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C-7/C-7 fusion neck surgery. To get the surgery or not??

dbradt85ddbradt85 Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am a 26 year old male with moderate neck pain with several painful flair ups on a daily basis. I injured my neck about year ago lifting weights. I had an MRI recently which showed bone spurs a compressed disc and a pinched nerve. I have also recently met with a neurosurgeon who has suggested fusion surgery of C-6 and C-7 levels of my spine. The surgery would entail; going in through front of neck, removing disc, placing carbon-mesh fibered piece in its place, possibly shaving down bone spurs and graphing bone from my hip to place in between levels for fusion. Also, a plated blacking of some sort would be screwed onto fused levels to help it to fuse. 6-8 weeks out of work, 3-6 months light duty, until fusion is complete. I am a healthy male with no other problems, no history of surgery, broken bones or health problems. I have been doing physical therapy for the past 7 months with good results, but it has not healed completely and pain is still there. Do you have any suggestions? I have heard that neck surgery doesn't always work or go well and may create more problems. Do you know of any other options other than surgery?


  • HI,
    I vote to have the surgery... I had ACDF at C5-C7, and if that's what you're having, it's not a bad surgery, not alot of pain, and though it takes up to a full year to heal, you will feel better! If you are healthy is all other areas, I personaly don't see why this wouldn't be sucessful for you. Talk again with your dr. to make the decision. If he's suggested that surgery, I doubt if any PT or whatever will really help...the problem needs to be fixed before it gets worse... My opinion, anyway...best wishes!
  • Surgery is a very personal choice. You have to ask yourself is the pain bad enough that it is stopping you from doing your daily activities? Have you exhausted all forms of conservative treatment? Have you tried any injections as of yet? While many will tell you cervical spine surgery is a cake walk, that is just not so, as it comes with risk. For example I was what they term the text book case for surgery, and here I am 6 surgeries latter and still in chronic pain with permanent nerve damage and myelopathy. There are very successful surgeries out there, as well. But you have to make the choice for yourself and if it is the last option you have.

    I can tell you using your hip bone will be more painful, as that is a part of the body that needs to move. I have used my hip bone three times. One thing you need to ask the surgeon is what are your odds developing adjacent disc disease, which would be based partially on the what the remaining disc look like in your neck. I am neither pro or against surgery, I think everyone needs to make that decision for themselves.

    Bone spurs create a additional issue, as they aren't likely to go away if they are the offending problem in your cervical spine. I am not sure I would be willing to do any surgery that doesn't involve them being removed. My concern is if they aren't taking down now, they will become the problem in the future, with the stress of the surgery. But that is something you need to address with the surgeon. How many opinions on surgery have you gotten? I always think members should get multiple opinions so they have all available information to make a decision. Also the key is to research your surgeon, and then have trust and confidence as to his/her abilities to carry you post op. You would want to find out also about the post-op follow up care.

    As far as the surgery itself, many have woken up from surgery and the pain is all gone, and is the best thing they have ever done. Others have woken up with some paralysis and found new issues to deal with. So understand this is major surgery and do your research, as it appears your doing, and make the best choice for you and your family.
  • I agree with everything tamtam says... The biggest question.. "Is the pain bad enough that it is disrupting your life". If the answer is yes, what other option do you have?

    I am 24 years old and had acdf- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (same surgery you are considering) c4-5. My doctor says he never uses hip bone. There are a lot of non painful alternatives out there. Especially being our age, our chances for fusion are a lot higher.

    My neck feels great, I can move it without pain, only mild discomfort. My muscle spasms in my shoulders are much less.

    Feel free to PM me if you would like to chat privately.
    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
  • Just one more thing to add to the great replies - get at least 3 opinions from different spine specialists. All 3 of the NS I met with agreed to an ACDF, but I went with the NS with the best reputation and he also suggested the least amount of levels. You must exhaust all other options. It took me almost a year of on and off severe pain and trying all methods of pain relief before I bit the bullet. Good luck with your search to be pain free! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Did you have a pinched nerve? if so, did surgery relieve that pain? did it take a full year for you to get back to work? how is your pain level now? can you do all the things you want to do physically?
  • I have not tried injects. Most of the information I have researched and heard about injections pretty much sounds like they are a temporary solution like a band-aid or something. I haven't had any second opinions yet. I have an appointment for one on sept. 1st with a local doc. I plan on getting a few more if I can find a good doc. Have you heard anything about alteratives to surgery? I have had a few friends tell me about sports physical therapy, acupuncture, a book/website called "pain free" by Pete Egoscue, and a DVD/website called stevemaxwell.com joint mobility and rehab. I googled them and researched them a bit, but I'm not too sure if these options would work for my situation. I don't want to go out buying tons of books, DVD's and stuff if its not proven. Do you have any suggestions, advice or know anything about this type of information? Thank you for your support and information.
  • Brad,

    I like Tamtam are good examples of multiple surgeries with additional issues. My first ACDF (C5/6) was to prevent parallelization as the disk was on the cord. When I awoke, all pain was gone, function was back, weakness improved rapidly.

