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5 Level Fusion

Well, I am heading in at 5:30 a.m. EST tomorrow, March 3rd, for a 5 level cervical fusion. C3-T1. Three years ago I had a three lever lumbar fusion, which I did very well with. This one though, scares me a lot more. The though of him moving my esophogus and voice box is very unsettling! I have seen both good and bad experiences on here with this. I had a swallow study last week, and they said I already have a lot of trouble with swallowing, mainly because of the degenerative disc disease progression. I am not sure how this is going to turn out. If it gets rid of 50% of the pain and the damned irritating numbness and tingling in my arms and fingers I will be a happy camper. It is very irritating. I have the same neuro for this as I had with my TLIF. I have the utmost confidence in him. He is actually the neuro for an NFL Team, so that is a big plus. Will keep my friends on here posted. Hopefully this recovery will go well. I am just very concerned about the swallowing from the swelling and the hoarseness of my voice they said will happen.


  • Hi, I just joined and read about your neck surgery.. I'm curious if you ended up doing it and if so, how are things now? I too have cervical issues in c4/5/6/7 that I have been suffering with for many years now, and have been receiving 'conservative care' for..for years now. They suggest surgery at some point but due to my current situation and responsibilities we aren't doing at this time. I'm so over the pain & issues it causes me, all the doctors appointments, pain meds etc. I just feel so uneasy about the fusion surgery they suggest and all the possible side effects, issues it can cause and the 50% chance it won't even fuse!
    Just curious how yours went and would love to hear your details. Also, would you mind giving me your neurosurgeons name?

    I hope you receive this & thanks for your time.
  • I know you had a big surgery Pascoguy so hopefully you can get on here soon and update us on what happened and how you are feeling. ChristieJean, I have many cervical issues also, stenosis, foraminal narrowing, ddd, cord compression, degenerative facet and c6 - c7. I have put this off as long as I can stand, my pain doctor has told me there isn't anything else that can be done except for surgery. I talked with my surgeon and I am going in on March 19th for fusion of c6 - c7. I hope that is all they do. I have very high hopes that this is going to help me! I am losing my left arm and I don't have much choice except to get this done. I have done all the conservative treatment I can without any relief, not even a days worth of relief.
    There are alot of horror stories about fusion, but I have heard alot of great stories too. Whats bad is usually the only people that have the bad outcomes are the ones that talk about it.

    I keep hearing, even my surgeon told me... Look at Peyton Manning, he had fusion and look how well he is doing. He had and is still having a slow recovery but he is doing a lot better now that he was 2 years ago. My surgeon knows all my concerns and has told me not to worry about all the horror stories and get fused and I won't regret it. I hope he is right. 13 days and counting.

    Anyways, both of you guys please keep us informed of how things are going, I am going to do the same thing. I am going to tell everybody how well I feel and I can go back to my normal life after fusion. Positve is the way to be! Your mind plays a vital role in everything you do!
  • I have recommended this surgery to several people because I have seen it work miraculously. Just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean I wouldn't do it again. My doctor told me that if I didn't have the surgery I would be paralyzed in my left arm and hand. I am not paralyzed. I can work, drive and do so many things that I would not be able to do if I was paralyzed. I am plagued by constant chronic pain and it limits my activity. I struggle but I am only one.
  • pascoflguyppascoflguy Posts: 18
    edited 03/08/2014 - 11:17 PM
    The surgery was SO SO SO worth it. .Before I tell you what happened to meI have to say the surgery IS a miracle.I will post my progress as I can get on here. getting around is a little tough, and scary at the moment. My surgeon has the hands of God. What he can do is absolutely nothing but AMAZING. The pain going down mu shoulder blades is gone, the sensation in my left hand is coming back, quite rapidly, and for some reason, I had four level TLIF on L2-S1 in 2011, and this cervical surgery corrected some remaining issus with numbness in my left side.
    Now the bad part...and I was told by many many people that this is VERY rare, especially in a 48 year old that is in not bad shape and has no heart problem. So please, do not let what happened to me effect yout decision to have or not have the surgery. It has coreected the pain issue but....I had an unfirtunate occurance that from my doctors standpoint has happened to him ONCE in 450 surgeries, s you are talking low low percentages .

