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Failed fusion & Movement screw other levels! Cervical wins again! - 5 Levels!!

Aviatrix36440Aviatrix36440 Posts: 5,904
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi guys!

I just got an email from my new surgeon, and if I can become 6 weeks smoke free, and none after, surgery will be moved up to the end of September, or early October!! How cool is that!!! Whoohooo!!

As many of you know, I've been having more and more problems since my last ACDF (C6/7) two years ago, most notably around 4 or 5 months post op.

My NS said my fusion was fine, and that I didn't have a crack (contrary to the radiologist), my Neurologist that I've had for years said my neck was stable. I wasn't convinced. When my updated EMG's and MRI's came back, I was basically blown off by both.

My body was still saying "nope, something is wrong"... I went to 2 other Neurosurgeons who said a revision plus the addition of C7/8, anchor to T2 was in order. I then on the suggestion of a few of my most trusted friends on here (long time spiney's themselves), got with a top notch Orthopedic Spine surgeon. Had the consult this morning.

*HE* confirmed (very easy to see too!) such movement internal to my fusion, it has now affected C4/5, C7/8! The new game plan which I am going with is fusion/revision C4-T2. He will go posterior (leaving the other hardware in), fuse the facets and then rods and screws to lock it all down. Then hard collar for 3 months!

After looking over the MRI for the cervical, and then the new x-rays today, the look on his face, and the "aaah geeesss" that he uttered - he saw what I knew for over a year and a half! We discussed the neurological benefits of this surgery, and I agree, I will NOT get back what I have lost, this surgery will to be for stabilizing my cervical spine, and to STOP further damage.

The lumbar issues in comparison aren't as critical, so once again it is off the table until this mess is repaired (note I didn't say fixed - this stuff doesn't fix us) and healed, back surgery "ain't happening" which is fine with me given what I learned today.

Well, that pretty well updates it on me. In 3 months I go back to see if I am behaving (ciggies wise), and schedule the surgery. Oddly, I feel very relaxed? Yeah, yeah, I'm weird. Thanks for listening.

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


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 10,049
    but you were in many ways prepared to hear this.
    Just another notch in our spinal belts. You'll come through this like you've done in the past.

    And then onto our golden years..... I keep hearing about those years, does anyone have a clue to what that is suppose to mean?
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I bet you felt so relieved when he saw the problem!! Good luck with the surgery, and you better behave hehehe!!
    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
  • dilauro said:
    but you were in many ways prepared to hear this.
    Just another notch in our spinal belts. You'll come through this like you've done in the past.

    And then onto our golden years..... I keep hearing about those years, does anyone have a clue to what that is suppose to mean?

    As I told my new surgeon today, "nothing he is telling me is a surprise." I actually felt relieved that not only did he take me serious, but showed me what was going on, and what affected what.

    He told me that normally a CT scan is needed to see a failed fusion, but mine was an "aaahhh geeessss" type of moment! I just compared the x-rays from 5 months post op, and wow lots more movement.

    That might be why I am "okay" with this rather large surgery on the horizon. I am also glad he is adding C4/5, as it isn't too good looking either. My C2/3 (thanks to the spurs) has maintained about the same now for 3 years, so gonna leave it for now - it will give me 2 levels left above.

    Golden years. Yeah, if you figure out what they are, let me know!! hehehe

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Donnabe said:
    I bet you felt so relieved when he saw the problem!! Good luck with the surgery, and you better behave hehehe!!
    Yeah, especially since *I* knew things were wrong over a year and a half ago!

    My only internal question at this point is would I need 5 levels done now if they figured this out back then? As they say, "One will never know...." :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Yep, the NOT knowing "for sure" can drive a Gal crazzzy! SO glad you got a good Dr., a confirmation, and a plan! Just hate you have to go through another surgery! Sometimes I feel like surgery is my new career...bet you can relate!

    Praying for a great outcome! >:D<
  • Brenda,

    Glad to hear you finally got some answers. Wishing you the best on the upcoming surgery; and hope it all works out for you.

