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February ACDF surgery?


Anyone else due to have surgery in February? (Specifically thinking of ACDF but anyone having any other spinal surgery, is welcome to comment/share)

My ACDF is scheduled for Friday 22nd so am starting to get prepared. Thanks to those who have posted their experiences/diaries, I am getting lots of useful tips and hints for the recovery period. Just wondering if people could suggest any other tips which I could use to make the experience a more bearable one.

Would be interested to hear from any others of you who are also having surgery in February, so that we can support and encourage each other. I am based in the UK (Nottinghamshire-Robin Hood county) but the pain and problems we experience are basically the same so any of you US users, would appreciate your input!

Take care and hope to chat soon,

Countyfan :)


  • Sue 1965SSue 1965 United KingdomPosts: 115
    Good Luck for your surgery-nice to find someone in the UK and not too far-Sheffield!
    Hope you are going to keep us updated of your progress!
    Not sure what I am facing OP wise-have C5/C6 compression and just discovered a T5 compression also-have also been told I have several herniated discs. Had my cervical problem since 2007 and avoided the OP but in so much varying pain now that I need something to be done! Will watch your posts!
  • If you haven't yet, make sure you check the sticky on preparations. It has lots of good info and suggestions. Probably the single best thing I purchased was a grabber stick. Without this I would be lost as I seem to drop everything. Plus, I have pulled things down from up high.
    The one thing I purchased which I didn't use was the dry shampoo. I tried it once and did not like it. My hair still felt dirty afterwards and I was worried about the powder drifting down to my wound. I have since learned you can buy shower caps meant for shampooing hair in bed. I am not sure exactly how they work. I did find some online, but decided not to order as I was so close to being able to shower.
    good luck!
    4 level ACDF completed on January 3rd.
    I developed an infection which required reopening the wound on January17th
    Looking forward to life without as much pain!
  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
    edited 02/02/2013 - 12:47 PM
    Welcome to Spine Health.
    I am also in the UK, down south, in Sussex.

    I had a 2 level ACDF in November, so am really recovered from the surgery now.
    I go back to work on 25th Feb.
    I do still have most of my symptoms but my surgeon has said there is still time for them to improve.
    I am back on Gabapentin for the time being, although I will wean off for my next appointment with my surgeon at the end of March. Then I will know if I have had any improvement, without the tablets masking them.

    I agree that a grabber is very useful after surgery. You will also need some bendy straws and lots of pillows.
    I got a Kindle to read after surgery. I could prop it up and didn't have to hold it open like a book. It has been great to help pass the time while I am recovering.

    Do ask any other questions you have. I am sure that you will think of plenty as you approach your surgery date. :-)
  • countyfanccountyfan Posts: 61
    edited 02/03/2013 - 8:38 AM
    Just want to thank everyone for their replies.
    I hadn't thought about a grabber but my Mum has one she is going to let me borrow. I got a kindle for Christmas ,so am sorted on that front too.
    Got a busy couple of weeks ahead, as consultant wants me to have another MRI before the operation and then have consenting appointment & pre-op appointments. Just want to be sure that I have everything ready for afterwards, before I go into the hospital.
    Jellyhall, how long did you actually need off work then and what type of work do you do? (if you don't mind me asking). I have mentioned 12 weeks to my work, as a worst case scenario. I will only be being paid for eight though anyway. I am a Biomedical Scientist and it involves some quite heavy lifting, so might have to be on restricted duties. That's a long way ahead yet though. Need to just concentrate on the operation itself at the moment!
    Will keep you updated and welcome any more input from those having op in February. :)
  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
    edited 02/04/2013 - 3:10 AM
    I am a Teaching Assistant, which requires bending and looking down while supporting children in their learning.
    My surgeon said I would need 3 months off work (not a supportive school).
    That would have been returning tomorrow! 4th Feb.
    The Head said that she would prefer me to return after the half term break, so I will return on 25th Feb.

    I think you will have to be careful and not lift anything heavy after your surgery. Let your surgeon know about this and ask for a weight restriction and how long that will last.

    Have you found the list of useful items for after surgery? It is very long, and is for lumbar surgery too, but it does give you an idea of things you may need and how to prepare your home. If you can't find it, let me know and I'll give you the link to it. (It is at the top of the back and neck surgery thread)
  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 02/03/2013 - 2:18 PM
    ...anything heavier than a gallon of milk for the first 6 weeks after surgery. Today, 3 months later, I just lifted a microwave oven with no problem. :)

    I am here in the U.S., so I don't really know what restrictions you may have from doctors there, but suffice it to say that I did not want to take any chances to mess things up even though I felt fine even at 3 weeks to lift something heavier.

