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Very positive ACDF experience!

RundadRRundad Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:00 AM in Recovering from Surgery
I wanted to share my VERY positive experience with ACDF recovery. I know that as a general rule, we normally only take the time to write about things that are a bad experience, and we just let the good things go unspoken...so, here is my story.
I have had a rough time with my neck and back from a young age. In my early 20's, I made it worse with a career in auto glass replacement that basically destroyed my cerivical spine. I am now 45 years old. I had several episodes of neck pain that made me stop work as I could not get out of bed without help. I went through therapy and the typical pain med/muscle relaxer route, and it would get me back to work. Over the past 13 years, I have been in a position in outside sales that has removed the hard labor from my life, and my neck has only given my occasional bad flare-ups. This ended in October of 2011 when I had a "normal" flare-up that was blown up by a chiropractor visit. It went from moderate pain to extreme pani and weakness in about 2 hours. I began the process of seeing my neurosurgeon and testing and therapy and more testing(MRI, CT Myelogram, nerve tests). After nearly four months of no relief, we finally got to the point of surgery.
On Feb. 10th, I went under the knife in Cincinnati. I had a double ACDF with donor bone and plate. I awoke with NO pain in my neck where it had been 2 hours before any time I moved my head to the left! The numbness in my left hand and the pain in my left shoulder were gone! I was sitting up and eating peanut butter crackers and drinking soda in less than an hour after surgery and I was on my way home about 2 hours post surgery! Yes, there was some pain and difficulty swallowing. The worst part for the first 3 days was the extreme dry throat and pain in swallowing. This was manageable with pain meds and got better every day. I am now 10 days post-surgery and I have to say, I feel great! I am walking a lot, helping around the house and have almost no pain. I have been off pain meds since day 6 and have only had 1 muscle relaxer in the last 3 days.
I left the hospital with NO collar of any kind and slept pretty well from the first night. My biggest problem has been stopping sleeping on my stomach! :) I cannot praise this procedure enough. I have a great Dr. and have been very blessed. Believe me when I tell you there was much prayer involved in this whole ordeal. Thanks for reading such a long post, but have faith if you are facing this procedure. There are great results out here. I will keep you posted with shorter(I promise) posts as I get back to running and living without neck pain.
God bless,


  • I'm 6 weeks post op of a 2 level too but I have to wear the collar for 6 more weeks. No complaints though.
  • Feb 10th must have been a lucky day! I had a one level C5/6 on that day and I also feel great! I went back to work today. I didn't have a collar either. i hope your recovery continues to go well. I'm ready to get this stupid tape off my neck so I can see how bad my gash is!
  • They do the incision along a natural line in your neck-mine is 6 weeks post op and you can definitely see where they did it but for me it's just one more plus in the insurance settlement from the car accident. I have a picture of it that I can post of you'd like me to.

    My neighbor upstairs had the same surgery a few years ago and you can still see the scar. IMO it's sort of a conversation piece. She saw me with the collar on and asked what I did to my neck. I told her and she said that's what she had done and showed me her neck.

    The other day while grocery shopping one of the cashiers I know asked me what I did to my neck(still have the collar on) There was a lady in line who was listening intently to what I said and she shook her head-said she had the same thing 10 years ago-her scar you could hardly see.

    At the NH my Mom is in one of the new Nursing Directors asked me why I had the brace. I told her and she said she suspected such. I've found people to be more considerate of me when they see me with the brace and receive more smiles. The first week afterwards my dad, sister and I went out for dinner. They all walked ahead of me right into the restaurant but some lady who I didn't know saw me and told me to go ahead of her-that was after her husband just barged in a head of me.

    I actually have more people saying hi to me than before I had the surgery and the brace. It's weird!

    Good luck to the both of you! Having a positive attitude helps so much-since I've gotten out of the post surgery depression I find it not so hard to keep a positive attitude.
  • I've seen a few of the scars... I'm not worried really about it, but this one is MINE!
  • But just think, you now belong to a select society that has had this kind of surgery. Be PROUD of your scar!

    Or try Mederma-that will make the scar go away. Or taking a vitamin E capsule and spreading the contents on it. Only do it when the doctor says it's okay.

