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C4/5/6 fusion scheduled 8/6/14

dldawsonddldawson Posts: 29
edited 07/30/2014 - 7:15 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Surgery is scheduled for next week to fuse C4/5/6. I have been reading many of the posts here and the information has been very helpful. A little history on me. I was a passenger in a car accident many years ago with injuries to my neck and lower back. Was able to do many years of chiropractic and physical therapy thus avoiding surgery for over 30 years. Did suffer with pain for most of those years. Had a L3/4/5 laminectomy in 2002 that helped with the low back and leg pain for a few years. Then a discectomy in 2011 at L4 that resulted in a hematoma in the spinal cord with a ruptured disc that required re-surgery 2 days later. The disc ruptured again and there wasn't enough disc material to do another discectomy so had to have a fusion at L3 to S1, but had to wait 7 months to heal from the two surgeries. Had to learn to walk again on my left leg as it was kind of non working after the hematoma and ruptured disc. Using a walker also damaged my right hand and I had to have carpal tunnel release along with two trigger finger release surgeries. Was left with some permanent nerve damage and resultant pain in the low back, buttock, hip, and leg. After being on narcotic pain medication for 3 years decided to wean myself off gradually to see if I could tolerate without the meds. Initially the pain levels increased but after some time the pain has decreased to no more than it was while taking pain meds, but I feel better off the narcotics, although I still take gabapentin for the nerve pain which helps somewhat. Have also been doing an arthritis water exercise class 3 times a week, regular massage therapy and acupuncture/acupressure which I feel also has helped.

Recently began experiencing severe pain in my neck into the shoulder blade, shoulder and part of my arm. Recent MRI shows severe spinal cord and foramen stenosis with CSF effacement, lordosis, type 2 and 3 endplate changes and multiple large broad based disc bulges. Neurosurgeon is going to fuse only C4/5/6 and said he would not be using any plates or screws. Has anyone else had a cervical fusion without plates and screws? Does this mean it will be an inter body cage that will go into the space where the disc will be removed?

I am trying very hard to remain calm but my mind keeps going back to what the lower spine fusion was like and that was pure agony! The surgeon keeps telling me that a cervical fusion is not the same as a lower spine fusion but I imagine it will still be very painful. Sorry for this post being so lengthy. Best wishes to everyone suffering through neck and back pain. Only others who have or are experiencing this know what it's like.



  • Hi! I'm so sorry to hear of your long and painful road since the car accident. I've had two cervical fusions, first one, C5-6 was 4 yrs ago and this past Oct I had C6-7 fused, Both were performed by the same Neurosurgeon (with two different types of hardware) and cadaver bones. That being said, my Neurosurgeon was referred to me by my Orthopedic Dr who recommended this physician due to his use of hardware in the cervical spine and recommended a completely different Ortho for my lumbar surgery, both of whom did the same surgeries on him. (I hope that made sense.) I'm not suggesting that not having hardware is unsafe or not good, I'm not educated in that area to form an opinion but it's one of the main reasons he was recommended by my Ortho. I CAN tell you however that it may be a bit of a long road to recovery but everyone is different. For me, it took nearly a year for the pain to completely go away and me being strong enough to compare with pre-'issues' (life before neck pain started). PT will be your best friend as will patience and a positive attitude. :) However, I've read about others on here who were good to go within 3-6 months post op. I personally think it depends on the health of an individual and extent of damage done prior to surgery. My first cervical spine issue was misdiagnosed for 2.5 yrs before it was treated properly so I had a lot of muscle weakness, atrophy and limited mobility in my neck which I'm sure attributed to such a long healing. Good luck on your upcoming surgery, I pray you have a fast and full recovery and it gives you the pain relief you so very much deserve.
  • spineanxioussspineanxious Posts: 19
    edited 08/04/2014 - 4:22 PM
    Dear Deb, I am sorry to hear about your pain, I'm sending many good wishes.

    As to the hardware question - I'm just 6 weeks post ACDF with cadaver bone and titanium screws/plates. However, before I chose my doctor (also neurosurgeon), i've spoken to three other specialists including one orthopedic doctor who didn't use plates/cadaver bones. Instead, he used an "implant" made of synthetic materials that would replace the disk and contain screws which came up and down directly from the implant. I asked the orthopedic surgeon what the brand of the device was and researched everything i could about it before making any further decisions. The same was true of my other neurosurgical consultations. No one seemed to mind my inquiries as to particular kind of hardware/materials used.

    Personally, i've chosen to go with the plates because i already have degenerative disk disease in most of my other disks, and it's likely i'll need to have other levels done one day. The kind of plate my doctor used can be extended to account for revisions. Also, I had quite a misaligned spine, and wasn't convinced the implant would provide the stability i needed.

    It sounds like you need to find out more about the procedure and methods your doctor is using. You didn't mention if your cervical fusion surgery would be anterior or posterior. Statistically, there is a lot less pain associated with the anterior approach.

    I would also recommend you ask your doctor to explain why exactly he/she thinks you are a candidate for a particular procedure they suggest. The answers will not only demystify the surgery, they will allow you to make a more informed choice in moving forward.

    I wish you all the luck with your journey!
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