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23 years old, ACDF...Bad Idea?

RayonMazterRRayonMazter Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hey there,

I have ACDF surgery in less than 36 hours. I have been doing as much research as possible in hopes to shed comfort in the fact that allowing this procedure won't be my undoing, and won't be a huge mistake.

From what I have read, this surgery is done on young people (On the internet, apparently 40's and 50's is young).

Well what about 23? Should I really be considering this surgery if there isn't enough evidence of the long-term [30 years+] effects? Is my neurosurgeon just seeking statistics? (Canada Health Care - If it works it works, if it doesn't, oh well).

I am also studying stem cell therapy for the future, as right now I can't afford the treatments right now, as I have kids and this sudden extreme provided no time to save and prepare for such a thing.

I feel no anxiety about flesh and bone being cut up and split open, extracted, replaced, etc. My main concern, and where my anxiety derives is on the future. I want to be able to pick up my kids (as I can do now, with very short-term limitations), without the worry that after this I will end up with more problems in 5-10 years that prevents me from ever being able to actually 'feel' young.

And just a side note, I have had 9 x-rays over the last 10 years, and each doctor told me 'muscle tightening, there's no issue' or 'pulled muscle', when it took one doctor to finally notice, hey you have an extra rib. Oh, hey, you also have DDD, and herniations, and...and...and..

As an unrelated rant, I have had bad experiences with doctors who blatantly failed to do their job and i'm hoping to get a good truth to the reality of this treatment, good or bad, before I allow another doctor (who seems more focused on Call of Duty than his job) to permit further life degradation - which has affected my work-life and is beginning to affect my family.

Thanks for any answers, experiences, etc. I can't explain how much they are appreciated.



  • I had my ACDF when I was 23 (I am 24 now). I also fear for the future, but I couldn't go on living how I was so I had to get the surgery. I am much better than I was before even though I still have pain and some numbness. I am glad I had the operation. I know that I probably will have to have more neck surgery down the road but I am ok with that. I know someone who waited until they were 51 to have lumbar surgery (pain started when she was 19) and now she has permanent nerve damage and the surgery didn't help.

    Let us know how your recovery goes!
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • How is your recovery going?
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • How is your recovery going?
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Quick Bit
    Sorry for the delay...as most mention on here, it's mostly those with terrible results or repeat issues come to the internet to talk about things.

    I had my surgery on April 3rd, where they pulled out 2 discs and plated, I believe it was c3-c5.

    I had terrible movement limitations in my neck until just recently, where I almost feel back to where I was before the surgery movement-wise.

    I actually haven't had ANY neck pain since the surgery, but I also never had neck pain before the surgery, it was always upper back pain (just under the neck).

    I was in the hospital 3 days. When I returned I had a falling out with my wife (with 3 kids), and obviously wouldn't kick her out, so had to leave. Not being a sulk story, I mention this because even during early recovery I was able to move about for hours on end (with severe shoulder pain, mind you), move bits of furniture with my legs, and even drag some around.

    In less than 2 weeks, moving into a new place, I was able to move my arms around, cleaning walls, floors, dishes. Day 12 post-surgery I spent 14 hours cleaning my place.

    I am NOT able to sleep on my back as pillows pushing my head up gives me the feeling of pressure on my bottom adjacent vertebrae. I used to lay flat (no pillow) but wake up with a weird numbness in my gums and head, so I feel i'll forever be sleeping on a reclined chair; which isn't a big deal it's very comfortable. Sleeping on my side seems impossible, and even unlikely for the future.

    Everyone I have talked to that has had this surgery in the past complained things got worse a year after returning to their normal lives. I assume this has to do with all the pressure on the adjacent vertebrae.

    It was my only choice in Canada, but I would suggest looking at alternatives (Adult Stem Cell Therapy - United States. $8-12k quotes) to prevent limitations and repeat occurrences.

    I also feel in a few months if I were to return to the kind of work I did before, I would cripple myself very quickly. I don't feel like i'll be able to be as strong in sports or worklife that requires a lot of physical effort.

    I was given morphine at the hospital which gave me more discomfort than it helped.

    I was given percs during and outside the hospital, which really only helped me sleep. The pain in my shoulders was not numbed at all. May as well just stay away from the medication all together and take it easy once you feel pain.

    Sorry I couldn't organize or discuss further into things today; a lot going on. I'll return for a further post-op.

  • I am 36, so not as young, but also worried about the future. I had previous surgery in 2004, and apparently that predisposed me to having the C5/6 stenosis I have now. I am only in pain intermittently, but I'm losing what is left of the feeling in my left hand and I don't want to lose it all.

    Side note...what does it mean to have an extra rib? I have one too. Is there a problem with that?

  • Hah, what are the chances...it's argued that cervical ribs are a 0.2% (sometimes said to be 0.02%) chance, and we both required very similar surgery.

    You are still definitely young for the type of surgery. All I can say from my experience (from 9 doctors who didn't do their job before the ones that did for me), the longer you wait, the more problematic things become.

    I don't think ACDF is a brilliant surgery, but unless you have alternatives (such as trying out adult stem cell therapy injections), I feel biting the dust, at least for me, was a good idea compared to delaying or waiting.

    As for the Cervical Rib we have...from the articles and things i've heard is that it increases the chance for cancer by 125 times. You can review some amateur discussion on it here:


    Along with that (hopefully untrue) fact, the rib, depending on its length can cause you discomfort and pain where others simply don't feel it.

    Have you found as I have that performing the same tasks might cause both you and someone else pain, but you feel by the looks of others that you are going through far worse pain? It's very likely with that extra rib. I always had confusion that either I 'was' going through far more pain than I should, or that everyone else was just far more durable with pain than me and that perhaps I was just being a wussy. Without reviewing all that I had studied on it, I think it is caused because the muscles have less space to work around. I think it can be removed, but doctors won't unless it's causing serious problems.

    Don't quote me on anything, make sure to research things yourself before you get anxious or feel unwell about anything.

    Also - Get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if you can in short time. Best of luck.
  • I am so sorry to hear about the falling out with your wife. I can not imagine going through surgery and then having to deal with something like that. I always have this feeling in the back of my mind that my husband will end up getting sick of my spine problems and always being in pain, not wanting to do anything, and decide he wants something more. He is supportive, but at the same time I can see that it is all wearing on him.

    I am only 32, was 29 when I had my ACDF on C5-C6, so yall are a little younger than I was. I was good for about six months after surgery, obviously still healing, but was in more pain than I should've been. Anyhow, long story short, I've been with a pain management doctor for two years and still I am battling with high pain levels. Most of my pain is stress from above and below my fusion, DDD, arthritis, and stenosis. Since surgery I have tried PT, a rizotomy (ablation), multiple injections each year, and pain management. I am now in the process of getting an appointment with my neuro surgeon to discuss my options because honestly, I am at my wits end and can't take much more. I am still young, am married, and have two boys (10 and 16), and I feel like I am 80 years old. My youngest son rides dirtbikes, as I used to, and I would give anything to go ride with him...

    With all of that said, this is not the normal outcome. Plenty of people have this type of surgery and live pain-free lives, with no further complications. And you are still very early in the healing process. I was told that full fusion can take 12-18 months. I wish you luck with everything.
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