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Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy with fusion C4-5 & C5-6 and profound nerve damage

PerseusPPerseus Posts: 17
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I am new to spine health and blogs in general so please bear with me. I had posterior cervical foraminotomy on 12/22 with a revision fusion at C5-6 and fusion at C4-5. My only significant symptom before surgery was slight numbness on half my index finger and half my thumb, off and on. But after surgery I awoke to feel as though I had had a stroke. My right arm is very weak and does not follow my commands. Currently it is about 30% the strength it was and I keep knocking things off etc because it is not working. My doc said he thought it would be worse because it was so tight to do get to where he needed but I am scared to death that I am now disabled with a right arm that does not work. I cannot even raise my arm enough to be able to brush my hair. He is telling me to just wait 6-8 weeks and he expects it to resolve but that is not something I am comfortable with. I don't want to sit by and watch my limited function drop off. He never told me about this before surgery.

Does anyone know about this problm. It is bizarre...my right arm is numb through the shoulder deltoid. I cannot even pick a notebook up. Should I be thinking about asking for an EMG less than a week post op. I actually need to have some assistance in doing my daily functions. I am now disabled amd don't know what to do and am hoping that someone will be able to help me.



  • I haven't had cervical surgery (Mine was lumbar fusion), but I have read about C5 palsy and wonder if this is what you are experiencing. Try to do a search on C5 palsy and see if that sounds like what you have.

    I do hope that with time your symptoms will resolve and you will be pleased that you had surgery.
  • Hi Perseus,
    I hope you are feeling better and your arm is improving. I have had 2 cervical surgeries, the first a 4 level laminoplasty c4-7 and discectomy T2/3. After that surgery, my left arm was very compromised, horrible, painful nerve spasms & I had to use my right arm to move it around but it did improve, I thought it was more than likely swelling & bruising around the nerve shoot which is probably quite hard to avoid doing this kind of surgery. That was Aug 2010. I was doing great with recovery, within a few weeks I had my arm back but then I popped a disc in Jan 2011 - C7/T1 which started to compromise my C8 nerve affecting my left arm top of my L upper chest muscle (whatever that is called), my L shoulderblade, under side of left arm & ring & little fingers. I had a foraminotomy on 11/30/11 and a partial fusion C5-T1. After the surgery I freaked out somewhat as the fusion was a surprise but also because I had terrible nerve spasms all down my left arm again and my ring & little fingers were paralysed. The surgeon's PA wanted to get me in for a CT Myelogram a week after surgery, I told her to shove it, politely of course, and sat it out as I thought it was more than likely inflammation around the foraminotomy site causing the issue and it was. Within 3 weeks, I had the use of the fingers back, followed by pins & needles all down my L arm, followed by a sunburn sensation, now it's back to normal pretty much. I rested as much as possible, and also took plenty of the homeopathic remedy Hypericum in a 1M dose. I'm into that stuff, I'm also on pretty high doses of Gabapentin, pre op, 3600mg p/day, now 2700mg & cutting back gradually. That does help with the neuropathy too.
    Anyway, that's my story, I hope you are feeling better and regaining use of your right arm, I know how scary it can be.
  • I appreciate all of the suggestions and info. I met with my surgeon last week and he was a little more understanding. I don't think that he really knew how compromised my function was. He will do an EMG after about 4-5 weeks post op. The numbness has improved some but not the loss of function. He will also let me do PT in a couple of weeks. It has almost been 4 weeks post op. He will follow me about every 2-3 weeks now.

    Prior to surgery, I had a tiny bit of numbness on my right index fingertip with a touch on my thumb which resolved prior to surgery. After surgery my entire arm was numb from shoulder to fingertips. I am happy that at least the numbness is better but I still can't do much with my arm. I can't peel potatoes, cut meat, brush hair, grocery shop, etc., and of course I cannot drive yet for another 3+ weeks.

    It is still hard to not get depressed and I want to look into counseling. I will be happy when I can use just one hand instead of two hands to drink from a glass like an adult.

    I hope that my next message will be about how excited I am that function is returning. Does anyone know what it feels like when function starts to return...not just numbness leaving but function returning? I have lost about 75% function and wondered if there are more spasms or what others have experienced.

    Thanks for the support.

  • Hi Perseus,

    I had some what the same thing your describing following a posterior fusion. I did loose all function of the arm and hand. As far as what it felt like as it came back, I have to say I really don't remember. I didn't get all of the function back as I had of hoped, but at least it is moveable and I can once again use my fingers to some degree. I will say it was lots of physical therapy both in house and a home program. My surgeon is a firm believer in the two year mark, as far as the degree of what will come back and what damage may have been done.

    While I know it is hard to get through the recovery, try to stay positive and try to measure your success by week not the day. You might try using a towel and roll it up and use it to squeeze as that was one of the exercise that helped. Also I did use the keys on my computer and just used the word editor to work on trying to get them typing. For example I just did random thoughts of the day, so it was kind of exercise I was not completely focusing on my hand and arm, but more concentration was on my thoughts. Also you might find the chat useful, to chat with others but also to give your hands some workouts on the keyboards, but not directly focusing on them. Keep in mind recovery is a long process and you had major surgery with some heavy medications and some of the depression can be the post surgery of the drugs leaving your body? Try and look at how far you have come already. Also reading inspirational things helped me, along with listening to motivational speakers that I had on cd's. I am glad your surgeon is going to run a emg, but hopefully it is just the nerves were stirred up during surgery. Good luck and keep us posted on how you get along.
  • Hi there,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
    I have had four prior anterior fusions (first two failed to fuse, third was great, and fourth has now failed).
    I'm having a fifth fusion in two days on Thursday. It will be a posterior entry, fusing C3 or C4 to T1 or T2, depending upon what is found once the doctor goes inside. The neurosurgeon, the PA, the nurse, the surgical nurse, and my physical therapist have all told me that this surgery will be MUCH more painful and invasive than anything I have ever gone through previously.
    It terrifies me that I'm doing this, and the reality that my hand functions may be worse than they are now (which is already bad on the right). I'm wondering how both of your hand fuctions are doing, and how long I should expect post-op to have significant problems? Thank you for sharing-I so appreciate it.
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