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3 Level ACDF Freaking Out

I'm going in for 3 level ACDF surgery next Thursday, 9/11 for A4-A5, A5-A6, and A6-A7. I have spinal cord compression at the A4/5 level and have been suffering with pain down my arms and into my shoulder blades since January. My surgery was originally scheduled for 9/2, and I was just about to be rolled into the OR when one of the nurses thought I felt warm. Sure enough, I had a slight fever and the end result was a postponed surgery.

I've been silently reading the boards for months now. I know everyone's recovery is different, and overall this is a very successful surgery. But my anxiety and stress is THROUGH the ROOF! I've been taking Ativan as needed but this has been all consuming. I'm so scared - mostly scared of the long term effects of the surgery. It's non-sensical, since my quality of life with pain is not great now. I'm only 43 so this seems so radical for someone so young.

Any suggestions on how to get through the next 6 days without having a complete and total nervous breakdown?


  • I know surgery is a tough call. I been having neck and arm pain, numbness and weekness for 3 months now. I have disc herniation a 2 levels in my neck, have had two epidural injection, numbers physical therapy and chiropractic session and a lot of medications. Things have improved but not enough for me to go back to work. Based on my MRI ... surgery is could fix it. But my problem has been that no one clearly says how to fix it non surgically. Taking disc out from two levels and joining 3 bones to make is one is not easy for any one to decide, especially when the symptoms are not extreme.
    If you have waited long enough (6 months +) and things have not improved then It makes more sense to go for surgery but if things have been gradually improving then depending of how much time more you can live like this you need to take a call.
    The pain actually affects the quality of life that we live.
  • EA1070EEA1070 Posts: 26
    edited 09/05/2014 - 5:40 PM
    I had a 4 level ACDF C3-C7 with hardware two weeks ago today with an iliac bone crest graft. I was terrified. I've had a lot of surgeries, including a total abdominal hysterectomy, but this one freaked me out. Maybe because my mom had a two level ACdF with cadaver bone in 1988.

    It's a major surgery and I totally understand your fear. I spent two nights in the hospital and have to wear the Miami J collar if I leave the house. I was a wreck the first few days , mostly because the dr put me on OxyContin which made me hallucinate something fierce. Now I'm just on Percocet and Soma.

    I've tried sleeping in bed, but wake up in the middle of the night unable to move and it's terrifying, so I'm sleeping in my recliner now. Best investment we could have made.

    The majority of pain is in my hip / pelvis. Walking is extremely painful. The doctor made a vertical incision in my neck - my choice. He said it can be difficult to reach C3 with a horizontal cut and I told him not to worry about it - I wanted him to have easy access and not worry about access.

    The Dermabond glue came off and oh my gosh, it feels so much better. The skin doesn't feel as tight.

    My voice comes and goes.

    BUT, the pain, tingling and numbness down my right arm is gone!

    FWIW, I'm only 44. Sometimes we just have to deal with crap like this, ya know?

    If not for the incision and bone graft in my pelvic bone my recovery would be much easier.

    I bought a grabber and my recliner in preparation and they've both been awesome.

    Good luck! It will all work out. Just listen to your body, don't push yourself too hard, and be prepared to be very very tired.
    4 level ACDF, C3-C7 with iliac bone crest graft with hardware on August 22nd.
  • I agree with ravisankr, it's hard to make that decision, knowing that it is pretty much irreversible, but you do need to consider your quality of life and what you've tried already. In my case I only had a one level,(C6-C7) done, but I tried everything possible to avoid a fusion mostly because 3 months before my ACDF I had to have a double lumbar fusion (L4-L5, L5-S1). In my case it wasn't too hard of a decision because the disc had ruptured bad enough that it was important to gain back disc space since the vertebrae were bone on bone. I'm a little over 9 months since surgery and looking back I'm very glad that I had it done, I didn't have any voice issues, some swallowing and breathing problems until 3 weeks post op, was pretty stiff for a few months. The reclining couch and grabber were lifesaver! My only problem has been the numbness in my hand hasn't improved at all, but once you get used to that and the changes in the range of motion it's been overall a positive experience. Just listen to the doctor and don't push it, I only took a couple weeks off work, that was a bad idea. I should mention that I have PARS defects through my whole spine, doctor said its probably hereditary, since my mom and brother also have the same issues (they both have had lumbar fusions).

    Fyi, I'm 37 and I definitely do not feel old enough to have 10 screws, a couple rods, and a plate in my spine!
    Good luck!
  • Thank you guys so much for sharing your experience so far. The other night I had a total emotional breakdown...I think I just had to crack, and boy did I, but since then I've been in a much better state of mind. I can't live like this. My surgery is inevitable so I can push it off and continue to suffer and depend on medication for relief, or I can be a big girl and look forward to kickstarting my life again. I'm ready to get 'er done!

    I did invest in a recliner in preparation for the surgery, but I haven't picked up the grabby thing. Thinking it would be a good idea. My plan is to take 4-6 weeks off of work but I'm hoping to start walking for exercise as soon as I can. How soon after surgery were you able, if at all yet? I'm going to be in a Miami J collar for 12 weeks post surgery, full time except for showering. Thinking about that gets me all worked up. My Dr. says I should be driving after 4 weeks.

    Thanks for the encouragement :)

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