    I'm not doing anything for it-I want it there in case I have to go to trial. Scars don't bother me-it just means I've been through a battle and survived it.
  • I am amazed at how my incision has looked better every day. I had internal stictching and the surface incision was glued, so I saw my incision as soon as I looked in the mirror. For several days, the site swelling made the incision quite awe inspiring. But now, 11 days post-op, the swelling has gone down to a point where parts of my scar are almost invisible. I hopw I at least have enough to brag about. :)

    I am amazed that so many people have braces for so long. If you have or had a brace, did you have bone graft and plate installed? Just wondering. Speedy recoveries to all and God bless.
  • Hi Rundad-I just had my 6 week post op-2 level fusion with instrumentation and was told I could start weaning myself off the collar and I would not need PT unless I had muscle spasms in my neck while doing so. They used a plastic thing filled my my own for the graft. They said my xrays looked GREAT and the screws and stuff were still in place. I have another x ray in 6 weeks.

    My incision still looks awesome, LOL!
  • I didn't have bone or a plate, but it works similar to a plate. I have a zero profile implant called Stalif C. Instead of a plate that screws into the side of the vertebrae, the screws in this one angle upward and downward into the vertebrae. It's hard to describe but google has pics. The implant itself has a hole in the middle that is filled with hip bone marrow, which I dearly hope is busy making bone right now!
  • Great thread, inspirational to read!

    That's the first I've seen a Stalif C implant. Cool idea.
  • Thanks for all the great replies! It is very encouraging to hear from others who have had a good experience with this procedure. Quite honestly, I nearly cancelled my surgery the day of, when I woke up at 4AM and found that I was scared to death. I am so glad I went through with it and getting happier about it every day.
  • When we arrived at the hospital the morning of my surgery I asked my hubby to drop me off at the door before parking because I had to go to the bathroom so bad. Yes, I had urinary urgency....not knowing I had to go to the bathroom until it was almost too late. When I met up with him and my daughter after they parked, they laughed at me saying that once they dropped me off they worried that I was going to skip out the back door.

    No question, no doubts, glad I had the surgery!

    Take care!
  • Hi Rundad...
    I had 2 level ACDF (c 5-6-7) 10 weeks ago today! I only had the collar on in the hospital...was told to wear it out in public or when a passenger in the car. Told specifically not to wear it sleeping. I am shocked that so many have to wear it for weeks or months.

    I see the NS tomorrow, and am having x-rays done prior to my appointment to see if there is any progress with the fusion.

    Your recovery sounds miraculous! I am doing well, but not as well as you are! :) I also had the glue on my incision, and I'm amazed at how good it looks and how small it is for all that the NS did in there! I woke up from surgery with complete relief of my numbness/tingling in my right arm, and have not had any episodes since then. I do have some stiffness in my neck that I am working out in PT.

    I'm a few years older than you and have a history of DDD...I had a lumbar stabilization procedure 5 years ago that is doing well.

    Congratulations on your successful story - it's been great to read about it. Best wishes for your continued recovery.

  • And when I saw the one where they had to "tease" the extruded disc out of the spinal canal I got all freaked out because I had seen my MRI and knew that's what he was going to have to do.

    Well, after the surgery he told me he had to do that. Plus the epidural injection I had left some scar tissue that added to the surgery time.

    I have to tell you-I feel so much better. That awful stabbing pain is gone-that was the worse part. It's great to have the collar off-I only put it on when we went and took my Mom for a ride-she's in a NH with Alzheimer's. Before that I went for a 2 1/2 mile walk and I have to admit I was tired after our outing with Mom. But tomorrow is supposed to be lousy here so it's going to be a stay in bed late day in my recliner and catch up on TV shows ON DEMAND

    I say take one day at a time. I have an appointment next week with my orthopedic surgeon to discuss my surgery for the torn meniscus. I figure that I survived a neurosurgery so I can manage another one on my knee which will be a lot easier and less stressful.
  • My surgery was initially scheduled for 1:30 but the day before I got a phone call from the scheduler saying it was moved up to 9 in the morning so I had to be there by 7. Well, 9 rolls around and no surgery. Mine is the on call trauma/acute care NS for the hospital so any emergencies take priority over the elective ones. Well seems he had an emergency craniotomy and it wasn't until 11:15 before I actually had my surgery(lasted like 4 hours because of the mess of the extruded discs and the scarring from the epidural). His PA came in first and apologized-I told her it was okay because it wasn't like I had anything else to do and she laughed and said I guess you're right. But the extra waiting actually quieted my nerves down somewhat and when I went in the OR they put me out almost immediately unlike my previous surgeries. The last thing I remember is the anesthesiologist asking if I was scared and me saying yes and she patted my hand and said well, you'll be asleep in a few seconds and that was it.I've had all my surgeries at this one hospital and have always been treated so well. The nursing staff is wonderful and the surgical teams are super.