    A year and a month later my C6/7 disk herniated rapidly - lost feeling and function along with strength in less than 15 minutes! That surgery was to stop further damage. It did, nerve damage was the end result - but from the hernia, not the surgery.

    2 years later and find my fusion at that level failed, and allowed movement throughout my cervical and upper thoracic spine. Now I have to have surgery (5 levels) due to my spine being very unstable, and as such putting me at high risk.

    Things to consider, is your day to day activities being disrupted? Do you have strength or function issues? What benefits does your surgeon say you should get by having the surgery? For instance neurologically this surgery I'm facing will not improve my present issues, but is to stabilize my neck.

    Where you're at, I am guessing your surgeon's goal is to give you back your neurological issues, reduce pain, and as such give you an environment that will afford you the maximum medical improvement. Please let us know how it goes.

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

    Thank you for your response, I appreciate your input.
    My day to day activities are not disrupted, I can go to work with intermittent pain and do most normal things. I do get stiff and dull pain when on the computer or reading with my head down for an extended period of time. I do not have strength issues, but if I lift something too heavy (over 30 or 40 lbs.) I will get a strain which may cause extra pain and extra flair ups for about a week or so. My surgeon stated that the surgery would benefit me by stopping the degeneration of the disc, stop the bone spurring and relieve the pinched nerve, if the fusion takes place properly. If the fusion does not take place properly or at all the pain will get worse. The surgeon stated that the surgery could improve my pain 20% or it could improve it 80% he said that he can't tell me for sure either way. He did state that the fusion should take place without a problem for a male of my age and in good shape otherwise, with no other health concerns. I am concerned that the surgery will bring up other problems though. I have heard of scare tissue being a problem for some that have surgery. I am planning on getting a second and third opinion on surgery but this feedback really helps a lot, thank you for your support! Good luck with your surgery and I will keep you in my prayers!
  • I'm very glad you're still in workable function mode. Nodding...I can also fully understand the overdoing (or as you said, lifting too much) giving you flairs that can last a week or so. No fun there at all.

    My first surgery (and really my second too) I didn't know about this site, and I was in such freak mode I put off surgery knowing my disk was on the cord for almost 2 years. I let myself get to the point I almost couldn't function and would cry just turning my head! In retrospect, that was very dangerous and stupid on my part, but fear was a very strong anti-motivator for me! (G)

    When the next level went, I was with my surgeon only days later, and surgery a few weeks later - again to prevent further damage for that level.

    I've done tons of research over the years thanks to spine issues, and somewhere I remember reading that part of the surgeons goal is to reduce a patients pain by 80% if at all possible. After that they hope to reduce numbness and try to restore as much function as possible! I'm guessing in this order since pain shows the nerves are still alive and maybe not damaged beyond being able to heal, and depending how long, numbness or function...the nerves might not be able to recover? Again, just my take on all the reading. I know for my body, the pain issues DID leave 100% on both instantly. Mine came back though due to my fusion failing - so different story there.

    You're probably a very good candidate to get pretty close back to normal when he does his magic on your neck. Please let us know how it goes, and if I can help further, please ask or feel free to PM me. And thank you very much for your prayers - they are appreciated. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had an ACDF (C5 to C7) this past spring and am glad I did. Being in law enforcement, I kinda need the use of all my extremities, without them being numb and/or (intermittent) loss of function.

    As for your decision, like the folks above me said; it is a personal decision and you need more than one opinion. It sounds like you have yet to explore the minimally invasive alternatives.

    Prior to my back surgery, nothing short of surgery relieved my pain and ultimate nerve damage. With my neck, I was mostly fine one day, and had (mostly) lost control of my right arm the next. So the ADCF was a no brainer.

    One thing I am curious about, did the doc go through your MRI with you and SHOW you the problem(s)? If not, I personally would insist the doc walk me through the images and explain what he/she found and show me. And ask questions.

    Unfortunately, there are some docs that recommend surgery long before it is really required.

    Best of luck, and keep us updated.

    View my history for all the gory details.

  • I agree that is a very personal desicion. I think that if you still can do your things, I would opt to try conservative treatment before surgery. This is a topic with so many possibilities... as Tamtam said, some wake up without the pain and some with more.

    From my experience, I wish I would have waited a little more to see if I got better.

