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2 level ACDF ~ My post-op journey

jmmacejjmmace Posts: 1
edited 01/16/2015 - 7:31 AM in New Member Introductions
Hello, my name is Janell. A little about be: I'm a 32 year old female. I was rear-ended back in 2001 at the young age of 18 and have been suffering chronic neck and left arm pain ever since. As a result of the car accident, I had left shoulder arthroscopy as well as induced scoliosis. The vertebra in my neck were turned 45 degrees in the wrong direction. I love being active and have been involved in sports (primarily hockey & fast pitch softball) since i was 4 years old. A friend of mine recommended I try yoga back in 2007 to help with my chronic and I immediately fell in love after my first class. My practice ebbed & flowed over the years and in the summer of 2014 I got certified to teach. Prior to my surgery I was practicing 4-5 times a week and teaching part-time as well has hitting the gym in addition to working full-time (professional/desk job). Over the years I have treated w/chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, injections, epidurals, medications, etc. You name the therapy/treatment, I tried it. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to remedy my chronic pain issues. The chronic pain issues have negatively impacted my life. It's hard for me to do anything I love without being in pain. I love being active and working out so I just suffer through it, but the past couple years it's gotten worse and worse (potentially due to a fall I had while snowboarding in Vail, CO back in March 2013). Finally, I got re-MRI'd on 11/3/14 and the results weren't good so I was referred to a NS (I previously saw one a few years back but they didn't think I was a surgical candidate at that time). I saw the NS on 12/1/14 and he decided that the next logical treatment would be surgery since. So, we scheduled the 2 level ACDF (C5, C6 & C7) with the placement of a plate for 12/26/14. Everything happened incredibly fast. I as excited and terrified all at the same time.

Per the NS, surgery went really well on 12/26/14 & only lasted about 1.5 hours (30 mins earlier than expected). I was in a lot of pain post-op but I think that was mostly my related to my throat and incision. I was really drugged up so I wasn't feeling much else. After a couple of hours I was transferred to my room where I stated over night and was discharged to go home about 3pm the following day. The throat incision pain continued to be awful but most of my neck & left arm symptoms prior to surgery had disappeared. Prior to surgery I had pain on the right side every once in awhile. This seemed to be worse after surgery but my NS said that was completely normal. That pain continued on & off for the first 2 weeks post surgery. After the first week I still had no symptoms on the left side and i was thrilled!. On days 8-10 post surgery I had some intermittent left arm/neck pain that was very similar to the pain prior to surgery. It would come for an hour or so then go away until the next day. Unfortunately, on day 16 post-op I flared up with some rather intense left arm/neck pain and it has been pretty constant every since. I can't think of anything I did that would have flared it up. I called my NS and again I was told this was normal as the nerves are much more sensitive & tend to get inflamed rather easily as they heal).. The NS prescribed me a steroid to take that should help with the inflammation.

Today is day 20 post surgery, i started the steroid and have been still experiencing a lot of neck/left arm pain & weakness. It's very similar to the pain i experienced prior to surgery but more intense and seems to be a bit more wide spread (going over my left shoulder blade). I've been experiencing numbness, tingling, burning sensations as well as weakness in my left arm. I'm hopeful the steroid is going to help calm things down a bit. My first post-op appt is scheduled for 1/22/15 and they will take x-rays to make sure there haven't been any shifts w/the hardware. I'm praying the hardware hasn't shifted but I don't know what else could be making these symptoms so bad. The pain was mostly nonexistent the first 2 weeks and now it's been constant for the past 4 days.

Additionally, the only form of exercise i am allowed to do is walk and i'm not allowed to lift anything more than 5 lbs until my post-op appt next week. At that point, my doc will let me know if I can starting doing more exercises and do more lifting. I'm really hoping to get my driving privileges back! I'm going stir crazy!