    But with more surgery scheduled, I would imagine our cane fight has been postponed <:P

    As for "The Golden Years." That is something I have heard about for a long time. I have a theory about why it is called the "<b>golden" years, but it is something I should keep to myself [(

    View my history for all the gory details.
  • Howdy Tina,

    I like that! A few months ago (I am retired) a friend asked me if I was going to work part time 'or something.' My reply back was "Nope, my new job is doctor's appointments and spine surgery!" (G) Guess *like* minds or spines think alike! :)

    5 levels surprised me a little as my last two consults were 4. This surgeon saw what I saw and then some at C4/5... Oddly the osteophytes at C2/3 are protecting that level now, and that gives a break to C3/4 - weird. He told me if we did C2/3, C3/4 would for sure go in short order *no thanks, lets go on plan A!

    Once I finish the ciggies I have left, that's it, hopefully done with the cold turkey route. My hubby said he is going to stay in the RV for a while if I do quit that way! Rofla!! I knew I married a smart man! (G)

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

  • Well, at least you now have an answer as to why you have been suffering all this time.

    It makes me wonder why on earth no-one else could see what was going on. At least now you have a plan to deal with this, and hopefully the future will be better once you have recovered. That is when those golden years appear! 8>

    Now you need to get your body into a good state ready for this surgery to give yourself the best chance for success and swift recovery.

    We'll be here to encourage you and cheer you on along this new journey.

    Keep smiling! >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Howdy Curt,

    What's that phrase "Three times the charm?" This will be number 3, maybe the good one this time? I sure hope so! I know there won't be much else left to fuse after this!

    Gotta get with my GP for scripts refills and general check up and blood work. I will then fill her in on the neck/back status to keep her in the loop. I try to keep her up to date to reduce things being overlooked, she also is the keeper of my pain medications.

    Right now November 16th is my follow up, and surgery will be scheduled after the holidays - works well as we go north to see relatives over Thanksgiving and Christmas. :)

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

    Echoing what Jellyhall just said, I'm glad you have an answer. So in November, you'll schedule surgery? I hope this will give you some relief.....hang in there!

    Gentle hugs!!
  • As was said to me, a lot of surgeons aren't comfortable going past 3 levels in the spine at a time, others aren't keen on revisions.

    This surgeon is specialized in reconstruction and revision surgery, and is comfortable with cases like mine. His job will be to stabilize my mess, and mine is to continue (been doing this for a while) eat more healthy and try to get in better shape, and to QUIT smoking. 5 levels should be enough incentive. :)

    I don't think the others really "missed" what was going on, but weren't up to the challenge and too with that, didn't want to admit it. I would have had TONS more respect if they said "You have a failed fusion, and other levels were screwed due to movement. It is above my level of comfort, but here is a really good surgeon that can work this type of surgery..." <--- Something to that affect would have gone high on my respect scale, but now... My opinions are changed reference what they did (or really didn't) do for me. Egos suck! (G)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks very much for the hugs!! Yes it is nice to finally know the "who, what, when, where, why and how" of my mess. I was with this surgeon for over 2 hours to cover everything. I can't remember even being with a doctor for an hour!

    Part of me was hoping to do this before the end of the year as my deductible has been met, but in retrospect, my holidays won't be messed up - it's the only time we can get to see "most" of the family. :)

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

    Good for you thank you knew something just wasn't right and you kept pushing on. I understand your feeling relieved because you actually got advice that makes sense to you. I'm sorry you can't have a quicker resolution, but take care and let us know how you're doing in the meantime!
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • I finally know what has and is going on, and that alone "made my day!!" With the amount of levels, for once, finally I have a very good reason to quit without my brain giving excuses! (G)

    Hopefully it will be a 'win-win' when all is said and done. The only bummer, is the back issues are pushed a year or more so I will be able to fully recover. Otherwise, this is all good. :)

    Thanks KarenD >:D<

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Glad you got your answers!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • My surgeon just emailed me back after we had discussions about stability (at high risk - and have been for 2 years without knowing it) and driving etc. He just told me that if I go 6 weeks smoke free, and none after, we can move the surgery up to the end of September or early October!!! Whooohoooo! I'm guessing he looked over my tests again?

