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Neck Surgery - Questions C5-6

Kelly416KKelly416 Posts: 47
edited 05/05/2014 - 3:53 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Everyone! I have been doing alot of reading on here for a few days and I am so thankful for this site and the people on it. I had no idea what a major surgery I'm about to have until I actually started reading. I would like to give a little bit of history and then I do have some questions that I want to ask and hopefully get some answers/advice.

At the end of last year I started having some shoulder arm pain and just chalked it up to sleeping on it wrong or maybe hurt it working out or something of the like. In January, it started becoming very chronic and and was hurting a ton at night, waking me up, making me cry, etc. I decided it was time to go to the doctor. I decided to go to a recommended shoulder doctor at my local orthopedic office. The doctor examined me, took x-rays and then told me that he doesn't think it's my shoulder. He thinks it is radiating nerve pain from my neck and wanted to do another x-ray, only of my neck. I thought he was crazy. But low and behold he showed me my x-ray and boy is my neck jacked up. It was then that realized all the pain I've had, not only recently, but for years, is from this problem. For years I have had a bicep issue where my arms would have a hard time rising above my head. I would have to maneuver it just right to get them to go up without pain. I always just thought I had slept on them wrong. Long story short, he sent me to a pain management specialist for spine issues in the same office.He looked at my x-rays and we got an MRI which showed I have a bulging disc at my C5-6 along with bone spurs. He recommended PT, which I did for 6 weeks and got no relief. Then he decided to try the epidural steroid injections. I did two of those with no relief. He then recommended me to the neighboring surgeon and now I am scheduled for surgery on May 14.

I am getting pretty nervous about post op. I am probably the most nervous about being able to swallow. I have to have regular endoscopes done to dilate my esophagus due to acid reflux scarring that keeps coming back despite my Nexium. So the surgeon flat out said, yes, you will probably have a tough time with that. Is there any advice or experiences on this effect that may help me?

Also, is a neck brace a normalcy for someone only having one level done? I read alot on two level surgeries but not one level and also not sure if my one level will turn into a two level surgery during surgery. God only knows. It seems some drs prefer it and some don't.

Who used a couch vs a recliner? I am considering renting a recliner for my recovery because it seems alot of people say it is a life saver.

My dr said I would be under house arrest (basically) for at least the first two weeks...but I work for myself (Real Estate Agent) so he said if I HAVE to go show a house or something that I could drive to go let them in, show them the house, and then go straight back home. Do you think this will be difficult to manage in my second two weeks?

I've heard that you can have a hard time lifting your arms above your head for a while...am I going to be able to do my hair? I usually have to blow dry and flat iron to get it to look halfway decent. Any chance I'll be able to do that?

Can anyone recommend any yummy healthy, easy to get down, soup recipes?

Any other suggestions, tips, advice for me?

Thank you so so much!!!!!

-Kelly <3
Much love and care to you, Kelly <3
One level ACDF C5-6 Surgery Date 5-14-14


  • Your story sounds very familiar. I too had problems that developed in my shoulders and arms that were actually coming from my neck. I can speak from experience having a 2 level ACDF (C5-C7), do not try to go back to work too soon! I thought I was indispensable in my job and tried to go back to work after only 3 weeks off - it was a disaster, I was miserable and I needed time to heal. Now a year and a half later I am facing a posterior revision surgery, this time I am taking 6-8 weeks off using my short term disability. I know that this is not an option for everyone, but if you have it, use it.

    As for the neck brace - I had one that I was to wear full time for 6 weeks. Doctors go either way on this, but ask your doc. I took it off to drive as it is illegal to drive with a neck brace as it limits your vision and ability to turn you neck. Driving was really hard to begin with so I started to car pool with a friend to work. You can also not drive if you are still taking narcotic pain meds as well, the last thing in the world you need is a DUI. I have a friend that was driving while taking percocets, had some in the car with him when he got pulled over and it basically wrecked his life. Not only was he trying to recover from an injury, he was also dealing with the ramifications of a DUI as well. Ohio is not kind to impaired drivers! Once again the moral of this story is; Take the time to heal, a few weeks now is better than years of pain down the road. As for things you have to do - lean on our friends to help you out.