    I am home, I feel like I got hit by a bus, then another bus, then another bus, but I AM home....the story goes a little like this..I hope this will cover some people so I dont have to repeat it too often, makes me a little edgy at the thought...I am having a tough time talking....throat is too sore. My family almost lost me Mondaynight. I had a 5 level cervical fucion (C3-T1). Surgery was 730am and they closed at 230pm. There was a problem with the surgery, I had a clot form in my neck, by the time they got to it, 1130 PM Monday my neck size was over 19.5". My throat swelled shut and they had to do another whole surgery that night to get the clot out. I guess there is a reason that they do not intubate you more than once a day. Believe me, you do NOT want it to happen! WOW....so sore. I was kept under ALL DAY Tues with a propophol drip and they woke me up Wednesday afternoon. So, needless to say my surgeon has had this happen ONE TIME in over 450 surgeries, I am the second. I am damned lucky to still be here. What a scary thing. I cant begin to tell you....But, everything is back on track now.....it is going to be a longer haul than it was supposed to be, but I am around to do it, that is the most important part of it all. Thank you all. I l thank you so much for your thoughts and your prayers. They mean more than you can begin to know. I am going to have a rough few weeks, but I have my good moments!

    Post edited to remove name of specific doctor. by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team
  • I am truly sorry to read about the complication you experienced but am really glad that your surgery is over and that you are on the upside now.
    It is scary, I had a strange post op complication too when I had my lumbar surgery, a post surgery onset of Cauda Equina Syndrome so yes, it is very wise to remember that complications can occur and to make sure that we are comfortable with the surgeon we choose and his ability to handle any crisis.
    Best of recovery to you,
  • Thank you Sandi. The clot was quite a shocker. I totally agree. I have nothing but confidence in my surgeon. He worked a miracle on my lumbar fusion in 2011 and I think he just finished another miracle for me. One more and I can Saint him, correct?? :) It has been a week today since my C3-T1 fusion, as well as a week from the emergency surgery for the clot. I am not sure where I am supposed to be in my recovery with the clot thrown in there, but I think I am doing darned GREAT. I am having some tingling and weakness in my left arm, but I am attributing that to the 12 IV sites I had distributed between both arms, as well as the sensations that I have not had for so many years suddenly returning. My arm and shoulders are actually awakening. I can feel the two fingers (ring and pinkie) that I though I had lost sensation in forever. I AM in a tremendous amount of pain. I have a lot of pain and trouble swallowing as well as producing saliva. I see my pain management Dr tomorrow, he works hand in hand with my neurosurgeon. Thanks God he is only 10 miles away. I am not sure how I am going to tolerate the drive. The drive home from the hospital Saturday was over 30 minutes, but the dears timed my pain meds for the ride home. I have a hard cervical collar that I am to wear only in the ,car or going for walks but the thing is uncomfortable....but very protective. I have some questions for him, and any of you that have gone through this. Were you able to use heat or ice? I SO want to put ice on my throat!!! I hear that it is a no-no to put it right at the incision site, but what about the other side of my throat or back? (I had a 5 level ACDIF C3-T1) I am back on all my pain meds PLUS. Were you able to back off? I do 1800mg neurontin, 60mg ER Morphine, 60mg IR morphine, 4 (10-325) percocet, of course our friend AMBIEN!, 1050mg Soma. Hopefully I can begin to dump some of these. Definately not yet, but it is in my plan.
  • pascoflguyppascoflguy Posts: 18
    edited 03/18/2014 - 12:03 PM
    And the saga continues......We were in the ER last night. I woke up and my body was aching, my muscled were cramped and I had the headache from hell. So we took a trip to the Emergency Room. Only a three hour trip, door to door. Hosptal is very efficient. They found that I had strep throat! Not a good thing to have after this surgery. I thought the sore throat was normal from them moving my esophogus and voice box. Not having a good time with this hurgery.......
  • Unbelievable! You probably picked the strep throat up at the hospital. That is the problem with having surgery in a hospital. It is full of germs. One good thing is that within a week or so, the strep will be gone. Praying for your full recovery.
  • I really appreciate the sentiments. Today is the first day I am feeling much better. I took my last antibiotic this morning and I'm almost back to where I was when I first had the surgery its been a rough rough rough ride but it seems like in the end it'sgoing to be worth it. I had a lumbar fusion in 2011 L3-S1 and it worked out wonderful. I was like a totally new person after that surgery. hopefully when I get back on track with this one that I end up the same spot that I was when I had the lumbar fusion.I am still having a lot of problems swallowing but from what I've seen on here with other people's experiences that subsides with time. It's good to read some of the good experiences people of had a near that come with the bad because in the end people seem to have worked out pretty well after they've had their surgeries even after having some complications.like I said before my surgeon told me that in over 450 surgeries this has happened to him once before. I have all the confidence in the world in him and follow every given me and it's been good so far despite the little bumps in the road. I would absolutely recommend this surgery anyone who's in as much pain as I wasn't because the pain that I used to have is pretty much gone now. Some of the pain I have now can be attributed to the swelling that's left over from the surgery plus the club that happen plus the strep that happen then the flu. but I keep doing everything they say and everything they want me to do so hopefully I'll end up on a positive note. I documented my whole experience with the lumbar and 2011 on this site it was wonderful with all the feedback that I got in the feedback that I could give to other people
