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C6-7 fusion with discectomy scheduled next month

Good Morning,
Been kind of a lurker for a while but decided to post about my upcoming surgery.
I had an acute onset 7 weeks ago c6 disc herniation where the disc basically went ballistic. It is now causing sever pressure on my c7 nerve route . I have weakness, decreased reflexes, and pain requiring me to take pretty strong narcotics to manage the pain. I am 49 pretty active play softball, ski, hike. I also hace slight herniations at c3 4 and 5 but my Docs do not seem concerned.
I got two opinions and both agreed that I should have the discectomy with the fusion. I have spoken with a couple of people who have had similar surgeries one level down with my neuro surgeon and feel pretty good about the results and the kind of rehab experience I will have ie no collar, no driving for 10 days no lifting not sure of weight as I have not gotten my packet yet.
My surgeon does not want to use my iliac crest for the bone graft-definitely need to clear up what he plans to use cadaver or something else. H e feels like why give you another area of pain to worry about. My second opinion Doc said he would use my iliac crest as he feels the fusion happens faster. He also talked about an actual disc replacement which I believe my crummy insurance still considers experimental and will not pay for .
The second opinion Doc mentioned that a large portion of the disc was putting pressure on my spine which is pretty obvious from the MRI. My initial surgeon said he noted the placement of the herniated disc on my spinal cord but was not as concerned about it affecting my Spinal cord.
Here are my questions-
1) I was just going to not use the iliac crest figured less pain in another area to worry about- is there actual proof or studies that have been done that proves that using your own bone decreases fusion time? What have been others experiences either way with cadaver or your own bone?
2) I am kind of freaked out about getting the new artificial disc as it is so new and we really do not have very much data supporting it's success rate. I do not want to have surgery again. Would love to hear from someone who had the one artificial disc replaced a year ago and see how they are doing. Just don't think they have been being done this long. Also with the fact that my insurance will likely not pay for it that helps me make my decision. I also do not think I am brave enough to sign up for an experimental procedure.
3) Signs of disc pressure affecting my legs- I have noticed that my legs seem to fatigue much faster than they have in the past and it may just be due to being less active. Single leg balance is good . So maybe I am over thinking the fatigue thing.

Would love to hear from others any input is greatly appreciated. Lisa :)


  • I think I have similar problems. Herniation c4/5/6 and am looking at surg discectomy, abdf w/ cage. My NS says use of iliac graft can cause nerve problems plus addl pain which sounds in line with what others have said here.I also have a disc pressing on my cord which is causing the symptom of numbness and tingling in hands. He is letting me decide when the surg is to be with the caution that worsened sx should be considered an emergency (like leg weakness.)From what have read patients seem to do best w/ art disc ( I am by no means a professional.) Good luck and keep us posted.
  • Asil65AAsil65 Posts: 112
    edited 04/24/2015 - 12:51 PM
    Starting to wonder if I am jumping the gun a bit with the surgery. So many others have waited so much longer. I do have a hypo reflex triceps , triceps weakness and finger ext weakness. Even feel as if my deltoids shoulder muscles are weak too. Th e strength has improved in my triceps. That one piece of herniated disc is just crammed right up against the C7 nerve root. Went to see my chiropractor today. He did nothing to my neck:) but mentioned that sometimes people use injections at site of impingement to help fragment dissipate. Any truth in that? I guess if I waited to see if that would happen I would still have the issue with the messed up disc between C6 and c7.
  • Hey Ivy I did want to thank you for your comments . Sorry!
  • ivymiivym Posts: 278
    edited 04/24/2015 - 2:13 PM
    You are very welcome Lisa. Hang in there. I am not sure how bad your problems are but they sound so similar to mine. The disc that is jammed in my cord is C4. My NS did not offer injections and I did not ask because frankly , it is spinal cord encroachment and I am thinking injections are going to prolong the inevitable and I have not heard of fragments just going away. I have not used Chiro in several years but after looking at my MRI I would be really concerned about letting anyone snap my head around. (just MHO) I can imagine at this point when your diagnosis is fairly new you are grasping for whatever news you can get and there is lots of it, some conflicting. I cannot tell you how much that raised my anxiety level. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are. PM me anytime and I will share al;l I know at this point. Good luck. Sending healing thoughts and prayers your way.

