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Cervical pain/facing Anterior /Posterior Cervical fusion C3-C7

Hi My name is Bella 1496. I am a 51 y/o RN who has been experiencing neck/ shoulder /arm pain since 2007 . When first diagnosed the surgeon recommended a ACDF C 5-7 . I did PT and conservative treatment to maintain function and prevent surgery for as long as I can. I see a pain specialist for med management . Wear a tens unit and a neck collar when not at work.. I see a chiropractor and massage therapist almost wkly.My days off are spent flat on my back many times accompanied by a migraine . The pain in mid scapula is getting more severe. If I have my head down with chart /admit review and lots of charting makes the pain near unbearable. The meds aren't touching it.. And I have a high pain tolerance but this pain is like no other.. If I put my head down I get the zing , if I turn my head repeatedly esp to the left my numbness increases . I now sleep in a recliner as I can't take being flat no matter what pillow etc I try for more than an hour , use ice /heat at rest...
Now I see a neurosurgeon who is highly recommended .He recommends a anterior /posterior cervical fusion /discectomy. He prefers to do it all at once as my chance of healing is at 40 % post anterior so feels it would be best to do it at once with only one time under general . He has done it successfully multiple times before..
Why haven't I done surgery since my condition is impeding my daily function ? Because I have seen the complications post surgery & know pts worse off after surgery even though I know many more grateful they had surgery...
Per MRI I have degeneration at ea level. severe spondylosis for a person of my age . Mild disc bulging at ea level. Reverse curve of the c spine. Vertebral endplate spur formation with loss of lordosis with flattening and bulging of the thecal sac and effacement of ventral subarachnoid space at ea level.. mild to mod stenosis of ea level. Spinal cord is flattening and remodeled. Nerve root impingement mild to moderate . Looking at the MRI I can see where the spinal column is impinged on , vertebra is opaque in color compared to other vertebra .
I am interested in hearing from others their experiences with such a surgery . ( He stated if he does the 3 level he would say within a year I would be doing the next level due to it's appearance. ) I am looking to hear from others with similar situations. Thank you .


  • I had ACDF C5-C7 in December, 2011. My spinal cord was being pressed by bone spurring, the entire left side in that range was flat. I injured my neck 30 years prior. The discs were completely blown out (not sure what you'd call that in medical terms - there was bone-on-bone). I had the same kind of pain you describe on looking down and in the scapula. It was causing all sorts of weird neurological symptoms - including bursts of light in my eyes, facial numbness, etc. Because there was so much spurring, my surgeon was able to harvest my own bone. I healed very quickly and was cleared for normal activities in 4 months. My only regret is I didn't do it sooner because I do have some permanent nerve damage. I can't feel most of the index finger on my left (dominant hand) and parts of the rest of that hand are numb. As a result I'm always burning or cutting myself on that index finger! :-) For years nobody really seemed to take the condition seriously; only when my current PCP ordered an MRI then suddenly I went from being treated as if I was drug seeking (ironic, since I can't tolerate any of the commonly abused drugs) to "go to surgery now." Three separate pain docs told me I needed surgery and that my conservative options were finished. I think the bursts of light in my eyes (and left eye twitching so that it felt it was bouncing up and down) was probably the scariest symptom that made me realize I couldn't put it off any longer.

    I have gained - not lost - ROM. Still have some pain in the neck but nothing to the degree of what led me to surgery. My doc was very honest with me about that - he told me flat out you will never be 100% pain free. But I was able to function (until my lumbar issues ... that's another story I'll be discussing with my pain doc today when I bring him the disc of my MRI that was done on Friday).
  • Dcs90DDcs90 Posts: 74
    edited 02/24/2015 - 6:13 AM
    Bella1949..you touched in everyone of my fears. Our MRIs are very similar except my cord is only impinged in one area. I see the first surgeon on Friday, but he has already reviewed my MRI and said it was definitely a surgical case. I am in my early 40s and still have kids at home, so I need to stop the loss of function if possible. Still, I have heard so many negatives about any and every type of back surgery that I am truly frightened. Thank you Windsong for sharing your success story. Sometimes I think the reason it is so easy to find negative stories is because all the people that had success with surgery are out busy leading their lives!
  • Thank you Windsong for your reply and Dcs90 - thank you . Some how hearing from others who relate makes the burden less lonely.. I wish you all the best . I will be seeing my Dr March 17th and setting the date. I am having my "severe carpel tunnel and a basal thumb joint arthroplasty 1 week before and then the anterior/posterior 4 level disectomy and fusion. He said he expects me in the hospital 6 days if all goes well.. I do not expect miracles and no pain.. I hope that I can get off routine pain meds and the almost constant pain. Do either of you battle weight gain ? I need to take 40 pounds off that I have gained over the past 2 years ... Inactivity make it hard esp when I am restless or in pain , can't sleep I eat .
  • Yes!! My weight gain has been fairly recent, and oral and injected steroids have played their part. It is like a perfect storm. They fill you up with steroids which makes you gain weight and at the same time, pain makes it much harder to be active and voila...weight gain. lol. I actually made another post about trying to lose weight before surgery. I am not sure I will have time, and my weight gain is only about 20 pounds, but I just feel like a giant ball of goo from inactivity. You will be in the hospital for six days? My surgeon said a night or two!!! Did he tell you why your stay would be so long?
  • NadoboyNNadoboy Posts: 4
    edited 03/14/2015 - 11:44 AM
    I had ACDF c5-c6 surgery in April 2014. Most of the recovery issues deal with movement of the throat, muscles and tendons in order to work on the spine. Throat swelling happened for about 2-3 weeks, then quieted down. Neck stiffness eased up after about 4-5 months. Now I feel no after effects in terms of stiffness and soreness. I felt that it took quite awhile to regain strength in the neck area. Important are ergonomics sitting and sleeping. In addition to using Paxil to relax everything, I used a posture shirt made by Intelliskin, which really helped. I had a second surgery PCF in July, and after that was where I experienced weight gain of about 12 pounds (184 to 196). Treadmill walking 6-7 times a week for about 20 miles total per week. Slow to shed....
  • TomsutherTTomsuther Posts: 2
    edited 03/17/2015 - 2:07 PM
    Bella you are a tough one to continue to persist through all the pain and effects that are caused from your cervical spine. I too have most of the problem you have due to head injuries and I have been told I need a 4 level fusion from c3-7. As a owner of a construction business I am wrestling with how to have the surgery and somehow keep my business going. I have had several surgeons tell me the only way was surgery that was 5 years ago. Just met with a new surgeon that I like very much and have decided to go through with it. My good friend is my chiropractor and he advises not to have it. However I can't take the weakness and pain and all the other problems that come with it any longer. I would like to hear from some folks that have 4 levels done!
  • I am having a four level fusion at C3-7 tomorrow morning. Feel free to PM me and as soon as I am able I will share anything you want to know. It has been a huge decision, and I am a little terrified at this time, but there comes a point when you have to say enough and move forward with surgery.
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