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I'm going in August 12th, 2014 for ACDF. I'm really looking forward to pain relief in my neck and arms but am terrified about what to expect after the surgery is over. I was told I'll be in the hospital for 2-4 days. What are those first few days like? I have a lot of anxiety about it and have had months to worry about it. Any info would be appreicated. Many thanks!


  • Hello Gropm. I totally understand your anxiety as I had it too before finally having ACDF surgery just a week ago on 31 July. I just registered on this site because I have lots of time of my hands while I sit here in my recliner waiting to recover and get back to normal activities, which I'm sure will happen soon. So I'm happy to spend some of this time helping to answer your questions, understanding everyone is different and my experience may not be the same as yours. Before going further, I do have a couple of questions...can you give me a little more information about your procedure, i.e. what/how many discs are they working on and why are you going to have to spend so much time in the hospital? I researched a whole lot before my surgery and seldom do folks spend that much time in the hospital after this surgery. In fact, most go home that same day or the day after.
  • @vacationaddict Thank you for your feedback. I had my ACDF surgery one week ago. C5-6. The first few days were quite difficult for me. I had a lot of pain and nausea. One week later I'm much better. I just took 2 Tylenol instead of my 5 mg. Oxycodone. It seems to be working. I also have been taking soma about three times a day. I am not in a brace. I'm sleeping pretty well on my side, though I worry about this. My doctor, however, didn't warn me not to sleep on my side. I slept only on my back the first 3 days while in the hospital. I had to go home with a catheter which wasn't fun, but it was taken out yesterday and I was finally able to pee on my own. TMI!
    Being now freed from the catheter, I feel much more like self as opposed to a patient.
    Please keep me posted on how you are doing. I wish you a speedy recovery!
  • @Gropm Great to hear the surgery went well and sounds like you are recovering nicely. I hope that is still the case since your last post a week ago. I had a one level fusion C6-7. My recovery has been slower than I hoped for with good days and bad days further complicated by what my GP thinks is a sinus infection. And probably also complicated by the fact I likely pushed too hard the first three weeks post-op. I'll try to make a long story relatively short. :-) When I woke up in the recovery room the first thing I noticed was new pain all down my right side and into my hand. Major, major bummer! Most definitely coming from C8 which is not the area they fused. Doc thought it was a problem with the positioning on the table and thinks my nerve at C8 "fell asleep" pretty much for the whole surgery and just needed time to "wake up". Extreme pain when I tried to touch my pinky finger with my thumb on my right hand and extreme pain all along the C8 nerve route. Could not touch or pick up anything with my right hand. Couldn't type or write. Good news is he must have been right because I now have full use of my right arm and hand. My only real issue now is muscle spasms, especially on my right side. Right shoulder spasms are better but huge muscle knots all along the right side of my neck, especially right in the area where the neck and shoulder meet. (Anyone else reading this that have similar issues...I'd love to hear about it). I attempted to go back to work week three and did work all week although it was a struggle. I was convincing myself if I just got on with my life instead of sitting home constantly thinking about my pain, etc., I would feel better. Wrong!!!! I really think I went back too early and now I am home this week trying to recover from overdoing it. At some point week two (I think) I had two very loud, very frightening "cracks" in my neck that were not painful, in fact I felt a little relief from them. Has anyone else out there experienced this post-op? I look forward to my next appointment and hope I'm not having fusion problems. I think my recovery is further complicated as I developed a sinus infection. Everyone kept telling me my face looked puffy and I blamed it on the surgery. I suffer from chronic sinusitis but felt no symptoms. Duh!!!!!! Probably because I was on pain killers because I sure felt the symptoms of sinusitis when I stopped taking the pain killers! As a result, major face/sinus pain and now I'm on antibiotics and starting to feel a bit better. Sorry this response is so long but lots to talk about following this type of surgery, right? Hope you are continuing to do well and please anyone else out there feel free to chime in. I'm in desperate need of a pep talk! :-)
  • I am having ACDFI surgery in less than 2 weeks. I have a lot of the same fears as you were. I hope you keep having improvements. Good Luck
    Tracie C
  • @rtconant1. My husband had ACDF years ago and recovered quickly and nicely, as did my chiropractor who also had it done! Plenty of positive, success stories. Some folks take longer to heal/recover. I'm sorry you have fears but certainly understand. Stay positive and good luck to you as well! Please let us know how you are doing. Great to have these forums when you need support.