    Now, at 3 months, I just went from my 12 week post-op visit and was told by my surgeon that I am nearly fully fused. So, whatever you are told - LISTEN! If really believe you kind of have one chance to get this right so that the fusion occurs.

    For example, I went online and ordered my groceries and had them delivered. What a godsend that was! I placed things at counter height (took a few dishes out of the cabinets) because I was wearing the Miami J Collar and I didn't want to and couldn't arch my neck to see what was I taking down easily.

    Working - I was told to give myself 6 weeks if I must get back to work, BUT I would still have to wear the Miami J Collar. I am a computer consultant/software instructor and I can say this - -even though I was on zero/no/nada pain meds at all, I don't think I would have felt good about going back to work at 6 weeks - even without the collar. The good thing was that I had work that I was able to do from home and continue doing it even now. It kept my mind busy!

    I brought my smartphone and ear buds with me to the hospital and made sure I had the music I wanted on it. I also played A LOT of Words with Friends and Scramble even the day I was rolled into my hospital room from surgery!

    As I have said in many of my posts - several days before surgery, I downloaded from Amazon.com a "guided imagery" audio recording about preparing for surgery and healing from surgery. I started listening to it each evening and even listened to it in the hospital, especially in those moments when I woke up at 3am and wondered what the hell I just did! haha

    I will say this - and I have no idea if the guided imagery made a difference or not - but I never had any pain. Not in the hospital and not at home. I continued listening to the audio at home, too. It quieted me and calmed me when I felt moments of being anxious. Everyone does something different. If you want to know what I listened to, PM and I can let you know. I was and still am amazed. I know it is rare to not have pain, and I am grateful beyond words I didn't.

    Just be prepared. I think that reduced a lot of concern for me. I was really prepared. And, I am glad I was because although in no pain, I did lose my voice for a little over a month. Even that was kind of interesting. Thank goodness for email, texting, the internet and friends! I just went with it since there was not a darn thing I could do about it and it has all worked out well for me.

    Good luck to you!!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Hi again.
    I really feel things are coming together now. I have organised my meals for first few days and my husband is hoping to take a bit of time off. Unfortunately, it is the Friday of the UK half term and my son will go back to school on the Monday, for his final time before his GCSE's in May. At least he will have time before them to not have to be worrying about me only just recovering from the op. I would like to retrain as a TA Jellyhall, I know that I won't be able to continue with my current job. Just finding an opening in the first place, especially having to say that I've just had an operation!
    Thanks for your encouragement and support-Will keep in touch.
  • My anterior L4-5 fusion is the 21st. My husband will be with me the entire time, as he works from home. I know he will watch everything I do to make sure I behave myself. I'm mentally prepared but still wish I could foresee how quickly I'll be ready to work from home. I've told my coworkers I'll be working remotely as soon as the Monday after my Thursday surgery. My surgeon says I'll only be in the hospital 1-2 days. I work on a computer all day, and can work lying on my back or whatever position I end up in. I wish it was this week - the waiting is agonizing! Would like to message with anyone after our surgeries to encourage each other. Carol
  • I hope your surgery goes well for you!!! I had my surgery done on C6-C7 on Feb 07. Other than be very tired and achy I'm doing great. My pain that I've suffered from for 15yrs is FINALLY gone. I took my bandage off on the 4th day and it looked a lot worse than it really was because of the glue and betadyne. I started picking some of the dried up glue off with tweezers (very gently of course) about day 6. I only wore my neck collar a few days. My dr. said as long as I was sittng around or laying around there was no need for it. I wish I would have none this the day of the surgery because that night I only slept a few hrs because I was so uncomfortable from laying still on my back. It was so hard to get comfortable with the collar on. I asked the nurses if I could try sleeping on my side but they said no. My dr told me the next morning that I could sleep anyway that made me comfortable. I'm now off of all the pain meds I was on before the surgery so I'm thinking my aches and being really cold is possible withdrawals from some of that. I don't have any special tips except take motrin. It helps with the aches. He gave me Percocet (which is nothing compared to what I was on before)to take when needed but only take a few a day. Good luck :-)

  • I hope that I can encourage some of you.
    I had the hospital physio show me how to use a rolled towel under the front edge of one pillow so that I could sleep on my side the second night while still in hospital. I also had a soft pillow that I tucked under my chin and cuddled to stop my head going down. The first night I had a drain, so slept propped up. I also had a pillow between my knees because I have lumbar problems too. I actually found if comfortable and have slept on my side in bed every night since. I have not had a collar at all. It sounds like I am lucky!

