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C6-C7 ACDF - 3 months after Op and still struggling

Sue-ASDF-C7SSue-ASDF-C7 Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi Everyone

Hope someone can help. I had an ACDF on C6-C7 3 months ago and am no better than before the op although the movement is better. The disc herniated in January leaving me unable to move my head and with severe muscle spasms in my neck and spine and electric shocks in my hand etc, but as I wasn't scanned until the end of April it took 14 weeks to diagnose. The operation took place 2 weeks later to remove part of the disc, replace with a carbon fibre box and fuse.
I am currently on 600mg of gabapentin, 60mg of dihydrocodeine and 100mg of diclofenic a day for the pain. I am still getting electric shocks in my left hand, shooting pains up my neck and now into my ears (?!) and a continual burning pain down my spine which is really getting me down.
I expected to be back at work after 6 weeks of the op but am still off sick and its now 3 month.
At my first MRI which identified the C6-C7 disc herniation (the surgeon described it as a huge piece of disc having broken off), the neurosurgeon also commented on C5-C6 bulging but decided to leave it as he didn't know how long it had been like that.
The pain increased between the time I had the MRI and the operation and after the operation I was told a massive piece of disc had shot off and lodged itself in the fibre surrounding the spinal cord and had dented the spinal cord. The surgeon said that it had been far worse than he thought at scan stage. After physio that has not helped, I had the results of another MRI today which showed C6-C7 op ok, a vertical fracture in C5-C6 and C4-C5 bulging but with nothing actually touching the spinal cord, although I understand the dent is still there at C6-C7. The surgeon has signed me off for a further 6 weeks and referred me to another neurosurgeon for a second opinion.
I expected to be told I needed another op as all the symptoms have come back so was not expecting to be referred for a second opinion and left the hospital without asking anything other than about pain relief - the consultant has increased the gabapentin to 900mg.
Has anyone else experienced anything like this?? I'm hoping someone might be able to give me an idea as to what might be going on???
Thanks for your help and support.

Sue xxx


  • Welcome to Spine Health.

    Sorry you are still experiencing difficulties after undergoing surgery. One thing I would like to comment on, is your shooting electrical pain and burning pain. I have both of those and they are controlled largely by Neurontin (Gabapentin) these days. I went through several months of adjusting the dose in order to find the one that really works for me. It isn't perfect and I also have a spinal cord stimulator to help with the pain, but, the Neurontin made a huge difference once the dose was set at 1600mg three times a day. Has your doc ever mentioned increasing the dose you are taking in order to see if it calms things down?

    Keep us posted.

  • Hi C
    Thanks for replying to me. Apologies for the very long initial message, just getting very low about it all and was trying to get some help.
    I'm on 900mg gabapentin - 300mg three times a day - not as much as you. It eases it a bit, but is knocking me out. I've managed to get an appointment with the neurosurgeon I've been referred to for a second opinion on Tuesday and am hoping I will get further there.
    Just don't know what to expect or even what to do if this is it. How do you cope with work when you're so doped up and trying to manage pain???
  • I'll join this club.

    On June 3 I had 3 levels ACDF, C5-7. I still have as much pain as I did before the surgery, including neuropathies, and have yet to have a post-procedure MRI. have had exactly 2 postops, one with the orthopod's PA, and with the deity himself. I'm supposed to see Himself next Monday, but cannot hold out any longer. I called and politely requested an earlier appt w/either Himself or the PA (who is being deployed to Afghanistan next week...can you say understaffed?) I have to take 6 to8 Percocet 10/325 daily to control the pain, and as the day wears on, the neuropathies in my hands get worse, as well as gait incoordination.

    This all begs the question: WTF?

    I have been told up to SIX MONTHS recovery (post-operatively conveyed, of course). So, I called my PCP and asked for a referral to a neurosurgeon at another hospital for a second opinion. I"ve lost my job, and suicidal because of the constant pain, and frustrated at the unresponsiveness at the office staff.
    Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place.
    To get the best results from a spinal injury, a patient should listen to their doctor, and the doctor should listen 10 times as hard to the patient.
  • Great club to be in eh??

    I wish I could say something positive, but guess that would sound all wrong at the moment.