  • Thank you for the positive feedback. I think I get caught up in hearing about all the issues people are still having after their surgeries. Of course if a person is doing well, they probably wouldn't be here too much, right? lol. I really like coming here and reading posts. It helps explain things or even put things into words that I sometimes have a hard time describing. I'm glad your husband is doing well.(And your chiropractor)
    Tracie C
  • vacationaddictvvacationaddict Posts: 9
    edited 08/27/2014 - 11:53 PM
    @rtconant1. You are absolutely correct. I never came on here and actually looked at very few forum type websites before the surgery. Pretty much just listened to my doctor and the experience from my husband and chiropractor (both their surgeries a piece of cake) and checked websites of medical organizations describing details of the surgery. So I started reading these forum type websites when mine came out not quite as expected...interested in reading other folks experiences and what they are doing about it if they have similar issues to mine. BTW, my best night was last night so I hope this trend continues and I can stop with the muscle relaxers and pain pills and I had my surgery 31 July. Anyway, two things I highly recommend that you've probably already read about. Stay ahead of the pain and don't expect too much too soon. Take the pain meds and muscle relaxers as prescribed and before you start feeling pain. keep taking them until you are confident your feeling much better. Don't get discouraged if it takes you a while/longer than expected to heal and/or feel better and don't rush it. You will have the rest of your life to enjoy the ultimate benefits of the surgery. :-)
  • I am having the surgery acdf at 2 levels. I am in the medical field and have done these as a x-ray technologist. I am also an ultrasound technologist as well. My pain has been with me at least 15 years. I am really scared to have this surgery, knowing exactly what they do. I am ready to ask my doctor for some anxiety medication. I am concerned that my surgeon will send me home as an outpatient procedure. I feel this is too early to know if something is wrong or not. I also have an hour and 15 minute drive home, concerning me as well. What type of preparation at home did you do to get ready for this? Do they also give muscle relaxers to everyone? Thank you to all who respond.
  • 11 weeks ago I had multi-fusion posterior cervical/thoracic surgery, C3 - T3. I also hear loud cracks but no pain and my surgeon said that is normal. Previous to surgery, it happened all the time and was quite painful due to severe arthritis, but I'm not concerned now.

    As far as returning to work, I was sure I was going to return mid-August....impossible. My next goal was September 15th....well that's impossible as well since it was major surgery and I'm just beginning to feel human! I am going to return mid-October. I'm still on muscle relaxers and pain meds, one or two per day. I've had several fusion surgeries (see below) and without a doubt this one by far is the most painful, difficult recovery. If this was my first experience with fusion surgery, I would have been a total basket case, but knowing it does get better (and with help from "Roger" from this great website)' I've realized patience and more patience is the key. I have accepted the fact I will be home another almost two months. My boss insists and I know I'm extremely lucky to not have that pressure of returning to the office. That alone causes major stress. I commute by bus and then walk to the office, it's a long day.

    The past few days, I feel a little better then the beginning of the week. Any improvement, no matter how minimal, makes me happy. Hope you're day is a good one.

    Scoliosis surgery T4 - L3 in February,1981; Right scapular resection in March, 2001; Revision surgery L4 to Sacrum in December, 2010; Cervical/thoracic spine multi-fusion posterior surgery C3 - T3 in June, 2014.
