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Having 4 level cervical discectomy & fusion on Dec 19, 2011

duckiedduckie Posts: 14
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am new here and have been reading alot of posts. I am very scard! I have degenerative disc disease c3-4 thru c6-7. Another term I have is cervical spondylotic myelopathy. I did get a second opinion and the out come was the same. I'm being told that if left alone, I am expected to deteriorate neurologically and am at a unacceptable risk for catastrophic injury even with minor trama. C3-4 has impingement into the spinal canel and some degree of retrolisthesis so 4 level discectomy and fusion with bone grafting and plate placement is recommended by the 2nd opinion.
So much of this is jibber jabber to me. It's all so difficult to understand!
My fears are very real and I'm trying to keep with the positive instead of the negitive.
I'm 51 and never imagined I'd fall apart health wise as I have in the last few years. I thought my pain was from strees until I started being woken up by not being able to lift my arms and like they were on fire, the 3rd time I started the doctor(s) journies.
Looking forward to all responces & advise.





  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find several of us with 4 level fusions. Somethings to consider about the surgery, are what type of bone grafting material will they be using? For example you have allograft(cadaver), autograft(your bone), or some other form of a synthetic version such as BMP(bone morophongenic protein). I highly recommend that it is autograft, as the failure rates with multi-levels go up. You can google around the net and check the failure rates, as you don't want to do this all over again if a level doesn't fuse, the surgery to fix it is much harder. For your understanding of fusion they will be removing the disc that is between the vertebra and fusing it to the next vertebra, so it forms solid bone through those levels. We have a animated video in the video section that shows the procedure. Also there is a video that shows the structure of the spine and how it works. This will help you understand how your spine works and what they are doing.

    Other things to consider is will you be wearing a brace or collar post surgery? If it is a brace be sure to ask for extra pads. One of the things you mention in your post is retrolisthesis which means the level is not stable and is moving, in away it is not to. Myelopathy is a term you can read much about. Did they tell you the surgery is done to stop progression but won't undo the damage that has been done. The only way to stop the progression of myelopathy is through surgery. So if your symptoms aren't to bad it is important to keep them that way. Symptoms I mean as far as falling and stumbling, clones and so on.

    As far as the surgery itself, the biggest issue post surgery is the muscle spasms. However you do want to stay up on your pain meds, so the pain doesn't get ahead of you. There has been patients here whom started feeling so well post surgery, they did to much to only suffer set backs. Many have woke up from surgery and the pain in there arm is all gone, and just as happy as can be. Others depending on the situation will take longer for the nerve to heal.

    There is a thread in the top of the surgery forum of post surgery needs, that would be a good read for you. It will help you with things to need post surgery. Some things that are really important is bendy straws, throat lozenges, button up shirts. You also may find sleeping in a recliner to be more beneficial than a bed. If you don't have one, as I didn't, you can use pillows to create the same thing. Also you want to follow the doctors orders of no BLT(bending, lifting and twisting). Also you want to do things close to your body, so make so your not reaching out or up for things.

    You will be having fused the same levels I am fused at so the one thing they should have told you is you will loose some Rom(range of motion). Sometimes depending on the severity having those levels fused, doesn't change as much as some can't move their neck anyway without pain.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If I can be of any assistance don't hesitate to pm me. Look forward to reading more of your post and please ask questions you have, and keep us updated.
  • and welcome to Spine Health.

    You will find others here that also have cervical problems, who either have had surgery or are trying to avoid it.

    I also have problems from C3 to C7, with cord compression at C3/4 and C4/5. My surgeon is watching and waiting to see how I progress. I suspect that I will need to have surgery at some point. I have had a surgeon advise that I should have C3/4 and C4/5 fused, but his Consultant recommended waiting and reviewing me in 6 months. (We have already done that once.)

    As tamtam says, there are lots of people who have posted here that they felt immediate improvement after surgery and they are no longer here as they are back to their life. Others take longer to heal.

    It sounds like you will be having a quiet Christmas, but hopefully the New Year will bring a better, more comfortable life. :-)

    tamtam : Are you fully fused after your 4 level fusion? Was it done in one surgery?

