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Myelopathy continues after ACDF surgery

LaurieLLaurie Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had ACDF surgery on 9/2/2011. They did three level (c4-c7)with allografts, titanium plate and 15 screws. (That seems like alot.) This was an urgent surgery scheduled less than 2 weeks after diagnosis due to increased myelopathy.

I was diagnosed with herniated discs and lumbar stenosis about 7 years ago. A year and a half ago I started having sudden leg weakness, stumbling and falling. I thought it was due to the lumbar stenosis. I went to my Family Physician twice after severe falls where she x-rayed my legs for injuries. Symptoms worsened in January. After falling twice at work, I lost my job. Unable to step up curbs, unable to climb steps any longer, walking very slowly, can only walk with cart for 10 minutes max, feel disoriented, fear of falling increased, legs feel so heavy,spastic movement in right foot noted, start holding furniture and walls to walk. Dr. sent me to PT. Treated for lumbar stenosis with lumbar traction which caused neck pain. PT sent back to doctor for eval. Lumbar MRI ordered & showed spinal compression in 3 areas.

Urgent Neurosurgeon referral per Dr. and Radiologist. Saw Neuro 3 days later, Neurosurgeon stated symptoms were cervical and not lumbar. Had cervical MRI that day. Neuro ordered a gait eval then Rx'd walker.Cord compression at 3 areas in cervical spine, immed. surgery scheduled.

NS looked disappointed after asking if my walking was improved in the hospital. I told him I still had hope. Had 1st post op visit on Tuesday. NS mostly discussed my pain problems from going off Celebrex. (Taking Celebrex since Vioxx removed. Stop Celebrex week before surgery, horrible aches started week after surgery.)Then he ordered PT for gait training. Do other people have PT this soon? I have to wear hard collar 24/7 for 12 weeks and cannot drive.

Would love to hear input on myelopathy.


  • and welcome to Spine Health.

    It sounds like your cervical problems had become very serious before they were diagnosed.

    If you google cervical myelopathy, you will find lots of information. Also there are some good articles on this Site.


    Sometimes, if the myelopathy becomes serious enough, surgery is done more to stop it getting worse rather than getting rid of it. However, don't give up hope as nerves take a long time to heal.

    I have spondylosis in my neck and MRI has shown that 2 of my discs are pressing on the cord. As I don't have many of the signs of myelopathy, my neurosurgeon is taking a watching and waiting approach while I have weekly physiotherapy.

    I am waiting for an appointment to have a full spine MRI and then will see the neurosurgeon on 11th October to see how things have progressed in the last 6 months.

    I am having some symptoms in my legs, but haven't been told what is causing them yet. The neurologist who did EMG and nerve tests on me did say that he thought they were coming from my neck.

    I worry that if things are left for too long, that I will be left with permanent nerve or cord damage.

    You are sstill very new after your surgery and there is time for improvement during the healing.
    Glad that you found us :H
    The support you will get here from friendly and understanding people will help you through this.

  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find others here whom have had both the three level fusions and have myelopathy. As far as to decide the results of your surgery, it is still very early going. You need to get out the brace and and see how you do then. The brace is not uncommon for what you went through, either. I had mine on 24/7 for the three months. While it might be uncomfortable the brace was a welcome relief for the bobble head feeling. Don't be surprised if when the brace comes off you take a few steps backwards as the brace tends to weaken your neck muscles. In physical therapy are they working on your gait issues? Are you doing land or aqua therapy. I would imagine they can't get you in a pool till your incision has healed. But a pool you will only have 20% of your body weight and can work on balancing more.

    Just keep in mind your not alone and many here understand what your going through. Keep us posted on how your doing and once again welcome to spine-health.
  • Thank you for the warm welcome and for your input.
  • Laura,

    If you Google "Myelopathy", you will find that it is edema or trauma (impact, compression) to the cord, and unfortunately sometimes the damage is permanent. My surgeon already told me that chances are I will "not gain" neurologically on this surgery, as the myelopathy damage may not recover. So for me, "stabilization and stop progression" is a big part of my expected results from more surgery.

    It can take a year or more to see if your nerves have recovered. Fingers crossed for you. Welcome to Spine Health!!! Sorry you had to come, but happy that you've found a great site of folks "who get it."

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I also had neurological problems before my surgery as well as balance issues. The balance issues started to get better but then i took another hit to my spine and things went backwards again. Some days are better then others. Even though its been a few years since the surgery i still practice my balancing exercises because i find that if i stop then i start to regress again. Its the use it or lose it thing. Pain wise i'm still not in great shape and was told that i may have to learn to live with it. No one can tell me if or when it will get better. With cord compression i was told that they just do the surgery to stop you from getting worse. unfortunately i now have some cord compression in my thoracic spine as well and am waiting to see my neuro again. i hope that you feel better soon,don't ever give up hope.
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  • Brenda,
    Hello I thought I we could continue the discussion being that Laurie has not been on the forum for 3 years now. :) Hello, I just had 3 level acdf surgery for levels c4-7 on June 1st for Myelopathy. You are right in saying that sometimes the damage is permanent and that surgery is meant to only stop the progression, not to necessarily reverse the damage. When I saw my doctor he did tell me that if the myelopathy continues to damage the spine so that a person starts having problems walking and with balance then he cannot fix that it is permanent. That is why I decided to have this surgery, before it got worse. I had Physical Therapy for 6 months, 2 injections and I was only getting worse, and was referred to a surgeon. I am so greatful I found one that was amazing!
    What has been your experience?
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