  • Asil65AAsil65 Posts: 112
    edited 04/24/2015 - 2:30 PM
    I was just really asking my Chiro for a third opinion. I would not let him touch my neck( no way in hell )but he did correct my low back that was bothering me. He actually told me that the only neuro surgeon he would let touch him was my guy. That made me feel better. I guess my NS is not surgery crazy as one of my friends with a disc issue in her back was told she needed surgery by another NS . MY Doctor wanted to wait and put her on a course of steroids and got positive results. \She was so happy with how things turned out. My NS actually refers patients to my chiropractor . Kind of funny.
  • Had one in 1989, by 1995 fusion had failed with no evidence of fusion except the scar on neck. My advice is to avoid donor bone. Immune system doesn't recognize the implant as self and attacks and destroys implant. You windup in more pain than before.

  • ACDF or artificial disc-?why does my insurance not like to pay for artificial disc ? Too expensive? Found a study on Artificial discs and the results looked good . Makes more sense to have less hardware in your body if possible. I am not even sure f they have approved my ACDF yet, I will call my insurance and get details . I guess I just wished there was ma bit more data out there regarding the Artificial disc. ACDF has been done for years and years.
  • I was worried about surgery happy NS as well. (When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) But.. my symptoms of hand numbness are very real and not getting better. Also NS went over MRI w/me and even I could see cord compression. I don't think anyone actually wants their neck cut open so naturally I would think most would be resistant but I am a believer now.
  • OK really interesting stuff going on today. Called and spoke with Surgeon secretary and said I still had some questions about my ACDF fusion. Asked Doc to call me back because she could not answer all of my questions, So now mt NS wants to get approval for either ACDF or discectomy with artificial disc. Wants to get into my neck and see which approach will work better. So interesting. I did call my insurance company and they said that it is easier to get an approval for an ACDF as they have been being done for years. My NS has been doing the artificial disc surgery for 3 years and assured me that I would not have to wear a neck brace after either surgery. Very confused now. He is trying to get me in to see him on Wednesday so I can see the actual disc. I guess what I do not understand is that what makes the artificial disc stable no fusion will have occurred? Maybe if it is a perfect fit it just kind of locks in with pressure from your noggin? Now we have to see what my insurance will say. Crazy day!
  • I am following your journey w/ great interest. I am to get artificial disc June 9. I want to work 1 more month ( May) to try and save a little more to be off 6 weeks. It is hard to hear so much conflicting information when we are trying to wrap our minds around our diagnosis ion the first place. So much uncertainty. Thanks for sharing your story, I look forward to hearing more.