  • Hi All. The information I get from this web site is invaluable. I've been trying to find out all I can about anything that looks similar to my problem, but haven't found too much yet. So, I'm hoping reaching out might help me. Here's my situation: Had a car accident in Oct. 1996 which resulted in 4 levels, C3/4-C6/7, of herniated/bulging/slipped discs in my neck. After suffering in pain for 6 years and dozens of procedures later, In 2002 I had a 2-level fusion at C4/5-C5/6 using my own bone from my hip. All was great for 3 years. In 2005 I was having horrible pain in my mid back, but neurologically all looked okay. But no conventional pain management worked and I just knew something was wrong. I finally convinced my spine doctor to do an MRI which showed that C6/7 fully herniated into my spinal cord, so in June of that year had that level fused using cadaver bone. One year later, symptoms reappeared. A cat scan showed that the entire cadaver bone had been absorbed and I had rejected it. I had to have the surgery again, so this time, used bone from my left hip and to ensure that the bone would fuse, I had anterior and posterior surgeries with more screws and 6" rods placed into my neck. I had lost my voice for an entire month and it was a much longer recovery, whereas in 2002 I was back to work in 2 months, in 2005 I was back to work in 2 months, in 2006/07, I never was able to return. Though the fusion was successful, the degenerative disc disease has progressed and developed severe Fibro Mialgia so I live in chronic pain from head to toe and unfortunately have been on Morphine, Percocet, Flexeral and Cymbalta 24/7 ever since. I've also been left with less than 40% ability to turn my head and driving has been difficult all these years, but I have to do, what I have to do and am an expert at using my mirrors, except the blind spot is a bit tricky. I have been through the ringer with more procedures, physical therapies and everything else in between. In 2010 my lower back and pain down both legs put me on the couch for 2 years and I have herniated discs at L4/5, L5/S1 with Sciatic nerve damage. In Feb 2013 I had an SCS implanted to help with the leg pain which worked great for the first 8 months or so, but now the techs cannot get the stimulator to work on the outside of my right leg which is where the pain is the worst so I'm not too happy with the Stim at the moment. Now, to my present situation. Last May I started getting shooting pain into my head whenever I turned my neck and then in August the pain started down my left shoulder and both arms and wake up with my hands completely numb, constantly drop things and the last 3 toes on each foot go numb when I drive or stand for longer than 15 minutes. I finally told my spine doc that something is wrong as I know my body and can tell when things are wrong. Because of the SCS I cannot have any MRIs and he's been very hesitant about doing CatScans because of the radiation and I also have thyroid issues. He did some X-rays that showed C7/T1 has degenerated and the Facets at C3/4 are damaged. More Facet blocks later had no relief. Now I know my doctor and we both knew the inevitable would happen but don't want to admit it, but four weeks ago, I convinced him that I have to know how bad the discs really are/or where they are in my spine because I have the same symptoms I had back in 2002 when the surgery was necessary. I had the EMG/Nerve Conduction which showed bi-lateral radiculopathy at C7/C8/T1, which I already knew and he actually had tears in his eyes because we both know what this means. On this coming Monday I am facing a Mylogram CT of which is not pleasant (had one in 2005) to see how bad the discs are at C3/4, C7/C8/T1. He is already recommending extending the fusion and placing a cage with additional hardware at the C7/T1 site. However, we may have to also do C3/4 but he's very reluctant to do both levels because of the impact of my life this will cause as since I currently have such little ability to turn my head will I lose the rest? He also said that even if the surgery relieves the pain in my arms, it will still leave me in chronic pain in my neck/back. And, more importantly, will only leave me with one good disc left in my neck and with my history, my future doesn't look good for that disc. I know this is a rare situation and I haven't been able to find much, if any, information about situations like mine. I know that no matter what the CT shows, I have to make a decision. So, here's my questions, If I choose to do surgery, which disc should I have fixed or should I do both? As the days go on, the pain is getting worse in my neck, shoulder and arms. I haven't gotten any answers as to what is causing the shooting pains in my head and I don't know how much longer I can deal with that and the headaches are getting more frequent and worse. If I choose not to have surgery what neurologically do I have to look forward to? Any ideas, suggestions, advice, etc. would be greatly, greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
    Lisa Hess
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