Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

2 level acdf scheduled 4-9 - terrified

karenkkkarenk Posts: 66
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hello, this is my first post...I am a 46 year old female in decent health, work full time, have 2 wonderful grandchildren.I am scheduled for a 2 level acdf with hip graft and hardware on April 9 and am so afraid that life as I know it will be over...although the past few months haven't been the greatest. I also may have a labral tear (MRI stated "Abnormal signal at labrum". Findings, "may be a labral tear" and am not sure how much of the shoulder pain is due to the neck or if it is a labral tear. I have been reading many of the posts and I think they have made me much more afraid! I had terrible burning in both shoulders a few months ago, that has subsided....any advise would be appreciated. Thank you!
ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012


  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I've had a 3-lvl ACDF and it was a sudden onset situation, so I understand how scared you are. I doubt there's much I can say to calm you down much, but if you're confident in your surgeon, then you'll be fine.

    The recovery from the ACDF is not as bad as a lumbar surgery and the recovery, although takes a while, is not too bad. You'll have the normal "my neck is mad at me for this invasion" pain, then will come a day when you'll realize that the pain is just from the surgery itself and you know then that you'll be ok.

    You have to be careful during recovery, babying yourself (your neck) and adhere to all restrictions for the length of time your surgeon says. You might end up with a bit of limited ROM, but mine isn't bad after PT for a 3-lvl.

    The reason reading here scares you so much is that those that have successful surgery, and there are many, go on to live there lives and no longer post here because they don't need the support that's needed and given here.

    So, try to keep yourself as calm as possible. You'll go to the hospital, they'll give some drugs to calm you down, you'll talk to the docs and anesthesiologist, then the next thing you know, you'll be going to sleep then waking up in your room, with it all over and on to recovery. Generally, it's just a one-night hospital stay, so that's good.

    Also, be sure to have everything ready at home - a recliner, if you have it, a table next to your "station (recliner for me)" to keep your things and someone around for the first week or two to take care of you. You'll want things to keep your mind busy too, as you'll have restrictions, even when you feel good and think you can do things you shouldn't. A grabber is also a good thing to have handy, as your restrictions will include no BLT (bending, lifting, twisting, although not so much the twisting for an ACDF).

    Will you be wearing a brace? Has your surgeon talked to you about recovery time and restrictions?

    Take care and keep us posted.
  • Thank you for your response. Unless one is going through this they just don't understand the fear.
    I do know I will be spending one night in the hospital, wondering how the pain is right after the surgery and then like a few days after? Also wondering if your aware of the hardware in your neck. Yes, my neuro will be having me wear a neck brace - I was told I could possibly be back to work in 2-4 weeks (desk job) but I'm taking 6 weeks, and he says once I'm healed I should have no restrictions, but he "wouldn't advise sky diving". I have been trying to prepare, have a reclining love seat, a grabber and have been buying soft foods - applesauce, pudding, etc. I was a smoker, he told me to quit - which I did on Feb. 29. He told me to never smoke again! I can adhere to that....fear can do some pretty tough things! He will be giving me a bone stimulator. I had no injury either that I can think of, just the sudden onset..
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Actually, the first two days after I got home (and the day in the hospital) I didn't feel much pain at all. My husband even asked me if I could even act like I just had major surgery. Then on day 3, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I think it was the meds they put in during surgery - they take a few days to wear off.

    I don't notice the hardware at all. It just become a part of your body and don't even know it's there.

    I'm very happy you've chosen to take the 6 weeks off - 2 weeks won't be long enough. I was off for 8 weeks, then went back part time, then full time then got laid off as soon as FMLA was over (nice, huh?). (Half the company got laid off, so it wasn't due to my cervical problems, just fyi.)

    I forgot to mention the potential for throat issues after surgery, so I'm glad you have soft foods ready. I only had a scratchy throat and ate a pork chop the night I got home, but others have problems that require soft foods for a while.

    It's true that your restrictions won't last forever, just until you heal and especially until you fuse, which could take a while. But you can still do some things while you continue to fuse, you won't be totally restricted. You'll know what you can and can't do once your restrictions are lifted naturally. Like they say, if it hurts, don't do it.

  • Ok, not crazy about "on day 3 felt like I got hit by a truck"!! Yikes! What did you go through??
    My Dr. mentioned the throat issues - said I won't be eating steak or Doritos the first few days...lol
    Would you say your fine now, do most of the things you did prior to surgery? I love cutting grass on a rider, shoveling snow, just doing and living...Also, did you experience any hoarseness?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • I had a two level done almost two years ago I too was terrified! I am recovered now and do whatever I want, well I don't ride roller coasters! There is some pain but that pain was good because I knew it would be better than the neck pain and arm pain I had previously! I did feel like I was hit by a truck stay on the pain medicine and do what your NS says to do you will be shoveling snow next winter!
  • Thanks for your response, I'm so glad to hear your doing well! How do you mean you felt like you were hit by a truck? My surgery is in 9 days...how is sleeping afterwards? Glad to hear I'll be shoveling this winter!
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Karen,

    I just wanted to welcome you. I also just found out that I will be needing an acdf surgery on my c6,c7. And like you it just came on suddenly, happened one day after I was picking up my 15 lb 3 month old baby boy. No accident or trauma so I was shocked to hear I would need this surgery.