  • I appreciate the info. I have been reading and watching videos here for about 2 weeks now, on & off.
    My doctor's assistant showed me the thing they will be inserting in between the vertebra I do remember him saying it was some sort of a synthetic material), my dr. said then they will use some of my own bones (good ones)taken during the surgery that gets all mixed in there to form a fusion. Then I will have a large titainium plate & screws to hold it all together.
    This is how I'm understanding what they told me.
    As for the collar, he said it will be a soft collar and to ask for a second one to take home with me from the hospital for using one in the shower.

    Both drs. said I need the surgery & with out it I am at a high risk of becoming paralized. If I get in a minor accident or fall down etc.(how sacary)I have compression on my spinal cord etc.
    I have lived with pain in my neck & shoulders & upper and lower back for so many years, I've learned to live with it though at times it has been horrible. I do have constant pain all down the back of my neck from the top down & shoulders, as I do now just sitting here writing. I have had a hard time going up/down the stairs & need to hold the rail helping my legs get up exspecially and down them, it's like my legs & ankles don't want to work normally. I can barely walk getting out of bed between my ankle pain, knees & lower back pain. (probably another issue with my lower back). I thought I was loosing my mind. It was nothing for me to fly up & down the stairs just a few months ago. My body can no longer keep up with my mind. I have always been very active & physical. I have numbness in my left hand & fingers, I have a lot of pain in my left wrist,some times I get a burning sensation from my elbows to the tips of my fingers but mostly on the left. I remember my dr. saying something about the right side should be the worse. I have been opening doors with the right hand, even getting into the car.My hand writing is getting worse which is something I do all day working in an office and on the computer (I'm right handed). All along I truely thought the pain was caused from stress & that's a whole other chapter. My balance is off too, some times I stumble as if I'm drunk. I think part of my immediate memory is going too.?. So after drs. thinking I had carpal tunnel & going thru all those tests, a hand surgion said that I may have a problem with my neck and not carpal tunnel. Well after an MRI I was sent to a Nero surgeon and here I am.
    My Mom is going to come down here on the 15th until the 23rd unless I'm in bad enough shape that she needs to stay then she will for a little longer & thru Christmas. I hope she will be able to go home though as most of my family is up north. As I said my surgery is the 19th. My nero dr wants to meet with her and my son, we are going to see him on the 16th (Fri b-4). I thought it was strange that he wanted them to see him b-4 the surgery and talk to the but he said he wants to go over everything with them so there's no questions as to why he did the surgery needed. Of coarse there are risks & being paralized is "one" of them. That's the scariest part for me to even think about. Also he said there are no guarentees that my symptons will go away. I pray they do because my quality of life physically is diminishing.

    I will have everything ready for when I come home and it's good advise that I don't over do if I'm feeling good. I will remember that!
    I will ask my dr about muscle spasams along with another list of questions I will ask on the 16th.
    I do have a recliner if I need it.They did tell me to have lots of pillows for my bed too.
    My dr did tell me I will loose about 30 deg range of motion. That sure does sound like alot to me but thinking about it, I have limited ROM now due to the pain I have.

    I got to thinking & I thought I'd be able to go back to work on Jan 3rd-2 weeks after surgery but from reading all the things I have on this web page & googles, I'm not so sure about that any more. I will talk to my dr. about it. I so need to...I am my only income.
    I will keep my situation updated. It feels good to communicate with other people who know & understand how I feel. I haven't written down any of this until now and look so very forward to any & all the support I can get & give.

    Thank you for the eyes & ears thus far...
  • Thank you for responding. This is a good thing being able to talk so freely about it.
    I am glad for all the people who are not on here any more because they were able to get back to their lives!
    I hope that for everyone!
    As for Christmas, it will be ok, I've had several quiet ones the last years. And I'm happy my Mom is coming. I told her I hope she doesn't get too bord! She just wants me to be ok & is very supportive.
    My dr. office manager was actually surprised I didn't schedule the surgery right away. I explained that the co I work for shuts down between Christmas & New Years and I took a vacation week 1 week prior to that.She seemed to understand the circumstances.

    tamtam, do you need another surgery after a 4 level?
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