but I'm going to see a neurosurgeon as a second opinion but will likely end up choosing to have him do the surgery since I have two herniated disks pressing into my spinal cord with some myelomacia.



  • HI,
    I found the ACDF to not be much of a problem, and I've had it twice.... C5-C7... the 1st didn't fuse properly so we re-did it, and added the posterior for good measure.
    Swallowing is a bit painful (maybe like strept throat feeling), but otherwise, you just need to relax and let the healing take place. I had a soft collar, and other than getting some easy to swallow foods, like yogurt, pudding, ice cream, etc, didn't need anything else. Posterior is much worse and the pain levels are very high, so be glad you're having the ACDF!
    Best wishes and speedy recovery!
  • I am with Frannie Page. The only thing that I am glad that I did was put a tall hamper upside down in the shower to put my shampoo and stuff on. I also made sure that I had lots of easy to make food and a little table beside my bed for meds, drinks and stuff. It is not completely a pain free operation but it is one of the easier things that I have done. My NS had me at PT at 10 days post op. I also walk about 2 miles a day.
    I am almost at 5 weeks and I still get a little tired sometimes but I am looking forward to work and not having to wear my neck brace at night.
    Good Luck!

  • Bendy straws are useful so you can drink without tilting your head back. I got a drink bottle with a plastic straw inside that is great because it holds plenty of water and doesn't spill if I knock it over!!

    LOTS of cushions of different types. You will need plenty to get comfortable and to keep changing your position.

    A grabber to pick things up

    A grab handle in the shower / bath to help stop you losing your balance

    I had a turban style towel that I could put on my head without leaning forward and then when I had finished washing my hair and felt exhausted, I could rest a while before drying it.

    Soft foods that you enjoy and that are easy to swallow.
    Throat lozenges and a numbing spray in case you have a VERY sore throat like I did.
    Laxatives to help with constipation from the meds and anaesthesia

    I'll keep thinking ........
  • I journaled my experience here - along with preparation info, if you find it helpful: http://www.spine-health.com/forum/treatment/back-surgery-and-neck-surgery/successful-acdf-c34-c45-prep-postop-journal-45-month but suffice it to say that there are so many different experiences.

    I was in a hard collar and couldn't drive for 6 weeks.
    Plus, I lost my voice - for an unusually long time - for 35 days.
    I never had a sore throat
    I never had pain - never took pain meds (unusual, I know)

    I was on my own, with friends around if I needed something.

    I think the best things I did include the following:

    1) I made the decision to mostly follow my surgeon's instructions. I gave myself the time to not rush and allow my body to heal. I think this is really important to reconcile before surgery. I hear and see so many relapsing because they are rushing to get on with life and end up having set backs.

    2) If you are alone, set up an online delivery of groceries. I chose the items I wanted, along with the date for delivery and VOILA!

    3) I put music and 'guided imagery' healing audios on my smartphone and took the smart phone and ear buds to the hospital with me. What a lifesaver. The guided imagery audio, "Preparing for Surgery" was especially helpful in the wee hours of the morning when I needed to get back to sleep.

    4) Again, because I was on my own, I was able to address and prepare ahead of time an email to send to everyone once I got out of surgery into my hospital room. Trying to remember everyone to send to would have been tough right out of recovery.

    5) If you need pain meds, ask your surgeon if he will give you the prescription a day or two before surgery so that you or someone can get it filled for you before you get home. While I did not need mine, I was glad to know they were there and we didn't have to stop to get them on the way home from the hospital.

    6) If you are in a collar and if you have to wear the collar while showering and cannot get your head/neck wet for the first week like me, I found it REALLY helpful to have a hand held shower head with a slider bar. I already had that in place, fortunately and I was able to slide it down so it was parallel with my chest, not getting my neck or hair wet. Ask your surgeon if you will need to deal with a week of no hair washing.

    7) I put some dishes and drinking glasses on the counter so that I didn't have to reach too high up. That was helpful in the beginning because of the collar.

    8) I treated myself to a VERY COMFY robe. I rarely wear them, but I knew I would be living in mine for a while and it was nice to have one so comfortable.

    At home:

    *Soft foods -- chips of ice (if swallowing is difficult) - cream of wheat, pudding, oatmeal. Some like soups. Within about a week or two, I was eating filet mignon, which went down more easily than water! I coughed drinking liquids for a few weeks, too. OH YES - If you have to take pills - APPLESAUCE or pudding. I couldn't swallow water easily, but the viscosity of applesauce was perfect conveyor of meds. I took the laxatives that way. VERY helpful and it tasted good and I felt a bit healthy (because I got the good organic stuff.)

    *Microwaveable heating pad - that really helped because muscles in my shoulders and upper back would tense and get tired because of the awkwardness of the collar. This really helped a lot.

    **Laxatives - seriously - don't kid yourself with this, especially if you are taking pain meds. Pain meds constipate. I was told to take them when I got home and didn't for about 4 days. If I had to change something, it would be to have taken them starting when I got home.

    **Things to do when you are home. Books, movies, drawing, knitting, painting, playing Words with Friends or Draw Something - whatever it is - plan to do some things while you are healing, if you cannot go anywhere for a while.


    Either have a recliner or comfortable big chair to sleep in for a little while. For me, sleeping flat was not an option for a few months. I did use the back cushion from my sofa and placed it against the headboard of my bed and put some of my soft pillows against that. I slept mostly sitting up for about 1.5 months or so. I was completely fine with that and slept really well. But, I fly a lot, so sleeping sitting up is something I can do fairly well. :)

    From the day I got home, I did everything myself. I didn't even feel the need to ask for help from neighbors other than for a ride to doctor visits and would have, if I needed to do so. I also had my surgery in the winter when I wouldn't feel like I was really missing anything, which I found helpful, too. Thank goodness - because losing my voice for 35 days and needing to be 'on' with clients would have been challenging!

    Sorry for this being lengthy. I hope it's helpful.

    let us know what you end up doing.
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
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