    As the swallowing issues and dilatation - generally the part of your throat they move during an ACDF and and the part where they dilate are pretty far apart. I had some hoarseness and I still cough a bit when something touches that part of the throat as I still have some inflammation around that area due to my lack of fusion. If you are having that much issue swallowing and with reflux I would see a gastro or an abdominal surgeon and ask about an anti re-flux surgery. My wife is having a hiatal hernia repair in a few weeks for the same symptoms. I also know several people that have had a nissen fundiplication to correct this issue with great success. My wife is a bit of a different case and her issues are from her gastric sleeve weight loss surgery, lost a lot of weight now just dealing with some side issues like reflux now,

    I understand your situation, my mom was a Realtor for many years and it can be difficult as an independent contractor relying on your commission.
    2012 C5-C7 ACDF with fixation - failed to fuse
    June 2014 - Planned revision surgery
  • Thanks Dave! I have a hiatal hernia as well but my gastro doc never mentioned the option to have that fixed. I trust him a lot though. Should I maybe call him and let him know I am having this surgery and see if he needs to discuss anything with my surgeon? See if he has any concerns about me having this surgery?
    Much love and care to you, Kelly <3
    One level ACDF C5-6 Surgery Date 5-14-14
  • Kelly, You might ask him about any issues moving your throat around. My experience is that you have to "drive the bus" and advocate for your own care. In my experience a gastro doc wants a patient for life, yearly follow ups and medication refills = a steady income stream. A surgeon generally wants to fix an issue and only see you if you have a problem. The practice that my wife goes is a multi-disciplinary practice where the have a gastro and a surgeon. At her last scope the gastro referred her back to the surgeon about her hiatal hernia. Ask your doc about the nissen, watch for his or her response. The surgery has been around since the 70's but is not done that often.
    2012 C5-C7 ACDF with fixation - failed to fuse
    June 2014 - Planned revision surgery
  • Okay Dave, I will give him a call! Thank you for all your insight!
    Much love and care to you, Kelly <3
    One level ACDF C5-6 Surgery Date 5-14-14
  • Kelly. I just had 2 level fusion c56-c67 on 5/2 so it's been a week post op. One year ago I had lumbar fusion so I already knew what to expect- we'll sort of. I can tell u the cervical fusion is no where as bad as the low back. However it's different -still a major surgery but not like low back. In any event u can expect some throat soreness and swelling bc there is a lot of envasion and manipulation of organs that run down the throat including your windpipe. I agree with the post above cannot rush recovery. My dr has stated no driving for 4 weeks and rest I am so bummed out bc I cannot go to the gym which I did for 3 years 5x a week and all my progress went out the window. I'm 50 years old and was in best shape of my life since high school and that is now hanging in the balance until I fully heal. Good luck. You will be fine
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,842
    If you havent already read these:

    40 Questions to ask your surgeon before surgery

    ACDF Surgery

    ACDF Surgery Video

    Pre and Post Surgery needs

    I had ACDF Surgeries for C4/C5/C6/C7 (different times) all with titanium screws and a titanium plate. I felt immediate relief after those surgeries. My actual recovery was much easier and faster than I had with my lumbar surgeries. These were done in the late 1990s when hard cervical collars were very common. I had to wear one 24x7 for 6 to 7 weeks.
    Today, my neck is probably the best part of my spine. I do have some limited range of motion left to right and up and down.
    The biggest problem is having to turn my head to the left when driving. (I turn and if there is no horn, I did it ok)

    Hopefully you have read or will read some of the items I just posted for you. One thing that is so very iportant but often overlooked is your pain management after you leave the hospital.

    Before surgery, I am sure your doctor has provided you with pain medication prescriptions to help manage your daily pain.

    While in the hospital, the doctors and PA's will make sure you have adequate pain medication to make you comfortable.

    After you leave the hospital, most doctors will provide pain medication prescriptions anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.
    After that period is over, the surgeon generally also discharges you as a patient.

    Now you need to find a pain management doctor or physiatrist who will continue to monitor your progress. There are always ups and downs with post spinal surgeries. There will be times, that you may need pain medications. So, you want to make sure you have one of those 2 types of doctors working with you if and when you need additional medications.

    So many people forget about this part, and after their surgeon discharges them and they have high levels of pain, it becomes a scramble to get to a doctor who will work with you when you need it. So, having this piece worked out ahead of time should be a priority item on your list.

    Everyone gets nervous about surgeries. I had my 7 spinal and 4 complete joint replacement surgeries done and every time I was nervous right up till surgery. Having faith and confidence in your doctor is very important. But what is also very important is the hospital nurse and staff that will be taking care of you. The surgeon puts in their XX amount of hours to perform the surgery, they stop and see you once or twice while you are in the hospital. So its the nurses and assistants that are the ones that really look after you. If you have a chance, you should get to meet some of the nurses who will be on the floor that you will be on after surgery. Also contact the case manager. They can be a valuable asset. If you need something and have a tough time getting it, your case manager can do the leg work to get what you need. If all this sounds a bit strange or new, you should call the hospital and ask about some of the thing I mentioned.

    Good luck,
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • For all your responses! It definitely helps!
    Much love and care to you, Kelly <3
    One level ACDF C5-6 Surgery Date 5-14-14
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