    Most friends I know with multi-level fusions it was a month to 6 weeks to quit (smoke free) for theirs. Wow, this has been *the* best day in how long??? I have less than a week of smokes left, and so advised they are the last.

    This surgery gives me such reason to quit! My brain can't use stupid reasons to talk me out of it either! :)

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

    You sure found a great doctor. Personal emails? I am jelous :)

    I am sure you can quit smoking. I quit October 5th 1998 (when my daughter started kindergartden and came home crying about her momma being a smoker).

    The first few days were tough. I had a few cheats but never bought another pack. I kept clove ciggys in the house the first week (wouldn't inhale cause they scared me but I lit them and pretended after meals). Now they have all kinds of cool stop smoking aids.

    Good luck with it. I think hubby staying out of your way is a great idea :D

  • So glad to hear you found a great Surgeon and that would be great to have the surgery moved up. Have you ever tried Wellbutrin to help with cigs it helped me. Best wishes and know we`re pulling for you and saying a prayer. Gentle hugs. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Howdy Julie,

    He will test me for nicotine, so I can't use anything that would "step me down" as they say. No Nicorate gum, patches...nothing. I am scared about the lack of stability in my neck - I was freaked when I saw how much these levels moved in the various positions in the x-rays!!

    I've informed my hubby I will "cold turkey" when I finish what I have (like 4 or 5 days left), and that's it. I know a "normal/healthy person" is high risk for 5 levels, so I know given I've had a pseudarthrosis - failed fusion of two years, I HAVE to make this work. Whew!!

    When I got that follow up email tonight bouncing me from 6 months to 6 weeks, I lit up!! How odd are we when we are *happy* to have megga levels done? (G) After his telling me he would rather me not even be in a car, never mind driving (average casual crash could finish my neck - that hit hard), I think he looked over my reports and tests again and moved it up.

    Email replies, yeah hehe....that was my first contacts with him a week and a half ago, and it blew me out of the water! Even my original surgeon didn't answer "his" email - his staff did! His last reply to me (get this Julie) 11:38pm! How cool is that?

    Standard spiney, I compared todays (err..it is after midnight, yesterdays) x-rays to the ones a little over a year and a half ago, and too the 6 week ones, and I agree with my new surgeons excited utterance of "ahhh geeeessss" - this should have been caught almost 2 years ago! Hence my comment of would I have 5 levels on the horizon if they caught it then, or 3?

    No, not bitter, but more encouraged to be my own educated advocate! Fortunately my neck isn't so unstable I could sneeze and fubar myself, but a average car accident? What is that? Shudder... I'm just glad he saw what the MRI and x-ray reports MISSED BIGTIME!!!

    Sad...too many medical professionals either blew me off, or didn't want to state the obvious, and I 'served and protected' people like this...sigh..

    I wrote a list tonight for the pros and cons to quit, and unlike years ago when I thought to quit, my pros far out weigh the cons! :) So hoping this works, I want to get this monkey of hell off of my shoulder.



    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks very much for the *HUGZ*, I can feel them! :)

    With him testing me in 6 weeks, I can't chance anything that might give a positive on that test - else the surgery will be canceled! I quit twice in the past, and remember the anxiety and urges, so going to try and program that into my brain so it can deal with it?

    I've had lots of reasons over the years to quit, but none stuck - 5 levels to a stable neck, that sucker is sticking pretty hard. I just hope the crybaby part of my brain gets it!!! When my stock is done, I am done...(please) ciggie free!!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Congrats Brenda! Looks like what happened with you and your previous doctors was the best possible thing that could have happened.

    You jumped on the internet, did your research, contacted, emailed, what sounds like the best imaginable surgeon for you. I know from your posts, you sounded like you were really excited and happy about chosing him, and that was before you even met him.

    You need a doctor that has the skill and courage to tackle 5 levels, and it appears that your previous doctors were not up to task.