  • @LMPS -thank you so much for your comments. It's nice to hear someone else is experiencing the cracks and that they are nothing to be concerned about. I too have arthritis in my neck so perhaps it is somehow related. I too have a very understanding employer and it makes a world of difference in recovery. Speaking of recovery, you all won't believe this but this week I developed severe nausea and abdominal pain and bad taste in my mouth and my back/muscle pain didn't seem to be improving much. Although I thought it odd most of those symptoms could be something related to recovering from surgery, especially since this is week 3/4 to suddenly develop nausea and abdominal pain, I rushed to my spine surgery doc who took xrays and said all is well other than the fact I'm "cheating" when turning my head and rotating my body too much along with it. He helped me to further stretch the neck muscle by turning my head without turning my shoulders and it's significantly helped the muscle spasms. Also, he gave me some home physical therapy instructions and I've started those. Anyway, I got an all clear from my spine surgeon so I headed to a GI doc thinking I had a new problem unrelated to the surgery. To make a long story short, I ended up in the emergency room this morning and after many tests and a CT scan, I have diverticulitis. Can you believe that? I've never had it before. Here I am trying to recover from neck surgery and something else pops up. Talk about bad timing! Diverticulitis can cause back pain (just what I need right now...geesshhh) in addition to abdominal pain. So now I'm back on pain pills with new drugs in the form of two antibiotics.
  • vacationaddictvvacationaddict Posts: 9
    edited 08/29/2014 - 10:06 AM
    @stufokski - I'm so sorry you have so much anxiety. I didn't have too much anxiety before because everyone I knew that had the surgery had excellent outcomes. My anxiety started when I clicked on a youtube link of a doc performing the surgery. Biggggggg mistake! So I understand why you must have anxiety having seen this surgery "close up". I most definitely do not regret having it at all. Other than this new problem I have that is unrelated (see my post above) I feel pretty good. I'm about one month since the surgery and all arm and neck pain gone. I was prescribed valium and vicodin after the surgery. The doctor switched me to soma as the valium didn't seem to be helping much with the muscle spasms and boy, oh boy, soma really did the trick and helped me but it is a very strong drug. As I implied in my post above, I was really being careful not to move too much which actually probably contributed to my muscle spasms rather than help. This surgery has a huge success rate so I'm a firm believer that it will be ok. As far as prepping for after your surgery...our drive back to the house was about 30 minutes. Hubby drove very slowly at my insistence. People actually honked at us as he was being so very careful. Again, take the drugs for the pain and try to relax. He drove slowly because I was afraid of every little bump in the road. Just make sure you prep your driver that it will be a very slow speed trip and avoid a bumpy route. My most favorite food item was low fat chocolate yogurt smothered in chocolate syrup with cherries. LOL Bags of peas work great for ice packs and one of the "bed buddies" that you put in the microwave to heat are great on the muscles. Good to have a recliner with pillows behind your back and head. Plan to sleep in it for a while. Flexible straws for drinking is good as bending your neck back to drink can be uncomfortable. All I can think of for now. Will post more later as I think of more. Best of luck and please keep us posted (pun intended). :-)
  • vacationaddictvvacationaddict Posts: 9
    edited 08/29/2014 - 10:17 AM
    @stufokski. I did not get any anti-anxiety drugs before the surgery...but I surely welcomed the drugs they gave me to relax me before wheeling me into the operating room. I was SUPER relaxed.
  • They say "when it rains, it pours".... I'm sorry to hear this. Thankfully it's not your spine, but good grief you certainly don't need this right now. Take care.

    Scoliosis surgery T4 - L3 in February,1981; Right scapular resection in March, 2001; Revision surgery L4 to Sacrum in December, 2010; Cervical/thoracic spine multi-fusion posterior surgery C3 - T3 in June, 2014.
  • So, I'm expecting to have C5/6 ACDF surgery in October. I'm like 99 percent going to have it but I do have a question. What are the long term effects of a cervical herniation of you don't have the surgery? My pain is actually getting a little bit better so I kind of wonder if it's worth it right now. Again, most likely going to do it but I am wondering. I have been reading a lot about this surgery on this forum and other places online but have not seen an answer to this question. Thanks for any input.
    C5/6 herniation, type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder
  • @newsgirl. Great question! I am not a doctor and you should ask your doctor. Having said that, it's my understanding the longer the root nerve is compressed, the higher the chance of permanent damage to the nerve and cord compression issues is nothing to mess around with. I really encourage you to talk to your doctor about the risk and benefits depending on your situation. And it doesn't hurt to get other doctor opinions as well.