    I am going back to work on 25th February. (I am in the UK where we get paid sick leave for up to 6 months.)

    I hope that this information will help you.
    Good luck to those still to face surgery and those in the recovery phase :-)
  • No back pain! I have a 5 inch horizontal incision from my navel to my left side, and the surgeon closed the skin with glue. Never heard of that! The inflammation under the incision is very large - like a fat sausage under my skin - yuk! I also have pain around the incision and stabbing side pain, but the nurse on the phone assured me it was normal and to stay on the muscle relaxers and pain meds until my follow up appt next Tuesday.

    I've been working remotely from home since 4 days post op and resting between computer sessions. My biggest problem is the darn midwest snow! I can't walk outside and I'm tired of walking circles around the dining room table! We're going to borrow a treadmill this weekend so I can walk better.

    How are the rest of you doing?
  • Hi
    Am 7 days post op and my main problem is having trouble with sleeping. My consultant insists that I wear a foam collar 24/7 for 6 weeks and am finding it impossible to get comfortable. Have tried laying on a V pillow, on just one ordinary pillow and laying flat on the mattress but it is the not being able to lie on my side that is the real problem. I wake up every morning with a terrible headache and sometimes pain across the base of my head. I'm worried that this is damaging the implant!
    Wonder if anyone has any tips (Have asked and not allowed to lie on my side till the collar comes off)
  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 03/03/2013 - 6:25 AM
    I also could not sleep in my bed initially. I was wearing a hard collar for 6 weeks - and it was definitely something I would not mess around with removing when it comes to sleeping.

    I could not lay flat in my bed for about 6 weeks or so - it would trigger the nerves and cause some burning sensations, so it was clear that was premature - and I immediately adjusted to something else.

    It did take me some time to find my rhythm with sleeping with the collar, no question!

    Here are a few things I did:

    1) First while - I slept in my recliner. When that got old, I switched to the next option -

    2) I moved to my sofa, but moved one of the sofa cushions against the arm of the sofa so that I was elevated at an angle. I took my sleeping pillows and put them vertically against the sofa cushion just to make it cushier and more comfortable.
    That worked well for a little while.

    3) Then, I gradually moved to my bed, with the same sofa cushion, leaning it against my head board at a significant angle - almost sitting up, with a few of my sleeping pillows over it just to make it softer.

    That worked really well for me. I am fortunate that with all of the traveling I do, I am able to sleep sitting up in airplanes, so it served me well here.

    You may want to try those options.

    Also, if you really cannot sleep - Tylenol PM may help. Since it needs to be Acetaminophen and not aspirin (if fusion was involved) that might take off just enough of the edge for you to get some sleep.

    Good luck to you!

    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Have you tried arranging your pillows so that your being propped up. Maybe your just not going to be able to sleep flat yet. How did you use to sleep before the surgery? try and get as close to that as you can without creating pain.
  • was ok I was told, as long as I kept my collar on. I usually cannot sleep on my back. I did in the hospital due to all the drugs but once home and in my recliner and then my bed, I snuggled on my side.

    4 level ACDF completed on January 3rd.
    I developed an infection which required reopening the wound on January17th
    Looking forward to life without as much pain!
  • countyfanccountyfan Posts: 61
    edited 03/03/2013 - 9:55 PM
    Just want to say thank you Francine, Tammy and Penny,
    I did use to lie at quite an angle on my pillows, before the op but for the first few days home this really hurt at the back of my head. However I think I might have found a sort of compromise, thanks to your ideas. I have been been using the V pillow with an ordinary pillow on top and then 1 pillow either side, to extend the V, hence supporting my arms. Although I still wake with the pain at least once a night, can usually take a couple of tramadol and get comfy enough to go straight back to sleep!
  • Thanks for filling us in with your solutions.
    I am glad that you are starting to get some rest.
    I did have to position the softer pillows under my neck/brace rather than my head because I felt pressure against my head when I didn't.

    So glad you're making progress! :)
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
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