    I know with my neuro, when I asked him about doing multi level fusions(3-4) he explained that those were the types of cases he regularly took on. He has done 10 levels :O . So I knew that if things got worse for me in the future, he would be my guy to not shy away.

    Soo happy for you as I was reading your post, and did a happy dance (although not physically, in my head..ouch) when you said that the date has been moved up.

    You will do great kicking the ciggies, you have a great motivation, your health.

    Will be watching your posts and cheering you on all the way through!

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012

  • At last Brenda, things are moving along in the right direction.

    Your surgeon sounds like he is just what your neck needs, and is a good communicator too - Wow! That is a very rare specimen!!

    As for the giving up smoking. You know that it is something that you HAVE to do to help yourself.
    We are here, when you are struggling with it. >:D< >:D< >:D<

    There is sunshine on the horizon!! =D> <:P
    Get your sunglasses out! B)

  • Since PT and continued exercises have brought my pain to a manageable level I haven't posted for a while, but I'm so happy (and sad) for you, Brenda, that I feel compelled to post. Something about giving up ciggies that hasn't been mentioned came to mind - what about exposure to secondhand smoke before you're tested for nicotine? Would the effect of that exposurae show up in the test?

    After smoking for years, I had my last cig on November 22, 1998. Here's how I did it: five days before my last smoke I gave it to God in prayer. When I lighted that last cig, it tasted awful (understatement) - nothing like I'd ever tasted before, or even imagined or had a bad dream about. After two puffs I put it out, cuz I couldn't stand the taste any more. During those rough few days that followed, whenever I had a craving I gave it to God, and it went away. Since then I've thankfully had no desire to amoke. One reason I'm thankful for that is that cigarettes killed my mother, who died of emphysema. Even though she was 73, she might well have had some useful years left had it not been for her smoking.

    Best wishes, Brenda! Gentle 2 U, essmoe
  • I'm big on the adage of "Things happen for a reason", and I agree with you; maybe being blown off *was* a good thing in the end. :)

    As I researched I found several very well trained and experienced surgeons, but when I read their reviews (none by the way had past actions against them), they would be a 2 or 3 out of five (bedside manner, cares, spends time with me, answers my questions etc.) and this surgeon 4.8 out of 5! So far, he is a 5 with me.

    When I first read up on him, I contacted his office to confirm they took my insurance fully expecting an office staffer reply to me during business hours the next day. Instead *the* surgeon wrote me back that night around 8:30pm!! My communications with his office folks have been wonderful, confirmed in person on my appointment yesterday. The time the surgeon spent with me, his attention to detail, his patience with my concerns and questions etc. And then last night answering a couple of questions I had, and moving my pre-surgery date up. Whew!!!

    Last night I wrote up my "pros and cons" for quitting smoking, and this go around my cons are so few!! (G) In years past when I contemplated quitting, the cons for quitting (stupid reasons) outweighed the pros if you can believe that! I'm gonna put each of the pros on sticky notes and place them around the house as reminders if I get weak. I live in the boonies, so no ciggies, can't just hit the store (1 vehicle and hubby uses it for work!) - so that helps.

    It sounds like you too have a winner for a surgeon. Never thinking I would ever have more than say 2 levels in one shot, never even honestly thought to wonder if doctors had issues with 3+ levels. I learned a LOT during my research, that's for sure!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Yes Ms. Jellyhall, I do believe the light at the tunnel was actually lit finally! (G) I too am amazed at the personal attention and interest I am getting from this surgeon and his staff. It wasn't just me. I got there early to fill out the new patient paperwork, and watched a lot of the comings and goings of other patients. The staff was genuine and caring with all. So refreshing in South Florida!! (G)

    Fortunately I quit smoking before (only short periods - but the drive wasn't there then), so the biggest physical part - the anxiety, nervousness, moods won't be a surprise. I won't like it, but "tough Brenda - do it", I am so ready! Never thought surgery would be a "positive motivator" for me!

    Tomorrow I'll be calling the office to set up my appointment. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Congrats on your continued "non smoker" success! Having faith as you do was for sure a plus in your fight. :) Thanks for sharing how it went for you.