*******UPDATE 1/16/2015: I forgot to include my most recent MRI results in my initial message. Imaging was done at CDI on 11/3/2014; a copy of the imaging report/summary is pasted below*******

CLINICAL INFORMATION: History of left-sided neck pain and radiculopathy. Correlation is made with previous MR cervical study dated 2009.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION: Examination was performed on a 3.0 Tesla magnet. T1, T2 GRE, T2 fast spin echo, and STIR sagittal thin sections through the cervical spine with T2 gradient refocused and fast spin echo axial sections at selected levels.
INTERPRETATION: Images reveal disc herniations at C5-6 and C6-7 on the left side, both appearing increased in size since the prior examination of 2009. Cerebellar tonsils lie in normal position. The craniovertebral and C1-2 articulations appear normal. The C2-3 disc level appears normal.
At C3-4, there are uncovertebral osteophytes on the right side, moderate in size with small uncovertebral spurs on the left. There is moderate narrowing of the right C3-4 neural foramen. The left foramen is mildly narrowed. The right-sided uncovertebral osteophytes are more prominent than on the prior study from 2009. Facet joints remain normal.
At C4-5, uncovertebral and foraminal osteophytes are noted bilaterally. Disc contour is normal centrally. There is mild to moderate narrowing of both C4-5 neural foramina. The degree of foraminal narrowing appears stable since prior examination.
At C5-6, there is a 3 mm posterolateral annular tear and disc herniation on the left side, asymmetrically indenting the spinal cord and dissecting upward and downward beneath the posterior longitudinal ligament. The disc encroaches upon the medial aspect of the adjacent neural foramen, which is moderately narrowed. This disc abnormality is substantially more prominent than on prior examination.
At C6-7, there is a 3 mm posterolateral and lateral left-sided annular tear and disc herniation, dissecting into the left C6-7 neural foramen and causing C7 neural impingement. This disc abnormality is substantially larger than on the 2009 examination. Facet joints remain normal. The right C6-7 neural foramen remains normal in caliber.
The C7-T1 disc level appears normal.
The T1-2, T2-3, and T3-4 disc levels appear normal.
Spinal cord appears intrinsically normal, but is indented and deformed on the left side at C5-6 and C6-7.
CONCLUSION: Degenerative cervical spondylosis with the following major findings:
1. 3 mm posterolateral and lateral C6-7 disc herniation on the left side, indenting and deforming the spinal cord and impinging upon the left C7 nerve root. This is substantially larger than on prior examination from 2009.
2. C5-C6 disc herniation posteriorly and on the left, increased in size since prior study. This indents and deforms the spinal cord and encroaches upon the medial aspect of the left C5-C6 neural foramen.
3. Prominent uncovertebral and foraminal osteophytes at C4-5 bilaterally. The C4-5 osteophytes are stable since prior study. The right-sided uncovertebral osteophytes at C3-4 are more prominent than on prior examination.

I will post short updates over the next few days as well as after my post-op appt next week.
C5, C6 & C7 ACDF on 26Dec2014


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I had cervical myelopathy, and had an ACDF with corpectomy of C3-4-5-6 on Dec 8th. On Dec 24th, my myelopathy signs started recurring (those that had gone away anyway), and they also put me on steroids, which gave me mild improvement. The signs returned with the end of the steroids. At 5+ weeks out, I am trying to be patient!! Gratefully (or not), my signs are neurological instead of pain. I am 43, and I believe my docs expected a better response than this. My 6 week recheck is on Tuesday.
    This has been a great place to look for info and support. Hope you find things to help you out! Good luck~

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

    edited 01/16/2015 - 1:41 AM
    Your procedure sounds similar to what I went through. I had an ACDF C5-C7 about 2 months before your procedure. I never suffered the pain that you had but my legs were getting weak and I was not very stable on my feet prior to the surgery. After the surgery, I did have pain shooting down my arms and numbness in my legs. Some of those issues are slowly healing. Nerves take their time in the healing process. Some of what you are going through could be explained by that, but from what you write there is no way to know. Hopefully your doctor can tell you if the pain you are having is normal or something to worry about. I know you are worried, everyone that goes through this stuff has those worries.

    The biggest issue that I recently ran into was swimming. I use a snorkel so I don't have the turning head issue. However, I do need to look forward and that requires tilting the head back. That was not a pleasant experience. My lower cervical vertebrae are fused and I don't have quite the flexibility that I once had. I will have to learn to live with that.

    Good luck on your Doctor's visit and I wish you well.
  • Any update Janell? hope it's all good.
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