Prior to my surgery, I researched for months, read the same stories over and over, but it still wasn’t enough. There just aren't enough recovery stories out there for cervical artificial disc replacement, especially multi-level. I hope this helps someone.
DAY 1: I had c5-c7 anterior cervical disc arthroplasty for cervical spondylosis and myelopathy. Because of the bone spur on the back of c5, the doctor thought that he may have to do a fusion at that level. However, I understand that the surgery was smooth and 2 artificial discs were implanted. The surgery lasted 5 hours. I woke up with nausea, vomiting, and intense pain behind the neck and between the shoulder blades. I was told that this is normal. The front of my neck was swollen and tight due to the incision on the left side. Swallowing was difficult and I had a “lump in throat” feeling. Pain meds could not be given until after nausea had ceased. Approximately 1.5 to 2 hours later I was given Dilaudid which was helpful, then was taken to my room. I immediately asked for the catheter to be removed so my doctor was called. It was removed late that night since I had ingested a lot of liquids. Regardless, I had cotton mouth for 3 days.
Despite stories of people waking up with none of the pain they had prior to surgery, I still have mine (right shoulder, elbow, forearm, hand, spasms) plus the addition of left shoulder pain. This is probably because I had the condition for 10 years and it will take time to heal completely.
It was very difficult to get comfortable and I was not able to lay straight back due to pain. I was able to sleep on either side but mostly the right side waking every couple of hours. Vitals were taken every 4 hours through the night. I was placed on a clear liquid diet and started taking percoset for pain in the middle of the night. A stool softener was given as well. It’s not enough. Take lots!
Since I had walked alone to the bathroom a couple of times and my vitals were good, I was released the next morning. I was weak, shaky, and in a lot of pain but sat upright in a chair as I waited for my ride. Sitting up was exhausting and I could only do it for short periods of time.
DAY 2: The car ride was painful unless I rested my head on the headrest and held it there. I walked up a flight of stairs to my room slowly but fine. As informed, there was a lot of heat around the incision. Ice packs seemed to help with the heat and swelling. Removing the bandage from my incision also helped alleviate the pulling feeling. There are steri-strips underneath which I loosened around the edges. I also switched from percoset (which causes constipation) to Ibuprofen per doctor’s orders since it helps prevent bone growth and swelling.
I continued my liquid diet and took my meds right on schedule alternating between the percoset and the ibuprofen. I tried to stay asleep as much as possible.
DAY 3: A little better but woke up dizzy. Probably from the meds. Went downstairs for a little bit. Ate some soup and went back to bed.
DAY 4: A little better still but irritable and emotional. I am not used to having down time and I am usually very independent. Solely on Ibuprofen now. Finally had the courage to take a shower but was exhausting. Starting to eat more normally but still not swallowing normally. This will last a while I hear. Haven't had much of an appetite since the surgery.
DAY 5: A little better but still having pain behind the neck and through the shoulders. Swelling has subsided quite a bit in my neck. I am now able to lay straight back if I lay flat. I had a 1 hour massage which seemed to help loosen me up, alleviate some of the pain, and reduce spasms. I highly recommend this and I intend to do this regularly. I went to lunch with my family after the massage and went straight home to bed where I slept for a few hours. Tonight is the first night I have spent in my living room. I still have pain behind my neck but I am starting to feel more normal and more self-sufficient. Right after surgery, it seems like that will never happen again. The experience has been worse than I expected. I am not one of those people who I read about that experienced very little pain after waking up. But again, I lived with this for years and some are fortunate enough to discover this technology shortly after experiencing first symptoms.
I have my first follow-up doctor visit in a couple weeks. So far, I am glad that I had this surgery and I am optimistic that I will be pain free and stronger.