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Lump in throat - 1 month post-op ACDF

Hello. This is my first time posting here, although I have been anxiously reading through these posts for the last month. Please accept my sincere "thank you" to those of you who post -- you have given me hope in my darkest hours throughout this bleak April.

Okay, here is my situation -- I am a 42-year-old female -- had my second ACDF on 3 April 2013 in Northern Virginia. My first ACDF was in 2005 -- c5c6 with titanium plate, screws and my own bone -- never had one ounce of trouble with this surgery nor the recovery. The surgeon then mentioned usually when you have the c5c6 "fixed", the c6c7 will probably be next.

Therefore, when that all too familiar pain between my should blade, elbow, neck and hand, reared its ugly head in October 2012 - I thought, no big deal (was bummed out though!). So, as like many of you, I complied with the battery of tests and went to see a new NS (changed insurance, so could not go back to the one who performed the 1st ACDF).

MRI, Xrays, etc. all showed DDD; issues with c6c7. So, I went to PT for two months and felt pretty good. Once I stopped going, the pain came back. So, I scheduled the surgery (PEEK Cage with own bone from discs). My NS works in conjunction with an Ortho Surgeon, so they both operated on me (they both receive high praise in the Washington, DC "Top Doctor" Reports, etc.). All seemed to go well at the INOVA Fairfax (Virginia) Hospital and I returned home on 4 April to my two sons (13, 8) and my husband.

Then the fun began! Had to get off the pain killers in less than a week because they were making me crazy and I could not sleep. I had serious pain in my right should blade (which thankfully went away after two-weeks). My throat felt like I had swallowed a couple golf balls. But, the Ortho and NS all said this is normal and I should not worry about it as it takes time to heal.

Well, here we are one month later. I have not been able to telelwork as I had planned because of this CONSTANT feeling of choking...it drives me mad. I feel this even when I am just watching TV and especially when I first get up in the morning. If I look down, I feel like I am going to pass out. When I moved from the hard collar to the soft collar two week post op, my throat started "snapping" when I swallow as well and I think I feel the plate...just when I thought things could not get worse! So, this is where I am! My body feels pretty good, it is just this throat mess.

I am freaking myself out that this will never go away and I just have to live with it. Not sure how to do that though, because it is pretty darn frustrating and I feel very depressed. The NS and Ortho told me they would see me on 18 and 23 May, respectively. So, I guess until then...I just keep choking? I am on the internet constantly and probably self-diagnose more than I should -- but, who doesn't, right? I am worried that the plate is too big and it is pushing up against my esophagus?; maybe they damaged my throat when they moved everything out of the way?; maybe I have too much scar tissue?? All these questions and no answers.

If you made if through all of this -- I thank you and appreciate you letting me vent. BIG Question - Has anyone else had this? I know that folks have and I am just curious if it ended up going away on its own or did you have to see an ENT? Just desperately wanting to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel...

Thanks again,

May 2005- c5c6 acdf (with titanium plate, screws and own bone)
3 April 2013 - c6c7 acdf and removal of the plate at c5c6 (PEEK Cage)


  • Hi Heather,

    I am fused from C3-C7 by way of 2 separate ACDFs. I have not had anything remotely close to the issues you are unfortunately experiencing. The thing I question is if somehow your throat was damaged from the breathing tube from your recent surgery? You're the first person I can recall mentioning this post-op.

    Also, I would ask if there is a different type of pain medicine you could take that would be better suited for you. You most definitely deserve comfort this soon after an operation like this. Advocate for yourself! :-)

    I'm not a doctor by any stretch..........just another spine patient. Please keep us posted and good luck!

  • Heather5912HHeather5912 Posts: 2
    edited 05/01/2013 - 5:02 PM
    Hi Charlie -

    Thank so much for responding. It is nice to chat with someone that has been thru these "fun" procedures as well. I will look into the breathing tube issues and see if there is any resemblance at all to my symptoms. I have told the doctors this for the last few weeks and as them seem concerned, they just push me off for another month. I have a great ENT here in Northern VA, so I may reach out to him soon. Just not sure if I am reaching out too soon.

