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SCARED!!!!! Failed ACDF, posterior revision surgery as early as next week. SCARED!!!

Hi all. I had an ACDF c5-6/c6-7 on 2/18/13. Original surgeon says everything is great, despite continuing pain. He was continually prescribing narcotics to help with pain and offered to go in through the back if I am still "hurting so badly".

I had family members with me at each follow up appt, they all heard him say everything looks great.

I finally got fed up, and went for another opinion, and that doctor sent me for a CT scan. Turns out I am not fusing at all, have developed another bone spur at the surgery site, and have 2 bulges on the levels that were supposedly fixed.

Asked what my alternatives are with the second doctor, and was told I can leave it, but the area will only become more arthritic, which will result in more pressure on the spinal cord and more pain. Other option is revision surgery, posterior.

He wants to go in and explore, and put rods and screws in through the back, going to T1 if it is deemed necessary at the time. I will be given a bone growth stimulator from the get go this time since last time I failed to fuse.

Let's just say I'm beyond terrified. So sick of pain already, and my life has been on hold since before the first surgery.

Anybody out there with a posterior revision surgery that was successful??

I know I am looking at a longer recovery time, plus more pain than the ACDF. Just very frustrated, and looking for hope, info, and encouragement.

Thanks, Loop


  • I'm sorry you're going through this. I personally have not had to have a revision after my 3-lvl ACDF (C4-7), but know many here that have and were success stories. Sounds like you've found a good surgeon this time. My surgeon specialized in fixing botched cervical surgeries, although he also did my two lumbar surgeries.

    Try not to be too scared - you already know that it will be a longer and more painful recovery, so you're prepared for that. I can only say that you need to have 100% confidence in your surgeon. Have you gone for another opinion? I think that might be a good idea, considering your first surgeon didn't do a good job. Also, I believe that a spine surgeon should have major bonifidies - fellowship-trained, board certified and does nothing but works on spines. Mine also used off-label BMP which I believe helped in all my fusions.

    Anyway, take care and like last time, you'll just go to sleep and wake up with it done. Then it'll be on to recovery. For what it's worth, C6/7 is the most difficult to fuse as it's the one that moves the most whenever you move your head.

    Take care and hang in there!
  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
    edited 10/11/2013 - 11:45 AM
    I can sympathise with your fear about facing this posterior revision to your neck surgery.

    As you are in pain now and not fused, I suspect that if you do nothing your pain will increase.
    Posterior neck fusions do tend to be more difficult but if this leads to fusion and reduction of your pain, it will be worth it.

    As long as you have complete confidence in your surgeon (another opinion may reassure you that this is what needs to be done) then this should be the way to get your life back on track again.

    Do keep visiting this forum and let us know when you have a date for surgery. We will be here to support you through this and hopefully before too long you will be telling us that you are much more comfortable.

  • hi loop

    i am scheduled to have a 360 cervical on Nov 11th. an ACDF C-6-7/C7T-1...And then a posterior lamindetomy fusion from C3-T-1 with rods and screws. same surgery. I am pretty nervous but have high confidence in my surgeon. It will be my first ever surgery. Can't really give you any advice, but will keep you posted on how everything goes.
    Cervical 360 ACDF C6/7-C7T1 Posterior fusion with hardware C3-T1 11/11/13
  • rpay10rrpay10 Posts: 33
    edited 10/11/2013 - 4:43 PM
    hey Cath...what is off label BMP? i am meeting my surgeon again on Oct 29th with some questions this might be one to ask
    Cervical 360 ACDF C6/7-C7T1 Posterior fusion with hardware C3-T1 11/11/13
  • I completely understand what you are going through. I had ACDF c3-c5 and still in a lot of pain. I too am seeing another dr. I go in for mri at the first of november to see if i am fusing. My surgeon just keeps telling me mine looks great too but will not tell me if i am fusing.
  • Unfortunately it appears that I have had 2 failed cervical fusions. My ACDF C3/4/5 was done in September 2010, followed by Posterior CDF C/5/6/7 in December 2011 which had to be done twice in 3 days because in first attempt all screws etc became loose. Surgeon said that it must have been caused by faulty batch of screws!! I have been in a lot of pain for 3 years now and I have now been told I need further surgery from C2/3 to T2/3 to hopefully correct what has gone wrong. This surgery will be done by a different Surgeon, this time a Neurosurgeon. However I wish to mention that my 2 failed fusions were done by a Surgeon who is considered to be one of best Spinal Surgeons in UK.