    I think you were the one that said to stop dwelling on the past when I was so depressed over the car accident, Patricia. It helped me and now I don't-being positive has helped me a lot. Like you I have NO regrets about the surgery. Thanks for the kick in the butt, LOL!

    When I had my last bone spur removal on my big toe in 2010 I had an ankle block and twilight sedation. Unlike the first one on the other foot this time I woke up during the surgery and jokingly asked if I could watch them doing the surgery. My surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the surgical assistant all said NO at the same time. Then the anesthesiologist must have increased the meds because the next thing I remember is waking up and them bringing me to the recovery room. The first time they took an xray in recovery so I kept waiting for them again. When the nurse called she was told it was already done in the ER.

    I have a great podiatrist too. I also had an novasure endometrial ablation in 2010. Had a 7 week period so the gyno said I might benefit from it. He was a super doctor too.

    Rundad had a very good idea to start this thread. I'm sure that everyone who has posted in this one heard and read all the horror stories before surgery. I read the same kinds of stories before my surgeries in 2010 and I've had no complications from ANY surgery I've had. As a matter of fact I am GLAD I had all of them. I had such excruciating pain in my toes-that's gone. Who wants to have a menstrual cycle that last 7 weeks? Not me and since I've had the procedure I haven't had a single one.

    I love to hear positive stories about surgery. The more people who share them the better. I actually think my incision site on my neck is cool because I consider myself a survivor of a surgery that is very major and probably prevented me and everyone else on this thread from getting a lot worse. And let's remember the skilled surgeons who performed these surgeries-if you've ever seen a video of it you will me amazed. I have such awe and respect for mine.

    If you get the chance visit the websites that let you rate and review doctors and put in a few good words for them. I also wrote the hospital and to the President of one of the neurosurgical groups he belongs to. This one is quite prestigious and is by invitation only and they require letters of references from three of their peers. Mine used to be the head of the neurosurgical trauma at Swedish One in Denver which is a level 1 trauma center. When one of the major hospitals in my city was in danger of losing their level 2 status because all the NS from the one group here abruptly canceled the contract with the hospital. He stepped up to the plate and this is all he does-handle the trauma and acute care like me from the hospital. In my case he was my last hope and didn't care that I was self pay like the rest. So you can understand why I am so passionate about this-it's very rare to find a doctor who is more concerned about helping you-during the past year I saw a lot of the opposite. Before he signed on people who arrived at the hospital with head and cervical trauma were sent to Denver. So he has been a Godsend.

  • No mention of a bone stimulator-I wonder why some people need them and others don't?

  • I think part of the reason some don't get bone growth stimulators are the insurance restrictions. I think they cost somewhere around $4500. For my insurance to cover it one of the following had to be true:

    · one or more previous failed spinal fusion(s)
    · grade III or worse spondylolisthesis
    · fusion to be performed at more than 1 level
    · current smoking habit
    · diabetes
    · renal disease
    · alcoholism

    According to the people that made mine, there is a 15% greater chance of achieving fusion within 6 months if you use a stimulator. They go on to say that at one year there is no difference between people that used one and those who didn't, so I guess it just speeds up the process.
  • Now at 5 and a half weeks post surgery and have had a very minor setback. I was feeling too good and mowed my lawn (self-propelled push mower). It tired my neck muscles a bit, but I didn't mind. BUT, later that night, forgetting that I had restrictions, I tossed a cookie up to catch it in my mouth, jerked my head back a little fast, and felt some pretty sharp pain. I apparently woke up the nerves and now am having some minor spasms and soreness. Not bad, but it reminded me what I had done not that long ago. Hope everyone is doing well.
  • I have been thinking about mowing also. Self-propelled mower and a fairly small yard. I feel like it would be no problem but I don't want to risk the vibration. I haven't had any "snap" moves yet but I never could catch a cookie anyway. I did paint a bedroom this week. That went ok. Hope your spasms clear up!
  • Going for my 3 month check in 2 days and all is great. I am back to completely normal activity. I am back to running 2-3 miles per day and having no spasms. I sometimes get a slight catch when I look to my extreme left, but that is rare. Just can't even explain how happy I am with this surgery! Hope to get to see the hardware on x-ray Thursday and see a lot of bone growth. After months of living with such bad pain and hand issues, I feel better that I can remember in years.
  • Rundad,
    Sounds like you are having an awesome recovery! I am doing pretty well, but still get tired after a full day.

