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Posterior cervical fusion

firedragonmomffiredragonmom Posts: 10
edited 12/16/2014 - 5:11 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi. This is my first post. I've had 3 cervical fusions over the past 13 years. I recently learned the last fusion at C4-C5 did not fuse. I am scheduled for a posterior discectomy and fusion in 2 weeks.
I'm very concerned about the pain from the surgery. Can anyone share their experiences about their posterior surgery. Also, I'm interested to know how recovery is for a posterior approach. Thanks so much!


  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 556
    I had anterior c4-5 fusion surgery. When I was still having issues, (neck didn't fuse) 9 months later, I had a posterior fusion. In my experience, the posterior surgery was much more painful? I'm wondering if it's because the incision was 4 inches long? The anterior surgery incision wasn't that long. I ended up staying 2 days in the hospital because they couldn't get my pain under control. Also, be prepared to have the back of your hair shaved off some. When I came home from the hospital, I ended up having a reaction to pain meds so they had to change them a couple of times. Also, I got very nauseated so they gave me meds to take for that. My recovery has been long. My neck issues aren't as bad since the surgery, but I'm having a lot of nerve pain. My surgeon has put me in a pain clinic. I had my posterior fusion in March 2014 & I'm now back in therapy. It's been a long process. Just remember that everyone's experience is different. Good luck with your surgery. Let us know how it goes. And let me know if I can answer any more questions.

  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    First off this is my experience and everyone is different, I heard all kinds of horror stories, It is not as easy as the anterior approach and it really makes the muscles angry after the surgery, so if you are prescribed a relaxer take as directed for the first few weeks. The hardest thing for me to do was to get up from a laying down position without giving out a warrior scream. So take my advice if the doc offers a hospital bed for home during recovery take him up on it. When the Dr permits walk as much as possible, it relaxes the muscles and allows for more blood flow to the area for quicker healing. I was terrified of having this surgery after all I have heard but would do it again in a second, i finally fused after 4 previous failures. Every patient is different with different pain tolerance so if you are in pain make sure you tell them,. if i remember correct i was in the hospital 3 days, the doc asked me if i was ready to go home and i flat out told him, if you are sending me home with vicodin im not going, i was sent home with percs every 4 hrs and didnt miss a dose for a few weeks until i felt my body was ready to begin reducing the dosage. the scar is a pretty ugly one and you can even see my rod, my niece always tries to hang magnets on them ( no it doesnt work) lol. Hair grows back so it is hid and unless my hair is up you cannot see it. Buy yourself some good support pillows. Dont forget the straws or you will dribble all over yourself. Make sure you have button front tops , it makes getting dressed easier. Make sure you have someone with you for about the first week. Trust me you will feel like doing nothing for yourself. I could not stand not being able to wash my hair so go to a drug supply company and buy the caps that heat up in the microwave, it was the best product i found, Dont let all the post scare you concerning this surgery it wasnt as bad as i thought it would be but ill be honest it wasnt a walk in the park either. If you have any other questions ask away, that is what we are here for, Good luck
  • I've been told that posterior procedure has a more painful recovery because there are so many muscles on the back of our necks that are cut through in order to reach the spine. The muscles do a lot of spasming during recovery which causes the increased pain. Hope your continued recovery goes well.
  • My first fusion they did (posterior) was actually not to bad. Spamming is the worst part of it so expect that an. There may be some nerve pain since they cut through so many layers. For me it was the actual nerve pain (due to a spinal cord injury) and some bone pain. My surgeon actually raided my hair so she didn't have to cut any hair which was great! My advice would be to prepare for the worst and hope for the best because if everything is better than you were expecting then that will help you through recovery. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
  • Thanks everyone for your input. I think my biggest fear is the unknown. I know what the anterior approach is like. How long did you need someone with you full time? I also homeschool my 2 sons and wonder how long you were on pain meds...I need to be able to think. Sort so scattered...I'm pretty nervous.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I am being honest about it not being as bad as i had heard, like I said getting up was the absolute worse, but once i was up all was good. I found that if i took my pain meds about a half hour before getting up it did help alot. I did take them every 4 hrs as prescribed but cut back after about a week. If your nerves are getting the best of you right now maybe the Dr can call something in to calm you down
  • I'm w/Susan on the "warrior" scream going from lying down to sitting up! I was stunned how much pain I was in the first few days + quickly learned how closely connected muscle tissue + nerves are in the face, scalp, shoulders + upper back. I was sent home on 4 mg Dilaudid + slept in a recliner the first 2 weeks + then periodically for the next 3 months. Definitely use the straws, button up shirts + scrub bottoms work well too (just one pull)! I could barely lift my arms or hold a phone that first 2 weeks. My PCDF C2-C5 followed a horrid car accident where my neck was broken + emergency surgery was required. Thus, no planning required on my part. Lol! Also, I was blessed w/a fabulous Neurosurgeon + was restored to full mobility + pain free in all limbs + no pain in my Cspine! I would highly recommend someone to come in the first week home + help you w/meals, shower, in + out of recliner. Upon awakening from surgery, I walked as much as possible in hospital +w/walker + continued to do so @home. I always felt better afterward + slept better! I'd borrowed a recliner that had a motor in it that lifts a person into a standing position. Being an athlete my entire life + 3 ACL/meniscus sugeries playing high school/college b-ball, I used to joke I'd have 3 more knee surgeries before repeating a PCDF! Yet, that old athlete adage of no pain-no gain reminds me it was all worth it especially in the face of severe neurological impairment! Good luck to you + report back to us!
    Cspine ACDF C5-C6 (2012)
    Cspine PCDF C2-C5 (2009)
    Cspine Foramenotomy C8 (2009)
    Lumbar IDET L2-L3 + L5S1-L4L5-L3L4 (1998)
    Lumbar Laminectomy L5S1-L3L4 (1989)
  • I had an anterior and posterior cervical fusion C4-7. My previous C5-7 anterior approach failed without my knowledge until after this surgery 2 years later.
    This time the posterior portion was more painful, I barely noticed the anterior surgical site. My surgery was 12/1/2014.
    The surgery was done as an emergency and I was done late at night. I woke in the ICU as planned and the next morning I took a few laps with my nurse and a PT. I was hurting but I found out later in my hospital stay that walking was KEY!!
    I was moved to a regular floor the afternoon after surgery and they totally forgot to order PT. I was in bed non stop for a day or two and then I screamed in pain when trying to be upright. I have an extremely high pain tolerance and I screamed and cried for them to put me down even when staff members were doing the work of getting me upright.
    Finally I was out of my morphine fog enough to complain to the nursing supervisor at 2am.
    The next morning shift nurse was awesome and I also lucked out on the best PT ever:). It was a Saturday and he worked with me for hours. He let me slowly let the hospital bed get closer to upright allowing my muscle spasms to adjust to life upright again. It took 5 hours before I could walk again on day 6 of my hospital stay!
    Moral of my long story is don't lie down too long at a time for the first 1-2 weeks. And keep requesting the Dr to find a muscle relaxer that works the best for you.
    Narcotics help the post op stuff but muscle spasms can be debilitating without proper relaxation PT and meds !!
    Best of Luck!
    L5-S1 micro x2, L5-S1 fusion, ACDF C5-7, Anterior and posterior cervical fusion C4-7, plus 4 right arm surgeries:(
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