    I will most certainly keep you updated! Again, I really appreciate your response. It is has been a long "rainy" April!

    Have a great evening,

    May 2005- c5c6 acdf (with titanium plate, screws and own bone)
    3 April 2013 - c6c7 acdf and removal of the plate at c5c6 (PEEK Cage)
  • Heather - You're symptoms sound very similar to mine. I had C5/6, C6/7 ADCF surgery 10 days ago. I had read numerous posts on the forum regarding throat issues due to intubation. So when I had trouble, I initially dismissed it as irritation from the intubation that would resolve itself.

    Instead of improving, my throat and swallowing and pain got worse each passing day. I wasn't even eating much because of the pain and the choking issues I was having. My throat was a mess and I could just not tolerate it one more day.

    I called my NS about my throat and they said I might still have a minor issue from the surgery, but if I was in considerable pain that I should have it checked by my primary doctor. I couldn't get into my primary doctor today and didn't want to wait any longer. End result after going to our local Urgent Care facility is that I have a "extremely severe" case of thrush which explained my symptoms and my severe pain.

    It is absolutely amazing how much better I feel now that I have used a prescribed mouth rinse and started on a full one week dose of fluconazole instead of the typical one day dose. I was also warned that I may even need another refill to clear it all up. But it has most definitely helped.

    I would have never guessed that I would have thrush. It might be worth being tested for.

  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey Heather,
    Back in 2007 I was fused from C4 thru C7 also having a corpectomy, discectomy, strut & cage, rods & plates done both anterior and posterior. I did have a little discomfort swallowing at first but that could have been the result of being intubated. Now I'm have some issues at C7 thru T2 and I am having some swallowing issues. I have discussed this with the surgeon but in the mean time I have thought consulting with an ENT specialist. Can't hurt to have another opinion right? Let me know if you do go in and what you find out, I'd be interested to hear.
    Take care & be safe,
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 05/02/2013 - 6:38 PM
    Heather and Ranger
    I had similar issue after ACDF5,,6,7. Surgeon first thought it could be a hardware issue so he cleared the X-ray dept and had them do x.rays in just mins. That was alright , but always keep in mind if there is a big change to get that checked because hardware does become loose once in awhile and can be very dangerous. In my case they had me go to ENT and they had me do a swallowing study which showed some blockage, they went in with a ballon and stretched my throat out. A good side effect of this was that I had gerd and this helped that out big time also. No more bottles of mylanta every week any longer.

    In closing a ENT can't hurt they can just find a problem or better yet not find a problem.

  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    hey rick,

    I've heard about having the throat stretched from a friend with similar issues, sounds sort of unpleasant but if it works I'm game. I know my hardware is good as I just had recent imaging done, x-rays, MRI, and CT so maybe I should just quit procrastinating and make an appointment. But if I was you Heather follow up with your surgeons in May first as your surgery wasn't that long ago.
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 05/02/2013 - 6:39 PM
    Its a simple process that left me with no problems. At the same time while I was out I had a colonoscopy (sp) done for safety because its the same equipment. Going in the. Doctor said for twenty extra bucks he would do my throat first. HaHa
    It helps so much and it was my spine surgeon who sent me there. Just keep in mind with all the hardware it cuts down the room for everything to work. I still once in awhile get a dry pill stuck in the area and either drink fluids to wash I past the narrowing or wait for it to dissolve. I have learned how to breath past it without choking which took some time.

    Just to recap both test showed no cancer, reduced the heartburn I had dealt with for years and took care of 99.9% of the swallowing issues. Its just one of the win win things we can do.

    Good luck for all of you
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    LOL Rick,
    Twenty bucks more? You got a deal no doubt, you must have handed him a twenty dollar bill before they put you out.
    And here I just had my colonoscopy a few months ago. I like your results, I am going to talk to my Dr(s) about it indeed.
    Thanks for the info Rick, didn't mean to hijack your post Heather, hope the info shared here helps you out too.
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 05/02/2013 - 6:49 PM
    Heather and Ranger
    The procedure is simple if needed with no recovery time Its instant unless hardware is the cause.
    Also just wanted to add that the ENT s have a small scope for just the throat.
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