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Getting ready for posterior cervical fusion

Hello to all. I just recieved the call that informed me of my surgery date.It will be Nov 29 (right at 20 days).All of my work is due to degradation due to age and work (I was an auto mechanic).I had 5 levels fused from the front, with a good bit of nerve decompression.I was left with only about 50% use of my right arm and my right shoulder feels like it has a TENS unit attached to it,set on high 20 hours a day.In all fairness the Doctor said right from the start that he anticipated having to go in from the back also as there was damage he could not get to from the front.My recovery from the anterior operation was very painful,and long.Why I write,I ask if I can expect a much more painful,longer recovery from the posterior work.I know he will be fusing 3 levels from the back.The only thing that really bugs me is early discharge.They do not get my post-operative pain under control before I am discharged.Any tips or tricks,even relating your experience will be helpful.How long do you think I will be down.I also need shoulder work and my lumbar fusion fixed.In reality I think I am looking at a good long time and much pain.Thanks


  • I had cervical fusion C5,6,7 from the front. It was a fairly easy recovery. Then new issues came up weeks after that and a few months later they did laminectomys of the same levels. That recovery was much longer and harder.
    What levels are they doing fusion on this time?
    In my mind the posterior surgery was worse because of the muscles that have to be gone through and you use those muscle in almost everything we do. So IMHO the pain will be worse and the recovery will be longer. Sorry I didn't have a good answer for you . What did help was good pain control. I used a IPod touch and set alarms for my pain meds.
    Yes I found it better for the first two months to even wake up for meds then wait until I woke up.
    I found it was better for me to stay ahead of the pain. If I can help you with anything feel free to ask.
  • My surgeons are very sure that my pain is under control before they release me from the hospital, if you feel you are being released too soon, they have you sign a paper before release that states if you feel you are being released to early. Watch for when they bring this paper for you to sign, if your pain is not under control at that point, that is when you have to be your own advocate and tell them you feel you are being released too early. I don't remember the exact wording, but I believe if you do not sign the paper they will have a meeting with you and your physician. This may be a little different in your state, but I believe each state has a similar process so that you are not released with pain levels that leave you unable to function.

    I hope this helps in some way. Remember you need to be your own advocate, or they will ship you out as soon as possible.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,368
    edited 11/10/2012 - 4:38 AM
    are in a class all their own. I am 4+ years post and still struggle with myo, nerve and pain issues, Still I am better than I was with a failed anterior only.

    Good health, healing and God bless,

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!  (Click on Welcome to Spine-Health)

  • I am sorry to hear that you need further surgery on your neck.
    There is a November Surgery Buddies thread, and one of us is due to have a posterior laminectomy and decompression after an ACDF.
    Why not come and join us to meet some others who will be in their recovery at the same time as you.
    I had my 2 level ACDF on 5th November and am now home and just starting out in my recovery. I have been warned that my surgeon may need to do another surgery from the back later, but we are going to see how much relief I get from this first.

    Take care,
  • Hi everyone,I am going to have to speak one more time to my Doctors assistant to be sure I am relating the corect levels that will be fused posteriorily,I do know it will be 3 levels that were also fused from the front.My CT shows "trouble"all the way up to the very top.The Doctor said he will only go as far as he fells comfortable.I do wonder how he can see the areas of nerve infringement,perhaps he is just going by my descriptions of what I have lost the use of.He does think I will need an operation on my shoulder also and another level fused on my lumbar fusion (and some nerve decompression). I have also learned I have chronic pancreatitis.I never had one acute event and I have not drank in 15 years,this caught me by suprise.Of course I do want to eventualy stop all pain meds but the Doctors (more than one) say not to plan on it,meaning they think I will need pain meds for the rest of my life.All of these issues complicate my desire to return to work (I am 57 now). My pancreaous will never heal but perhaps all the bone issues will let up on me.I am not real optomistic about returning to work (already on SS disability).I will give the November surgery thread a look over,thanks for that suggestion.Thanks to all,I will keep posting.
  • I had an ACDF about 4 years ago. During that surgery the doctors paralyzed my vocal chords. That is fine now just temporary. Due to some unknown reason the fusion failed. Started having alot of discomfort and after alot of advocating for myself and my discomfort they ordered a bone scan and discovered there was no fusion. Posterior repair was the only way my NS would do. I was scared but did it. It was painful. But with good pain management that part was well controlled. I did pt and now 1 year later I have never felt better. Pain is totally gone. The only bad part is nasty scare on back of neck, but hey I will take that. Mine was only 1 level, don't know if that made a difference. So now I have a bionic c6-c7 with plates, screws and rods...But point is it was scary but I know have no issues. Good Luck.
    2007 ACDF C6 - C7
    2010 Aspen Cage L4,L5 for Grade 2 Spondo and spinal stenosis
    2011 Non-Union C6-C7, Revision Posterior fusion with hardware.
    2012 Failed fusion of L4, L5. Revision L4, L5 Fusion with hardware.
  • tamtamttamtam Posts: 2,749
    edited 11/13/2012 - 4:25 AM
    HI Pccstudent,

    As you can see there are several posterior fusion folks including myself. I actually have had a posterior revision 3 times and each time it was the same, in one day and out the next day. Now mind you I am not one for hospitals at all, so being home was much better. The most important thing I found is you have to have a good muscle relaxer, of course the pain meds are important as well, but the spasms are pretty bad, why the need for the strong muscle relaxer. Like you I had surgery and then they still need to do a surgery shoulder. Problem with needing both of them is it is hard to tell which pain comes from where. After my first posterior surgery, I knew I didn't need more pain meds as nothing was touching the issues I was having, which is what I told the doctor. They sent out some valium and all was good, not pain free but doable.

    One thing I can tell you that is important is to walk and walk everyday. You can google walking programs and find several that out there, I preferred 10,000 steps. You want to keep your core body up as much as possible. Even more so sense you need additional surgery, which tends to zap us.

    With the posterior incision you can't check it, so be sure to have someone look at it for you, or use a mirror on a mirror to insure it is healing up. Do you know what type of bone they will be using, like your own, cadaver or BMP? Also do you know if you will be wearing a hard brace or collar? Be sure if it is brace to get extra inserts, as they can get kind of nasty. If it is a collar, you can use a old tube sock, to place over the connection so it doesn't rub against the area, where the connection is made. Whatever you do follow the restriction on wearing it to the "T".

    You will still have the same restrictions as before, as far as lifting, just 5lbs or some say a gallon of milk. Myself I found the gallon a little bitto heavy so plan accordingly. Also be sure to have plenty of button up shirts to wear, in place of pull overs.

    In the FAQ section at the top of the page, is a link to 38 questions to ask your surgeon. Check it out see what you can answer and if you can't answer them, make a list from there and ask the surgeon the remainder, so your as prepared as you can be. There is no such thing as over preparing, you will be more comfortable with the whole process and ready to recover once surgery is over. I will tell you after my surgeries I did return home by myself and recovered at home alone. While I don't recommend it, it is doable. My point is don't be that afraid of the surgery. Good luck and keep us posted on how you do.
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