  • GropmGGropm Posts: 20
    edited 09/04/2014 - 11:40 AM
    Hi everyone. Thank you for all your helpful feedback. I am 23 days postop and feeling much better than a few weeks ago. My question is, how long do most people still need to take their prescription pain meds? I still take Soma once a day and feel the need to take oxycodone once a day, too. The neck pain builds as the day goes on and when I feel a headache coming on, that's when I go for a prescription med, to keep it from becoming a migraine. I have had a couple days where I've needed to take Relpax or Frova for migraine. I find that when I do, I have a rough day--tired, no appetite and a bit nauseated, but no headache. I am still on leave from work and am scheduled to return after a six week absence. I work a night shift and am very worried about this as the pain is worse at night. Do you any of you think I'll feel much better at six weeks, or just a little?
    ACDF Aug. 12, 2014, c5-6
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Everyone is different with tolerance to pain and the rate of healing so you just have to stay on top of it. You asked if you will feel better at six weeks, just a week to ten days can make a world of difference, it is amazing how much better you can feel.
    Good luck to you and don't over do it so you don't have a major setback.
  • "Hi everyone. Thank you for all your helpful feedback. I am 23 days postop and feeling much better than a few weeks ago. My question is, how long do most people still need to take their prescription pain meds? I still take Soma once a day and feel the need to take oxycodone once a day, too. The neck pain builds as the day goes on and when I feel a headache coming on, that's when I go for a prescription med, to keep it from becoming a migraine. I have had a couple days where I've needed to take Relpax or Frova for migraine. I find that when I do, I have a rough day--tired, no appetite and a bit nauseated, but no headache. I am still on leave from work and am scheduled to return after a six week absence. I work a night shift and am very worried about this as the pain is worse at night. Do you any of you think I'll feel much better at six weeks, or just a little?
    ACDF Aug. 12, 2014, c5-6"

    Hi Gropm - nice to hear you are feeling better. I think I'm about 5 weeks post op and I started feeling significantly better at about exactly 4 weeks. I suspect your feel much better by 6 weeks. I stopped taking pain meds at about 4 weeks. Some can stop much quicker and some need more time to recover. Recommend you also make sure you keep everything "moving" sort of speak when in the bathroom if you catch my drift with all those pain meds, even if that means buying something over the counter. I've read folks get serious, unexpected problems when they neglect or notice a problem too late. I too had headaches and they resolved again around week 4. Are you laying completely flat while sleeping? That made a huge difference for me. I found if I slept flat, that increased the pain significantly in the evening and the next morning. I still have the bed raised for sleeping, although not as much as before. The other thing that has surprisingly helped me very much is the home PT for my shoulders. I could stop taking the muscle relaxers after starting the home PT, again about week 3ish. Doctor gave me a red band to tie around a door handle and several strengthening exercises with resistance reps with the band. What a difference that has made in my shoulder muscles and I only do it twice a week. I also use a heat around my shoulders and neck area. It didn't help for a while but is helping now, perhaps because the inflammation is finally coming down. I think it took me a good 4 weeks until it felt less inflamed which can be the source of your pain. Are you turning your head side to side without turning your shoulders and tilting it back and stretching those neck muscles? I was afraid to do that and my doctor ensured me it's ok. Again, that helped the muscles in my shoulders and neck relax and helped the pain go away. Hope you find this helpful and hang in there!
  • For all of you who have not had your ACDF surgery, do not fret. It was a very easy surgery! I had one level C5-6. I only had pain when I first awoke in the recovery room and then they started giving me pain meds. I had my surgery about 9 am and that night, I ate dinner and was getting up and down to use the bathroom all by myself. I had a wonderful view of the Spokane Valley from my room and a huge full moon to admire all night. My doctor gave me a shot of dexamethasone in my IV and I was a happy camper with very little pain for a week! Then it wore off, but all in all, the discomfort was very minute. Sleeping was probably the hardest thing. A recliner would be perfect. Mine was killing my back by that time, since I had slept in my recliner for a year and a half due to the severe arm and shoulder pain related to my neck. So I figured out a way to make my sofa into a type of hospital bed! My sofa has three cushions. I still take one cushion out and put two pillows with staggered heights and then put the cushion back down. So my head is slightly elevated. I could now lay flat if I wanted to do that. I also took a towel and I would often use it to brace my head so it would not flop over to either side while I slept. That helped a lot. Now, after four months, I do not need the towel.