    My NS said there is usually no bone growth for at least 6 months...I also go for x-rays next week. At 2 months my x-rays showed no growth...will be interesting to see if any changes.

    Keep up the great effort!
    ACDF C5-6-7 on 12/14/2011
  • It's good to read all of the positive experiences you all have had post-surgery. I'm going for a one-level C5/C6 ACDF on May 23. I've been in chronic pain since last July. Feeling positive about the whole thing. I plan on posting about my surgery/recovery.


  • Good luck Joe! And I am happy to report that I have been asked NOT to come back and see my Dr.! He has given me the all clear. Lots of bone building going on and everything looks great.

    I will continue to check in and give more reports occasionally, but I am done with the surgeon! Happy healing to you all and God bless you all.
  • Wow reading all this makes me feel so much better. This Friday I have a two level ACDF. I'm actually getting antsy wanting it to hurry and get here. Glad to here so many have had good results. My "older" sister had a single level ten years ago and has never had a problem since.
  • I am recovering from a double ACDF at C5-6 and C6-7. I had immediate relief! I am in a collar 24/7 until I see the Dr. on May 31st.
    The surgery was not bad at all. I only needed pain meds the first night. I was on high dose steroids for 10 days to help with the swelling and inflammation.
    The worst part of it all is not being able to do a thing but sit or walk. My Dr.'s post op instructions were very strict. I am hoping my restrictions get lifted next week and I can come out of the collar.
    So glad I finally went through with it.

    52 year old wife, mother and now Grandmother of one.
  • I need to report that so far I'm doing very well. I can tell that the pressure is no longer present. The only thing that took me by suprise was the pain when I woke in recovery. Not sure if it is common or what but I was a real a$$ to my nurse. She was my nurse when I was leaving the hospital. I appoligized over and over, and she said it was fine that she has heard it all.
  • As of next week, I will be 6 months post op and I cannot imagine being happier with my outcome. I am back to training for a half marathon in November and have run a 5K with my daughter. I have NO pain. Sometimes if it has been a really long day with lots of physical activity, I get a little twinge when turning my head quickly. I have full range of motion and feel great.
    I have had no symptoms of arm and finger pain or numbness since 2 weeks post op. So, don't be discouraged, it is possible to have a great outcome with ACDF.
  • Dee35DDee35 New yorkPosts: 26
    edited 08/21/2015 - 10:38 PM
    Can't believe I found a post with positive results!!! I have been googling since last week, found nothing but people complaining about the surgery and bad results. I am scared of being put under, then waking during the procedure. I know , crazy ... right. ! My hubby says I'm worrying over nothing. I have myelopathy from a disk pressing my spinal cord giving me clumsy hands, weakness and heaviness in my legs and arms, numbness in hands and feet, pain in right shoulder with my arm going dead on me while sleeping. Not much pain in the neck. These type of symptoms have been worsening this past year n half. I had whiplash in '97 and just kept doing pt and chiro. I had to quit my job 5 years ago because of weakness, fatigue and muscle pain. Was told it was fibromyalgia but little did I know it was my neck starting to get worse.

    Any kind words for the day of ...before and during surgery?? Glad your procedures were successful and hoping mine is too.

    I have to stay 24 hrs, as the disk is pressing right into the cord itself at the c5-6 level. I will be having the plastic disc, with bone marrow from my hip, and plate n screws.

    6 days and counting... :( thanks in advance for any encouraging words or tips on what I should bring with me to the hosp, or things I should ask the nurse for after the surgery would great.

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