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ACDF level C-5

Hello! I'm having an ACDF for C-5 on 8/22/12. I have suffered neck pain and lumbar pain for 7 years almost. Finally after the 6 yrs 9 mths my doctor sends me to an ortho specialist who said lets get an MRI of your cervical. To find out I have C 6 and 7 severely herniated and two failed nerve blocks. I'm in constant pain w/numbness n tingling down my left arm and severe pain on my right side. However my only concern for this surgery is my weight. I'm 5'1 and 260lbs. I've had over 151 lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks and suffer from bronchitis in the winter so the steroids made me gain lots of weight. Also due to my weight and pain I barely sleep now. I'm just so scared to do this surgery and be in a worse boat. Please help me with your advise.

Thanks, Ruth


  • Hi there,
    I don't know what to tell you, other another you are in the right place looking for answers. The people on this site are amazing and will help in any way they can.
    I think you should voice your concerns to you doctor - they are legitimate and important to you, so they should be the same to your doctor.
    Hang in there Ruth.
  • Welcome to the boards Bravelady...

    May I ask which level is being fused? Is it between C4-C5 or C5-C6 as the letter is the area of the spine....Cervical...and the number is the veterbrae so the disc that is taken out and has bone put in it's place is the space in between the vertebrae.

    So for example I had a fusion (3 surgeries) on two levels of C5-C6 and C6-C7.

    Have you gotten at least 2 opinions from surgeons about doing this surgery now? And in my personal opinion and from everything I have read....for the cervical area the absolute best surgeon is a Board Certified Neurosurgeon. Usually the Orthos focus more on the lumbar and lower regions and the Neuro is more cervical.

    And unfortunately because weight/health is so important to our spines...unless there is direct threat of paralysis, I would work with Drs. to lose weight before having this surgery as it will make the recovery so much harder as well as lessen the chance of a good fusion happening when someone is in the obese category.

    I'm not trying to be mean in any way shape or form here I promise. I just would hate for you to have this surgery and then have it fail to only end up needing many more down the road.

    So that is why I would get 2 and even 3 opinions from Board Certified Neurosurgeons whether you should go ahead with the surgery now or just do pain management while you lose weight and then see if you even need the surgery down the road.

    85% of the people with spine issues, even with herniations can heal on their own or with non operative measures. The downside about coming online even though this is a wonderful community here, is that we are the 15% that has not had success with our treatments or surgeries. Those hundreds of thousands of people that are doing well are out living their lives and not online posting.

    And fusion surgery is about fixing a mechanical issue, not about relieving all the pain. So if this surgeon is saying this to you then I would be questioning him.

    There are sadly some surgeons out there that just love to cut...and they will jump at the chance. Then there are those that have the patient's well being in mind and will only say surgery is necessary if you are in an emergency situation that you need surgery now or else paralysis is imminent.

    Where I go for treatment...there are 3 BC Neurosurgeons and they usually will not operate on someone unless they are at a fairly healthy weight and they actually refuse to do so on people who smoke (not saying you do the latter...just giving an example)..

    Do you have other health issues associated with your weight like diabetes, high blood pressure or any heart problems?

    Again..I truly empathize with you and I promise I am not trying to scold you or make you feel bad. My mom just lost 90 pounds in the last year as she was facing another lumbar fusion as she had one back in the mid 80s. So the Dr. said that he would help manage her pain and helped her with a healthy weight loss program and then evaluate if she still needs surgery. She still has twinges of pain every so often but is in the clear for not needing surgery now as the weight loss has really helped her pain.

    Obviously I am not a Dr. and no one on this site has medical training to offer assistance that way....we are just people like yourself that are struggling with spine issues.

    This really is a great place and I hope you stay around no matter what you decide for yourself we will support you either way.

    Even after 3, two-level, fusions myself...I still have 3 severe herniations. One is right below my surgery site at C7-T1 and then two in the lumbar area of L3-L4 and L4-L5. I also have stenosis, spondy, and kyphosis. But I have agreed with my surgeon that we will not do anymore surgery unless there is an emergency situation.

    So I manage my pain with daily exercise, yoga/stretching, aqua therapy, injections, steroids, massage, acupuncture, TENS unit, ice, heat, traction, neck brace, counseling, etc.

    I also have a muscle relaxer, Flexeril, that I take as needed.

    Many people take a nerve pain medication like Lyrica, Cymbalta or Neurontin as nerve pain is one of the main pains we have with spine issues. I am thankful I went off Cymbalta after the last surgery as it relieved most of the nerve pain for me.

    Many also take an antidepressant as it helps with depression that comes with living with chronic pain as well as helps with pain.

    And then there are opiates. They are not for a specific type of pain but just help "dull" the pain a bit.

    The key is a comprehensive approach where each item I have listed puts a tiny dent into our pain that adds up for us to be at about a 5 or so on the pain scale. This is acceptable for chronic pain patients as it's not about taking away all our pain.

    Some people only try something once and because it doesn't take away all their pain or make a huge dent...they stop. But a good PM Dr. will explain that it doesn't work that way. We need to use every single modality to help and not rely just on one medication or one treatment.

    Anyway....sorry for rambling as I'm just sharing my thoughts/suggestions.

    I hope that if you end up with the surgery....that you are one of the lucky ones that it works well and helps tremendously!

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