    I'm as the second neurosurgeon tomorrow so hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel. I believe a neurosurgeon is the guy to see, so if I was you I would really push for that.

    Keep in touch and let me know how you get on.

    Sue x
  • Sue

    I had C6-C7 acdf in march of this year and after the brace came off, I am not able to turn my head to the right very far. I have been doing pt for a few months and I havent noticed any improvement. I have had trigger point injections to help with muscle issues.

    The dr still says it is early....but I had planned to be back at work in June. I go back next month and hopefully they can tell me what is wrong.

  • Hi All
    I had ACDF on c5-c7 on Aug 4th 2011. I went home a few hrs after surgery and back to work on the 15th. I weaned my self down to Loritab 5/500 twice a day. One in the morning and one after lunch. I was sore but figure that's to be expected. I work in a call center and am on a computer all day. I have had problems sleeping because my neck is so stiff, but on Monday(22nd) after work I began to have severe pain in my shoulder; right were my arm and shoulder join. I was up all night and could not go to work on Tues.I called doc his nurse prescribed a muscle relaxer. I slipped into a coma around 8 last night and awoke at 10am today. I cannot function like that. I fell about 6ft off a ladder 8 yrs ago and over the years have been misdiagnosed with various ailments. I decided to have this surgery because I do not want to spend the rest of my life on pills. I went back to doc today and he said I went back to work too early and because of the strain they put on my shoulders to access my spine I am aggravating the shoulder by being on the computer 8-10hrs a day. I am off work again until Monday. He said the muscle relaxers will help with my neck and sleeping, but I just need to give my should time to recover; he suggested alternating cold and hot. Now I am a bit concerned after reading all these posts that I have a long road ahead of me; PT, drugs, more surgery, dear God what have I gotten myself into? I cannot lose my job! I have only been here 4 yrs and have no retirement options and disability is a process that takes way too long and would not cover my bills anyway. Does anyone have any words of encouragment?
  • Recovery for each person will take a different amount of time. While all of you had the same surgery, it depends on what the surgery was actually done for. Surgery of course is used as a course of last resorts. Some will have permanent nerve damage while others will just take some time to heal. AS far as the muscle relaxer putting you out, you will get used to the dose over some time. Sometimes a additional med is needed to calm things back down, if they get flared up. I have even seen some need a injection to get them back on their feet. One thing to keep in mind with these surgeries as you need to be walking and walking everyday, to get your body built back up. The surgery is major surgery and it does take a lot out of you.

    Sue, hopefully you have seen the new surgeon and they have some answers for you? It is not uncommon if a level was already bad that once surgery is done it places additional stress on another level and can lead to issues. Although there is no guarantee it will happen or not happen. But I do hope they found the answers to your issues and have some type of treatment plan moving forward. Let us know.
  • It seems most of the content on this site is American, so not sure if my case is relevant from UK?
    I had severe degeneration of cerviacl discs, and was given conservative treatment for 6mths. I have never known pain like it in my life! I could barel feed myself, and was shuffling as I walked. In
    Aug 2011 I had my op,( King's College ,London) and was discharged home after 2days, far too early! But what you need is PATIENCE after this extensive complex surgery. I am now 9 months post op, I have been having regular physiotherapy to my shoulder,&arms, and also laser, and ultra sound, as I had a bony spur pressing on the spinal cord. I am beginning to see there is a life to be had, but it has been slow & tough getting there. I will probably always take painkillers, and have a degree of nerve damage to arm, but be encouraged, it just takes time. Ignore these "bright sparks" who go back to work after a few weeks, they are the exception. I am 65, and doing well, just slow! Good luck to you all x
  • singing nurse

    As you are in the UK (like me), I am interested to know what type of surgery you had.
    Did you have a titanium cage?
    Any bone graft? (I have been told I will not have any)
    Did you have a plate? (none for me)
    Did you have a collar? (none for me)

    I have been told that I will need to have 3 months off work.
    I am being watched while we wait (Don't know what for) and have been for 18 months. A got a second opinion from a neurosurgeon who said we should do surgery, but then I have been told that I need to see a neurologist to rule out MS.

    Glad to hear that you are doing well.

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