    As for second hand smoke. My hubby smokes the occasional cigar, but outside. It is just he and I here, so that won't be an issue. Most of my friends don't smoke, and too in Florida, there is almost nowhere you can smoke indoors, so I feel that affect will be very low.

    One of the first physical pluses I remember when I quit before was my sense of smell getting so much better! A motivator there? It will get me cleaning and freshening the house - busy hands and fingers!! The good thing is I don't have too many "triggers" to smoke, so I can still drink coffee, have a beer or two, eat normal. Well...the phone might be a trigger, I do like to smoke on the phone. Humm...okay, add to 'warning' locations! (G)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I just wanted to jump in and wish you much success with your revision! You must be relieved to finally have found someone who is willing to help you.

    I used to be a smoker for many years and had to quit for the pregnancy of my first child. Man, was it tough! Sometimes I still do crave for one drag, but luckily no one smokes in this town and I hardly ever think about it anymore.

    6 weeks should go by so fast and then hopefully this surgery will eliminate most of your pain! Many gentle hugs!!! >:D< >:D< >:D<
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Thanks so much for your wonderful words of support. :)

    Basically from what my new surgeon told me, in addition to the fusing of these levels, he will "open up" and free the nerves to be sure and get everything in its best chance of reducing nerve pain post op. Considering he will be doing all of this posteriorly, I am guessing he is going to do laminectomies all the way down as well as fuse and lock down with rods and screws?

    Has anyone had them do that on a posterior fusion? It's the only way *I* figure they "open and free" all of it up?

    As for smoking, err quitting. I've written out my pros and cons for quitting, and contrary to years past, my 'cons' list is very small. I'm gonna put my pros on sticky notes and post them around my more common places in the house for motivation. I really need to do this, especially knowing now how bad my neck has gotten.

    You guys are great!! But you all know that. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I have quit thee times in the past 2 years. Once for 3 months, and most recently for 7 weeks prior to surgery. I used the pill chantix and you take the pill at half strength for the next 3-4 days, then full strength on the next 4 days. All the time during the first week you are allowed to smoke. On the 8 day, your quit day, you take 1 pill in the
    AM and one at night. It works on your brain receptors and it helps to quit the urge to smoke. (psychlogical) I have found it very successful. Of course I am an idiot, and 3 days prior t o surgery started smoking again because I was a nervous wreck. I too live in South Fla and have an amazing Dr out of Um and Jackson. where do you live and who are you using. If it is inappropriate to state doctors names on this forum, kindly Private Message me. I have started the chantix again and my quit date is this Sat. Chantix costs about $180 for a monthth supply, but so does cigarettes. It does not have nicotine in it So the nic craving is gone, the thing you have to concentrate is behavioral. Like no coffee in the morning if that is one of your routines, no smoking in the car, etc. All your typical triggers. it very doable...the first three days are hard because you are quitting a behavior that you have had for a long time. It's a mind game, but, the nicotine
    Is not the prob. I am a firm believer in it, and maybe it will help you. I think much,much better than going cold turkey. Each time I quit, I thought it made it tremendously more doable. My feeling is why make a hard thing harder and try anything that will help you be more successful in the long run. Best of luck and let me know how you are doing.

    Natalie in North Miami Beach

    Natalie in north Miami beach
  • Natalie,

    Due to being on Beta blockers, Chantix isn't a recommended option for me. From what I was told, it can totally screw up my blood pressure.

    I figure having 5 levels cleaned out and fused should be as good a motivator as pills could be. Fortunately the physical (addiction) issues clear out in a couple of days, then its a case of mental control - which I hope I am at at this stage.

    I will PM you the name of my surgeon, as you are correct "names" are not allowed in the open forums. I'm from Homestead and my surgeon has offices in Kendall and Coral Gables, and privileges at 6 local area hospitals if I remember right.

    Until I found him, I thought I was going to have to go north or out of state for a surgeon that does revisions; but as it turns out, my window at just going through a revision has past and more levels are involved. Sigh... :)

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