    The people on this forum have helped me calm down, Allthough we dont want this surgery it is necessary and we need to get our lives back.

    I wish you the very best on your surgery and your recovery. I will be getting my acdf as soon as my surgeon books my surgery date. I hope its soon. Hang in there,you'll do fine.

    Missy, 1 level ACDF C6/C7 Monday July 16th 2012.

  • I had a commitment this morning, but wanted to check on you now that I'm home.

    "Hit by a truck"...it's hard to explain, but you just feel very, very sore and it's difficult to move. That's what the pain meds are for, like Lela said. They really do help.

    Now, even 3.5 years later, I have a difficult time keeping my head in one place for very long, especially turned one way or the other and especially up or down. But I can now look for oncoming traffic as my ROM is pretty good. With the hardware, I can feel a change in the air pressure when a storm is coming, in the form of an aching pain. But keep in mind that I had a 3-lvl and one of them was C6/7, which is the most difficult one in terms of healing and fusing, as it's the one that moves every time you move your head.

    That leads me to ask what levels are you having done? If they're higher up that C6/7, that will be a bit easier, but the healing time and pain will be the same. Trust me though, the pain is not debilitating and lessens with time. Do try and measure your recovery in weeks, not days, as it doestake time. You should be able to deal with the "hit by a truck" pain and the lesser pain that comes, especially with good pain meds.

    My situation is different than yours as far as being able to do what I did before as I had a 1-lvl fusion as well. That one is the most difficult for me to deal with, even 2+ years later. I will never shovel snow, nor rake leaves or anything that puts that kind of pressure on my lower back.

    But with you, I don't doubt that you'll be back to feeling good and able to do many things by 6 months after your ACDF. I was golfing the spring after my surgery, until my back starting getting bad.

    So, don't worry too much. Surgery is surgery, and they have to move a lot of stuff to get to your spine with an anterior approach. That stuff tends to get mad and may bruise and need to heal as well as the fusion, though it doesn't take as long.

    Oh, sleeping - with the meds, it makes it easier, but I, as well as many others, couldn't lay flat for a while to sleep. I slept in my recliner for a couple of weeks. I had a hard Miami J collar on for 4 weeks and a soft collar for 8, so the hard collar made it a bit harder to get comfortable. With that said, some people can sleep in their bed as soon as they get home.

    You won't really know anything, how you'll be with sleeping, pain, etc. until after your surgery. But I'm fairly sure that it will be manageable for you and you'll find it worth it the minute you wake up and all the arm stuff is completely gone. That felt like a miracle to me.

  • I am having C4-C5 and C5-C6. It also says under both of those levels "mild to moderate spinal canal stenosis, osteophyte complex and mild foraminal stenosis"....not sure what all that means...doesn't sound good though. I also know there is some mild spinal cord compression as well. I would imagine they address that in surgery?
    I would feel much better if I was sure I would be going back to the way I was before all this happened. It is so depressing...
    I sure appreciate hearing from those that have gone through this and have experience in what to expect. And I know everyone is different.

    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Yes, they'll deal with that during the surgery, removing the discs/spurs that are touching the cord. That's probably where your arm problems are coming from. I also had cord compression and like I said, came out of surgery with all my arm symptoms gone.

    I'm sorry to hear about what's happening below the fusion, and adjacent disc problems are common. When you get a fusion, the discs above and below take on the extra pressure that the fusion can't carry. I'm having that problem with my lumbar spine.

    All you can do is hope that things will return to normal for you as you recover, and don't discount it. Many have, and you may be one of them. For others, spine issues are an ongoing problem, but it's always a wait-and-see proposition.

    I know it can be depressing, but try to keep a positive outlook and take care of yourself. I think you'll feel better after your surgery when you see progress being made.

    I feel for you and understand how difficult it is, especially the first time around. But we'll be here for you while you wait and during your recovery. Feel free to PM me any time you want to talk or have any questions. And in the meantime, keep posting to get the support you need because I know how stressful and scary the waiting is.

  • Hey Karen,

    I am 3 1/2 weeks post surgery for C5/6 and C6/7 fusions. I was terrified as well, but am doing so much better since the surgery. All the symptoms I had prior to are gone. The recovery has been exactly as my doctor describe...not what I had read on posts. I spent one night in the hospital with my only issue nauseau. I have only taken tylenol for pain. The meds they sent me home with have gone unopened. Had my first doctor visit today and got a great reports. Bone is already growing as hoped. My doctor used stem cells and my own bone marrow (not a graft).