  • So strange Ivy- my Doc never suggested the artificial disc just went right into telling me about ACDF so that was what I thought I was getting. I think my vertebra are in pretty good shape and I do have the three slight henriations above at c5 c4 and c3. It was the surgical coordinator who asked what I was getting done and offered ACDF or artificial disc. So you can see why I am confused. Then after phone call with Doc suggesting he would like to get approval for both and when he is in there decide what he is going to do. Seems a bit scary the unknown. I am not feeling very secure about the insurance decision. My sweet husband says we will pay the difference . Yikes I don;;t think he knows how much these surgeries cost. As a PT the artificial disc almost looks like what you would get if you had a knee replacement except no bone removal . I could be totally off . Was trying to find pictures of some of the different C spine artificial discs. He talked about 3 different ones that he can use but I can't remember the names.
  • I just wanted to share my never ending story with everyone to confuse you more. I am 50 years old, I had my 1st neck surgery c4/c5 in 1998 (35 yrs old). We used my hip bone. The neck surgery went fine but right before my 6 week check up, I started running 104 temp. My hip started feeling as if it had heat in it. I called the neck doc, he told me to go to my family doctor, said I probably had the flu. Well, my family doctor thought the same thing that I did so he ran a blood culture and within 48 hours I was admitted in the hospital for my long 7 day stay. So, during those 7 days, I had a total of 4 more surgeries so the attending doctor could scrape my hip bone.
    ( did I mention my regular neck doctor was gone on his honeymoon and didn't have time to DEAL with me) I was off of work for 6 weeks with a pic line. Home health came out ever so often and kept me supplied with needles so I could get the medical attention and meds that I needed.
    Let's jump to the year 2000. So, now I'm having pain again and it's time for surgery
    on c5/c6. Hey, I THOUGHT I would be smart and this time we used the cadaver bone. I really didn't like the thoughts of having something in my body that belonged to a dead person. So, I get a 2 disc plate. Of course the doc says everything went fine and looked like it had healed perfectly. Within a few months I was back in his office again still having pain. I actually felt like something was trying to poke out of the back of my neck. The 1st thing he wants to do is a myelogram. Well, after the test, every time I would stand up I would get the worst headache that you could ever imagine. The only way that my head would stop hurting was to lay down. I called his office once again. Well, seems that when he tapped my spine for the myelogram test, it wasn't totally sealed and I was leaking spinal fluid. So, back to the hospital once again for a blood patch. OK, I get that fixed and we discuss where to go now.
    So, he is supposed to be going back in my neck to take out the hardware, said I was probably having some type of allergic reaction. He also assured me this was an easy surgery and no need for a neck brace. So, when he gets into my neck, oh, looks like the cadaver bone didn't take at all (partially fused) so, when I wake up I've had another bone taken from the other hip, a 2 disc plate and I had a brand new neck brace to show off.
    At this point I have had all I can take of this doctor and refuse to go back. I found a pain management doctor and dealt with it. And yes, I took pain meds everyday, I raised my kids and held down a full time job and worked my way to the top of the corporate ladder.
    Now, let's jump to 2010
    My neck hurts all of the time. I seek out and find a new neck doctor. (Do you blame me) As this point, I do NOT want surgery, i just want some therapy if possible. Just for the record, my old doctor is still in business. So we do the x-rays and MRI's. The doc says that I need surgery again. This time on c6/c7 but he says, the disc below it c7/t1 is not going to last another year. I really need to do it to while I'm in there. He told my quote, therapy will not help you, you need surgery. My new doc had NEVER performed a 4 disc replacement. He told me he was the doctor that could do it. He asked permission to video tape my surgery and he now uses it as a training tool. The healing and fusing was a slow go, i ended up having to wear a bone growth stimulater for a few weeks just as a precaution.
    My neck felt great for a few years but as most people know......all good things come to an end. Oh, my new doc showed me the x-rays and the old hardware that he replaced, 1 of the screws were fed crooked , and one was almost completely off.
    I'm calling Dr. S (new doc) next week for another look. So, wish me luck.
    Gina P
  • Asil65AAsil65 Posts: 112
    edited 04/28/2015 - 1:47 AM
    Yikes Gina. What a terrible journey you have had. I am so sorry . I hope that you find a Doc who can really take care of you. I love my NS . I really have a lot of faith in him. He has been in the field for over 40 years. I guess maybe what you are trying to tell me is don't have surgery. Don't let anyone into your neck because of the complications down the road? Maybe I am reading into the message too much so I apologize if I am.
    I have to take some very strong pain meds to control he pain. I can't stay on these meds. I am worried that my insurance will think that I have been not suffered long enough (almost 8 weeks since herniation). But I have atrophy, absent triceps reflex and pain without meds that is awful. Wishing you luck Gina.
  • jules9909jjules9909 Posts: 26
    edited 04/28/2015 - 5:05 AM
    I am getting the ACDF surgery next week. My NS never mentioned the possibility of an artificial disc but I guess it varies a lot by the dr. I have a lot of friends who had this surgery in the last few years and all but one of them have been very happy with it ( the one who wasn't happy didn't have an issue post surgery; it just didn't help him with his headaches). I am getting mine because my whole spinal cord is starting to be compressed and its gotten bad enough now that my muscles twitch all the time all over and I fall a lot because of reflex issues in my legs (also knock a lot of stuff over and drop things).

    Sounds like you have done your research and have a good NS at least! :)

  • Hi Julie,
    I asked one of my Physical therapy friends for some Doc recommendations. Finally got into see one of the NS she recommended and really Liked him. He has a ton of experience and is well respected. I did get second opinion and he agreed that I needed surgery and that I was in good hands with my surgeon. Felt better about that. I still may go with the ACDF as you are not allowed to get approved for two procedures when you need authorization. My surgeon was thinking he could get into my neck see if the cervical disc that he uses were a good fit and if so go that route. The woman who is in charge of obtaining authorization and scheduling surgery said that will never fly. Th e thing that I can't figure out is how a Doctor knows if the artificial disc will fit or not? In the cervical area the vertebra are much smaller. Julie I will be thinking of you next week . Are you having multiple levels done?
  • Yes, I am having c5/6 and C6/7 done. A engineer friend of mine told me when his wife had the neck surgery (now I realize it must have been a artificial disc placement but I didn't think about it at the time) that once the dr looked inside he saw that he needed much bigger hardware than he thought and had to have someone get different hardware. He told her after the surgery that she is a big women and by big he meant big bones because her cervical discs were the size of most people's lumbar discs. Shocking that he didn't notice that when looking at the MRI.

  • Yes I suppose if you are big boned you may have big cervical vertebra too. Just met with my Doc today. Pushing insurance for artificial disc replacement vs fusion as I am a diabetic and may have a harder time with fusion. Also have a bulging disc at c5 which the fusion may put too much pressure on . Fingers crossed that insurance gives us the OK. He said that basically in the long run the prices are pretty similar. Less follow up MRI and X ray needed post surgery with the artificial disc. I did not know that they come in different sizes. funny!
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