    Stories I have heard from friends:

    I woke up with this pain in my right arm, I could not hold a cup of coffee. I went to the hospital and they told me I needed surgery for herniated disc, but every time I was schedule for it, they cancelled. As time passed I got relief, so I did not have the surgery.

    For him it was three months and what the doctors say he has a neck with arthritis, and that's why he got the herniation.

    Another friend:

    She had three herniated disc, her left arm was numb and her neck in pain, but she continue doing her stuff, she was not operated because by that time surgery was very risky, 1994. She says that after two years of pain now she finally feels relief. she paints, she gardens, she put her own floor tiles, she swims!

    Another friend:

    She had her spinal cord compress and arm pain in both arms. She had the surgery, her neck is in pain and weird but she does not regret it.

    Another friend:

    She had a car accident, needed surgery in her brain. She had to learn how to talk, walk, and move her hands. She has three herniated disc compressing her cord. Neurologist told her if you can deal with the pain and you don't want that surgery don't have it. She is not having it. She does not have pain in her neck, sometimes pain in her arms, her discs are reabsorving.

    Another friend:

    I had surgery and it was the best!!!! If I had continue with that pain I don't know what I would have done.

    Another friend:

    I have bone spurs in all my spine, but I continue doing my stuff, it hurts at night and my kids and husband give me, massage.

    Another friend:

    He had his cord compress for like 5 years and when he had it very very compress, the surgeon in Italy decided to give him surgery, but the surgery was laminotomy, so they don't remove any disc, they just take the pressure of your cord. He is SUPER now.

    Well this is very confusing because there are many different stories...

    I would go with different opinions, and do one thing at a time. Don't get overwhelmed because this would stress you more and then more pain.

    Hope you get better!!!!


  • Curt,

    I have just begun exploring a few non-invasive alternatives that I have heard of from friends co-workers. Have you ever heard of a book called, "Pain Free" by Pete Egoscue? or Steve Maxwell Joint Mobility and Rehab DVD? I am also scheduled to get a second and third opinion in the next week, which will hopefully help to clear up things a bit. My pain is mostly intermittent pain. Its there when I wake up, its there when I go to bed and most importantly its there when I try to do anything physical, such as, lifting weights, jogging, mowing the lawn, shoveling etc. My main concern in pursing my career in law enforcement. Being able to perform, without my neck holding me back. Which is why at first I was like ok so Ill get surgery, problem solved. But after doing a little research and from the story/testimonies that I have read on this forum and in talking with friends and family regarding neck surgery, I am approaching this a little more conservatively now. The doc did show me the images from the MRI and walk me through what he found. He stated that I have bone spurs on c-6 and c-7 which is compressing the disc and I also have a pinched nerve which he explained. Although, he did not recommend any other alternatives other than the fusion surgery of levels c-6/c-7. He did not believe in injections, stating that they were more of a band-aid, which is fine, but I'm just not sure about surgery or the surgery he is proposing. Thank you for your input and support. I will keep you updated.
  • I have not read the book you mentioned, or viewed the DVD. But they might be worth looking at.

    I agree with your doc in that injections are (can be) a band-aid. Then again, if they can relieve pain and allow someone to function close to, if not the same as someone without back problems, they can be a very good thing.

    Since my ACDF I am a little concerned about getting into another altercation, which is what finished my neck off. Had a suspect come across the table during interrogation and we had a nice scuffle in the room before my partner heard it and came to help out.

    It all started 9 years ago when I responded to a disturbance and some knothead dropped a 30 - 40 pound box of books from the second floor onto my neck and right shoulder.

    For me, surgery come down to relieving the symptoms caused by my damage disks; or dealing with the symptoms and hope I could function in my professional capacity. I obviously opted for the surgery.

    Being four months since my ACDF would I want to go back to uniform? Not really but I would. I would also be very concerned about getting into another altercation with a 10 - 20 minute response time for back-up on a good day.

    Now when I have 100% fusion it would be a different story.

    Hope the other opinions give you some better alternatives than fusion.

    View my history for all the gory details.
  • After getting several different opinions and speaking to close friends and family, I decided not to get the surgery. At this point, as one doc told me, its not worth it to get the surgery, because it will not improve my condition that much to where it is noticeable pain relief. Therefore, I decided not to get the surgery. The doc also stated that there is a risk that I could lose my voice from the type of surgery they were looking to do. Many different factors played into my decision and I feel that I made the correct decision for my situation at this time. I am still doing physical therapy and trying to strengthen my neck as much as possible, so if any of you know of any other suggestions, I welcome them greatly.

    Thank you all for your help and support on this very important decision of mine, I appreciate you all taking the time to write back and give your opinions and advice on the subject.
  • Glad you don't need surgery! Hope you get better and better with exercise! Do things you love!

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