    Please do not worry. It was one of the least painful surgeries I have ever had! Now I am waiting for my nerves to heal since I had two incompetent doctors last year who told me there was nothing wrong with me.
  • Last year, I was on 40mg. of hydrocodone per day and the magic elixir for keeping me going was magnesium. Magnesium is good for the bones, the heart, etc. It is also an ingredient used in some laxatives. It worked like clockwork. I took anywhere from 250mg per day to 400mg. It works well without troubles. Start on the low side though...250mg first and work up. It's a Godsend and it helps a person sleep well, too. Many people use stool softeners which I HATE. This is a better option and good for the body, too.
  • I guess I am on a roll here. I had the ACDF surgery four months ago. I had a large herniated disk on C5/6. I wanted to be fixed a year and a half ago, but due to the incompetency of two doctors, I was not accurately diagnosed. So my pain--arms/shoulders and upper back got quite severe. Eventually, I began having a hard time to walk and to get off the toilet and chairs. By the time a got a good doctor, I was a mess due to Moderate Central Stenosis in the cervical spine. The disk was pressing on my spinal cord and causing leg issues. Even after four months, I still have leg issues that bother me more than my arm pain and shoulders. I pray this goes away! So my answer to you is that you consider my situation and avoid spinal cord compression. Get the disk out of there before it causes trouble. The ACDF surgery was really a breeze and I had no troubles. The recovery is slow due to the nerves and spinal cord irritation. Also, consider that if you have a fall or accident, you can have damage to the cord (depends on your situation, but that's what I was told). I would be in much better shape now if I could have been fixed last year!
  • I hit the five week mark tomorrow, Sept. 16th, 2014.I still have pain in the evening and need to take a pain pill or muscle relaxer. The neck pain is still worse than it was before my c5-6 fusion. My arm pain is better. I am due return to work, a night shift in a week. I'm a little worried as I am at my worst at night. Wondering if any of you farther along can tell me if my pain at five weeks sounds normal. Thank you all. Your comments on this forum have been so helpful and supportive!
  • well this is mstukofski.I did really well for the surgery. I did wake up to a panic attack in the recovery room. I ended up spending the night at the hospital and was released the next afternoon. Since I've got home I've gotten better each day.I am having pain in my right arm and shoulder. Which is unrelenting. I contacted the doctor three times yesterday and got no response. I called this morning. Had them call in some pain medicine. I got home and it was a lesser strength then what I was using. So I had to call them again, and she said oh so sorrywe did not prescribe that medicine. So that put me back a day and I contacted them again and they said that they would give me some valium along with the medication that I picked up. That is my biggest frustration.it's too bad the doctors do not listen to you. And they will not give you enough strength in your pain medicine to be able to cope. Hopefully this will be straightened out and I can get a long with this recovery.
  • I hope you recover soon x
  • so 5 weeks in, is still early days in your recovery journey. Fusion can take up to a year, and about that long before you are going to feel more like you did before all of this started.
    Pain is going to continue on and off for some time yet, but should improve slowly. Surgery isn't an instant fix to pain.......it repairs the mechanical or nerve compression issues, but your body has to recover from the surgery itself and the damage done previously to the spine. This takes time.
  • Have any of you tried using Lidocaine patches following ACDF? I am nearly 8 weeks post op from c5-c6 surgery and still have neck pain. I'm trying to get off my pain meds now that I'm working again and put on one of the patches tonight. I had been prescribed them before I had surgery for neck pain. The pain in my neck is still about as bad as it was before the surgery. I'm hoping the pain will get better but at nearly two months out I fear this will be as good as it gets.
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