    I have to wait for this next surgery until around December 2013/January2014 as the Neurosurgeon is so very busy treating patients with spinal tumours or scoliosis.

    Good luck with your operation and please keep in touch.
  • Oh Geez, Wonderboy. I can't even imagine how frustrating that would be. Can't even imagine.

    I am planning on fusing this time...lol I will be given a bone growth stimulator from teh get go, because I did not fuse last time. Tried looking up how effective those really are, but have not really gotten any concrete answers as to how effective they are.

    I will adhere to the post surgical instructions, and hope for the best. I figure that even if I don't fuse again this time, at least the spine will be stabilized. Right now it's not, and things are moving which is causing the pain.

    Thanks so much everybody for the kind words. I have complete confidence in my surgeon, he only does spines and is board certified and did his fellowship at the Clevelend Clinic. He did 2 surgeies on 2 friends of mine, both were successful.

    Surgery is going to be 10/16 pending approval from the insurance.

  • Yes I just had a Major posterior it can get better. If left alone it can get worse. Only my opinion!!!
    Good Luck, please let us know how you do.

    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 10/20/2013 - 12:31 PM
    Don't worry about surgery get fixed and soon.
    First it's not uncommon even if you fuse the first surgery from the front to need a posterior surgery to make more room for the cord. I know that's not your case but going in from the back should take care of that type of issue with you this time.
    I would not wait time does possible damage to nerves and or the spinal cord which you do not want. Again I say don't wait.
    Yes the surgery is a hard one I will not kid you on that but it's worth it without any question.
    I had a cervical fusion and a lumbar fusion both done with a bone growth stimulator.
    I had exhalant results. My stimulators were free at the time 2006/2007 because I was part of a trial using them. Yes I did fuse quicker then those that did not have them and today most insurance will cover the cost of them. $ 5000 to $7000 each and they are set up for use for a limited number of days and they shut down.

    With my experience in this I would be looking forward to the relief you will get from this unless it's been to long and permanent
    damage was done to nerves or the spinal.cord.

    Good Luck and when I got tired of people asking me what the bone stim was I told them it was a.new beta version of a iPod and it worked through the neck so you didn't need ear phones. Hey you got to have fun when you can.


  • Loopster,
    It looks like, if approved, your surgery will be tomorrow.

    I hope that it will be totally successful and will achieve the surgeon's intentions.
    I hope that you will soon be telling us how much better you are feeling.

    Good luck!
  • Thank you everybody for the replies. Surgery WAS scheduled for Oct. 16th, but got cancelled due to insurance issues.

    It is not scheduled for Oct. 30th.

    Bottom line, I'm still terrified. I trust my doctor, he assured me twice now that he will not leave me hanging with pain, he will control it the best we can, and worry about weaning off of the narcotics when we're ready, and do it as slowly as I need to do it.

    We were in the ER a few days ago because the pain just got out of control. I really have no choice but to do the surgery, but it still stinks.

    I think we're ready, as far as supplies go. If need be, we can order a recliner or hospital bed to rent for a while if sleeping in my own bed or recliner is too uncomfortable, but I'm hoping we wont' have to do that.

    I am following doctors orders to a Tee this time, no variation on them, and taking my time with this recovery. It gets very frustrating not being able to do things day after day, but if the trade off is no more pain and get my life back I'm in.

    Trying to get prepped as much as I can this weekend, because Wednesday is the big day.

    I'll report back as soon as I'm able. I was online in the hospital on my Kindle a few hours after getting out of the recovery room after the ACDF, but from what I hear that will probably not be happening this time. We'll see.

    Have a great weekend everybody, and I wish you all as little pain as possible, and speedy healing!!
  • I sent you a PM please don't worry to much. I was just Like You terrified, but my pain was so deep and agonizing because of the non-union. I could not do anything , I had to lay down all the time. No quality of life at all. That is no way to live if there is hope for pain relief, right??? It is so Normal to be scared this is a Big Surgery!!! No doubt about it, it sounds like your surgeon has a handle on this and that is Huge!!!

