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ACDF with deltoid muscle not working

I had ACDF, on my C4-5 & C6-7 with plating, and donor bone, on December 17, 2012. Before the surgery, my left arm was weaker than normal, but I could use it. When I was being awakened in the Recovery room, I could not lift my left arm. My NS, said it was most likely due to some swelling, so he ordered me to have a steriod, injected into my IV. I discharged the next evening, and could still not lift my arm. Long story shortened, I took oral steriods, then 2 weeks after surgery, he ordered an MRI, which showed the surgery was a success, and he felt it would improve over time. So, I started PT, to keep my deltoid muscle, from freezing up on me, and it got better. I can now lift my arm to my temple. I want so much, to blow dry and comb my own hair, but I can't, I my husband is so sweet, but I know it is uncomfortable for him to do this for me. I have to have help getting dressed, if I want to wear something other than sweat pants and t-shirts. I tried to go back to work, on Feb 11, 2013, but after 1 week, I put in my notice to retire, as I was in too much pain in my shoulder, not to mention the problem with not being able to reach up or out with my arm. I have reached a plateau with what I feel I am going to get, until the nerve either heals or possible have another surgery. It has been just about 3 months, and I will see my NS, on friday, March 8th. I had an EMG, performed in early Feb, 2013, and it did not show any permanent nerve damage. This is quite depressing, so I pray that I will get better very soon. I am 62, and love to go camping and fishing, so my retirement years will not be what I had hoped, unless I can get better. I take Ibuprofen for the pain, as I am so afraid of getting hooked on Hydrocodone.


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will others whom have had the same issue including myself. I for me and the use of my left arm, it has come back over time. My surgeon indicated to me it may take up to two years to come back. I will say it didn't come back a 100%, but the emg I had does indicate permanent damage. The one thing that helped the most was physical therapy along with a home program. I had to get the fingers and all back to working. I have adapted most of my life to go with the condition. Now the pain it has stayed obviously I have permanent nerve damage, so yes I do take medications. I like you fought against it for a long time, but then I had no quality of life either. I actually started on the medications to be able to do therapy as the pain was to much. However I will say I still do use medications, as the pain is always there. I will add I had additional surgeries after that surgery. One was to take the hardware out after I fused.

    My point is don't give up hope. It takes a lot longer for the nerves to heal. The good news is the emg didn't show any nerve damage. I am confused when you say the MRI showed the surgery was a success? I would take that to mean the hardware was sitting in the correct place? One thing I would do if I was in your shoes is collect copies of the MRI reports, just to verify to yourself wether or not it showed anything else. But I do believe you have some healing to go. The question when you see the surgeon is are fusing at both levels? Also ask them about the time it takes nerves to heal? I will also tell you that emg's are not a perfect science. Sometimes they give false negatives. You can ask your surgeon about that and he/she should give you the straight answer on it. Once they show nerve damage that is true, just sometimes they don't pick it up, for whatever reason. They are a tool, but also go along with physical exam and imaging. But don't give up like I said you have lots of healing to do. Ask for some physical therapy to see if that will help. If you could get in a pool you could try moving it more as in the water your only supporting 20% of the weight. If they give you therapy be sure to get a home program as well. I made it my job to constantly work with my arm during that time.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted.
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