    Good luck!

  • Thanks so much for your post! It was uplifting! How have your first 3 1/2 weeks been? If you haven't used your pain meds thats a good sign! How about sleeping, eating, swallowing? I said in my initial post it was bone graft they are using, but its the same as what you had - bone marrow is what he said. How is the pain from that? He said I probably wouldn't be able to tell which hip they took it from....?? Good luck on your continued good recovery, hugs to you! :)

    Thanks again!
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • HI Karen,

    Just thought I would post and let you know that the most pain your going to feel is the donation site on your hip. More than likely you won't even notice you had surgery on your neck. While the pain is not debilitating it will send you a wake up call. I do suggest having a cane to help you get up from a sitting position for the first few days. My experience with it, says the longer you lay around the harder it is to get up and move. I did practice in those first few days getting up every hour to move so the pain wouldn't be as bad. Which I strongly urge anyone using their bone to start a walking program the day you return home from surgery. My surgeon actually sends you home with one, and trust me it helped so much. I have no long term effects from the graft site and was actually walking fine at about the 2 week mark. It also sounds as though your surgeon is taking every precaution to insure a proper fusion using your bone and the stimulator from the get go. So happy to hear you are a x-smoker now. The others have given you great advice on handling your neck. Keep us posted as to the outcome as I am sure you are going to be another positive story on the forums.
  • Hey Karen , sorry to scare you with the hit by the truck line, I was really sore the next day and did take percocets for the first three months then went down to hydrocodone, I still take pain pills for t spine issues, I still suffer from nerve damage to my thumb and my arm does still hurt some of the time, when I went in for surgery my biggest pain was the feeling like to bones were rubbing together on my right side of my neck, I was very glad to have it done, a lot of pain went away,from the neck but I believe that I will have lifelong issues with my spine! Anyway keeping reading here and read as much as you can because I believe that knowledge is power! Lela
  • Can anyone describe what their shoulder pain was like?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Hi all,
    I am two weeks post op from a 2 Level Anterior Cervical Dicsictomy Fusion (ACDF) aka “Payton Manning Surgery”

    Recovery Process

    End of Week 1
    Level 2 pain with muscle stiffness anterior of c1 to t1 & pain at C6 C7 radiating to left and right anterior shoulder joint, tolerating light activity. On Pain Medication . Wound is healing with slight swelling noted on up entire length wound.

    End of Week 2
    Level 1 pain with muscle stiffness anterior of C7 & T1. Tolerating light activity. No longer taking pain medication. Wound has healed. Driving and daily rehab.

    Lessons Learned:

    Build up muscles prior to procedure if possible
    Hydrate as much as possible the night before the procedure.
    Get up and walk as soon as possible after the procedure
    Painful to swallow, drink as much water as possible
    Home Sleeping accommodations stomach sleeper vs. back sleeper
  • I had my pre op physical yesterday and am cleared for surgery on Monday. Also did a pre admission phone call with hospital. SCARED!!! Everything will be ok, right??
    They say having a fusion does not create issues or put pressure on adjacent discs, I sure hope thats true...wouldn't want to face this again!
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • You WILL be ok. It'll go faster than you can imagine and you have a few days to pamper yourself.

    I don't know if they told you this in your pre-op screening, but one nurse told me that when they ask you your pain level and it's, say, a 5, tell them it's a 7. She said to always tell them your pain is higher than it really is so you will be sure to get medicated enough to be comfortable. I was rather shocked that she told me that, but I did it and was comfortabe in the hospital (other than having to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes throughout the night and having to have a nurse escort me every time, but they were very nice about it).

    Take care of yourself this weekend, eat your favorite foods, have fun and know that Monday will come and go very quickly. I hope your surgery is early in the morning.

  • Thank you, you are so kind. Speaking of pampering, I got my haircut Wednesday, and actually went and got a pedicure today! :) My toes are ready....
    That is a good tip about the pain level, with any luck it won't be a 5....my surgery was initially at 9:15 but they called yesterday and changed it, now I have to be there at 9:30, surgery is around noon....am still quite nervous, don't think that will go away, but I certainly appreciate your kind words.
    Enjoy your weekend as well, Cathie

    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Good luck, Karen! Pamper yourself! Relax and stay positive! I will be thinking of you. Let us know how you do after the surgery! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Ive been reading through your posts and just wanted to say good luck for Monday

    As Cathie said it will be over before you know it and you should pamper yourself this weekend! :-)

    Amanda x
  • Karen-will be thinking of you on Monday. I know you are terrified and I think we all were. You will be out of that pain, it will be better. Let us know how you are when you can.-:)
    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • Karen,

    Have read thru the thread, and see you are still fairly fearful. :SS It's normal, I was too, and I had been an OR nurse for 30 years!