    As a fellow Posterior Terrified patient please try and not stress your body to much, try and start to think positive it will help you, anyway that is what I did. By the time we got to the Hospital the surgery could not come fast enough I had to be there at 5:00 am and it seemed like the longest 2 hours waiting for the Surgery. The nurse who took care of me prior to the surgery had a acdf done by my surgeon and it was very comforting to me, I thought we'll look at her she is back to work.

    Good luck to you on Wednesday, if I don't hear from you!!! I will be thinking of you all day Wednesday. Please post when you are able to.

    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    You will hear all kinds of horror stories about the posterior surgery but for me it wasnt that bad, The only problems I had were getting up out of bed. It is a slower healing surgery so do as the doc says and begin walking as soon as you have clearance The muscles get pretty angry with this surgery and walking helps. Take your muscle relaxers as prescribed and good luck, keep us posted

  • susabellssusabell Posts: 238
    edited 10/30/2013 - 7:32 PM
    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • Something odd happened when I tried to post. Today was your Posterior Surgery Day & I wanted you to know I was praying for you.

    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • PamPPam Posts: 43
    edited 11/05/2013 - 5:27 AM
    Good morning Loop,

    I hope you are doing well, i know how you feel as i am at the point of surgery myself. I have been suffering form cervical issues since 2007 and was diagnosed with DJD at c4-c5 c5-c6, hypertrophy at c4-c5 with formaninal narrowing at c4-c5 c5-c6 right worse than left resulting in radiculopathy on the right side. In july of this year i had a MRI done due to another injury and was diagnosed with c4-c5 c5-c6 moderate loss odf disc height, moderate bilateral formaninal narrowing at c4-c5 c5-c6
    with slight retrolythesis at both levels. My pain is at a steady 6 and when i go to PT its between 8-9 , i am at the point of feeling like the nerve pain is permanent because my nerves have been compressed for so long. I can deal with the neck ache but the nerve pain is really tough at times. I wish you all the best and everyone else here :)
  • edited 11/05/2013 - 6:15 AM
    Like you, I had two failed fusions and needed the posterior surgery. I'm one year out and although I still have pain, I am better off that before the surgery. The worst part was the first couple of days in the hospital. Once I got home, I started feeling better. Let us know how you are doing.
  • thehallfamiliatthehallfamilia Posts: 5
    edited 03/26/2015 - 5:52 PM
    I am currently in the same situation. I was injured when a peer at work fell on me. I ended up having an acdf c5-7. Bone from my hip was used. I also used a bone growth stimulator from the jump. Now almost 10 months and no life later, a I am still in excruciating pain. Come to find out, while the nerves were released and no longer impinged, I have not fused o. Either level. It actually looks as if my body has reabsorbed most of the bone. So now my surgeon and two additional neurologist recommended revision surgery and adding an additional level. I have also developed kyphosis. I will be having a CT scan to find out if T1 is ok, because of the amount of pain between my shoulder blades. How have you been since your surgery? I hope that your back to having some sort of life. Thanks
  • Did any of you who have had failed fusions smoke? My neurosurgeon is blaming my failed fusions on nicotine, however I believe there is more to it. In 2010 I had a n anterior fusion from c4-7, it fused in the middle but not at the top or bottom. Then last year I had a stress fracture at c7 which collapsed onto t1, resulting in a second anterior fusion in 3/2015. 6 mos later a screw has worked its way out approx 7mm. He now wants to go in anterior to to remove the loose screw, then posterior to insert a rod and screws from c4-t1, although he hasn't looked to see what is going on lower down my spine. I have degenerative disk disease and fibromyalgia with chronic inflammation. I see another neurosurgeon for a second opinion on 12/30. I find this forum to be quite helpful in knowing I'm not alone and that there is hope. I'm used to being very active, and for the past year I barely have the strength to get in the shower as often as I would like. The pain has taken a huge toll on my anxiety and depression as I only have myself to rely on. I believe second opinions are always a great idea, if nothing else but to put your mind at ease that you have explored possible options. My last surgery was a traumatic experience as the nurses decided to punish me for not quitting smoking prior to surgery by withholding my pain medication post-op. I firmly believe this contributed to my body's ability heal properly. Best of luck to you all, and thanks for the support. No one else understands our struggle.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
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