    I injured myself in a multiple trauma fall(see Intro), but the most pressing issue was my neck, it was pressing on the neck from one of the fractures.(3 cervical fx) I had an ACDF45, and even with all the other fractures elsewhere etc, the relief of pain with just that procedure was amazing.

    I had had a terrible burning in my shoulder and arm that was gone. I was so grateful. I still am. I take a yoga class and swim with a kickboard, I will be going kayaking again this year. The first since I was hurt. Just listen to your body. It told you when you were hurt, and it will tell you when you're getting better as you are healing.

    Your surgery is midday, so drink (liquids lol)as much as u can today. Take a walk if u can and know we are all praying for you, and the best of outcomes.

    Dee :)

  • Hi Karen, just wanted to jump in here and give you some encouragement. First off it sounds like you're well prepared for the recovery process and that's great, every little bit helps. As you can see by my picture I've got quite a bit of "bling" in my neck, I can say that I really don't feel the metal but am certianly aware of the reduced rom caused by it.

    I'm not going to kid you here this is a major surgery that takes time to recover from so be patient. Also, I don't smoke but do know that if you want you surgery to be successful you must not smoke, nicotine will prevent the fusion from taking place, so do everything in your power to quit.

    The earlier response is correct you'll have no idea what has happened after waking up and after a couple of weeks you'll truly start getting back to normal as the recovery continues. I'm back to work full time and although I am not pain free it is getting better.

    You can see by my info I've had quite a bit of work done so there are plenty of success stories,I'm not 100% but am keeping positive which is very important.

    Take it easy and keep positive, do everything required and success is just around the corner. Good luck
  • Thank you for your kind words. When was your ACDF and how did you find pain and recovery afterwards?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Karen,

    MY post op relief with the arm and shouder burning pain was fast, it would be hard to compare the rest of my recovery because I had multiple fractures in other places in my body. That said, I had a collar on and your movement is very restricted due to that, and there wasn't a lot of pain for me, from my neck.

    My surgery was 20 months ago and it healed well, thank you God.I had problems with some other areas, and had several procedures done to fix those,that were alot worse to deal with.

    Prayers for you tommorrow,

  • Karen,

    MY post op relief with the arm and shouder burning pain was fast, it would be hard to compare the rest of my recovery because I had multiple fractures in other places in my body. That said, I had a collar on and your movement is very restricted due to that, and there wasn't a lot of pain for me, from my neck.

    My surgery was 20 months ago and it healed well, thank you God.I had problems with some other areas, and had several procedures done to fix those,that were alot worse to deal with.

    Prayers for you tommorrow,

  • Karen,

    Being afraid of surgery is very normal. Especially spine surgery. I am here to tell you I am a success story. Be very careful reading a lot of these posts on here as they can be very discouraging and scary. I can tell you that this website was single handedly probably the biggest reason why I held of on fusion surgery (and suffered because of it) for so long. All the horror stories that I read about people post op. There seemed to be new horror stories every day. Its not that these horror stories do not happen because they do, but like someone already said on this post those that improve (and there are a lot of people who improve like me) go on to live their lives never to return here. That makes for a collection or really scary stuff. That being said this site can also be a lifeline for many people. It can be a very positive thing. You can and will find success stories on here.

    I am a success story. My pain was so bad and I was so scared of getting spinal fusion from all the stories I read on here that I often considered suicide. I can tell you that so far my fusion surgery has been the best thing I could have done for myself. I had my surgery in May of 2011 so about a year out now. I felt immediate improvement. It really changed my life for the better. I know you are worried about limitations after the surgery and there may be some but what about your limitations now? I may be a rare apple but my doctor has cleared me to do anything and everything I want. I personally made the choice to not do everything and limit what I do but this is my choice. Things like sky dive, or bungee jump etc. I rode my bike the other day. I want to get back into running and started doing it again. I will probably stick to the eliptical though even though I am cleared to run and it does not cause pain just because I want to be cautious. I am going to get back into soccer and just started shooting hoops and running and doing layups the other day. No consequences from that for me. Shoot, if I wanted to I can cage fight. Not that I would do that of course but I could if I wanted to. Tito Ortiz (a cage fighter for UFC) had a fusion and he still cage fought.

    The point being is there are success stories out there. A lot of them. A lot of people benifit from fusion surgery just not many come back here to talk about it. Keep your head up!
  • It's 8:30 west coast time and I am thinking of you and know you will come through with flying colors.

    Let us know how you are when you are able.

  • I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking of you too, and I am here for you when you get back.

    I am wishing you a speedy recovery hon.

    Missy, 1 level ACDF C6/C7 Monday July 16th 2012.

Sign In or Register to comment.