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c1 thru c7 fusion plus

5 weeks ago had total cervical fusion and additional attachment of base of skull to the cervical spine so basically the c7 up thru skull base is one piece or will be once the fusion fully takes. the c1 was removed as it simply was in bad shape. some donor bone inserted to aid fusion and lots of kinks and twists taken out, think im about an inch taller now. had spinal cord compression due to broken vertebrae and such. I am a 68 year old male, 30 year vet and currently a power plant mechanic. the surgery was anterior and posterior and was done in one sitting. Yes it was worth the risk life went literally from months to years and my feet tickle and are warm for the first time in ten years. Balance and gait are back and have not dropped a tool since i went back to work last week. the pain is reducing but still on the ten scale, down to 5 for a few hours after the pain meds kick in, so am not complaining. Think part of the muscle cramps are from the hard collar and the rest to all the abuse one must go through during this sort of procedure. after reading the forums i think im blessed and can only pray that the others here can get that way. I found these things helpful, a lazyboy chair to sleep in, muscle relaxers, pain meds, a good attitude and patience, and last but not least a spouse that is supportive. more later as this journey progresses, best to all, take care, piperbill


  • You went back to work at 4 weeks as a mechanic at your age?! (sorry, not knockin' your age!) Wow. Glad you are doing well!

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

  • was very fortunate, but very light duty, my employer agreed to allow healing time, so no lifting more than 10 lbs and other things. Not doing anything to shake the head and neck for a couple of months, My Doc says to allow the fusion to fully take may take 6 or eight months, and he is looking at new x rays everyl 6 weeks. so I am upgrading my work abilities as this progresses. Still dealing with pain management and i guess i will for a while, but it is still way better than the fading situation i was in. did notice that if i sit still for a long period of time, the shoulder muscles tend to lock up and i have to ease into motion to get started. I understand that this is also something normal for this proceedure. more later take care all and be safe.
  • I had c3-t1 posterior laminectomy with rods & screws
    I'm 56 and went back to work after 8 months
    I'm an electrician in an automotive factory
    My job is to diagnose computerized machinery so not too physical but sometimes I have to climb above or below large machinery which causes pain
    I take Tramadol & Tylenol
    Good luck

  • just had the 12 week update from my NS, all is looking well. still have some limits on what im allowed to do but should be fully released in feb. still have shoulder pain that requires some pain meds about every 18 to 24 hours and the times are increasing so the healing process is continuing. having to be creative in the day to day living as i have no ROM due to the total fusion from base of skull to c7. having to adjust to driving and shaving and such. had to give up diving, im a rescue diver with SAR. but manage the team from shore and support. since im 69 years old this is working out well. still working at the dam as a mechanic and other that looking at things sideways all is good,. have PT for weakness in the left arm due to the surgery but seem to be getting strength back. I am a bagpiper and am back on the bag after not being able to play for a year prior to surgery. patience and a good spouse and attitude seems to have had more of a positive effect than anything else. I hope all are as successful as i have been. the learning process has be very large but working. if any one else is haveing this done i would like to share what works for me and maybe make the journey a little easier, stay safe and take care.
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  • Wow, piperbill!

    I only had one level and it's seemed like a rough go. But I do have the Lazy Boy (that I live in), the muscle relaxers, pain meds, and positive attitude. I did not see you mention stretching, but the shoulder and neck pain I still have seem to be related to muscle spasms.

    I found some exercises on this site and added some of my own but, again, I only had one level done. You would prob have to ask a professional what you can and cannot do having had all that work done.

    I was so happy to read your posts.

    I hope you continue to improve.
    Scoliosis and other problems at every level.

    2013: C-5 to C-6 ADR
    2014: C-5 to C-6 fusion/revision of failed ADR
    2014: Total hip replacement, right

    Cancelled multi-level fusion - fear being more crippled and in more pain.
  • well its been 7 months since the surgery and for the first time in lots of years im basically pain free and mobile. still cant spell well but every thing else is good. the fusion has taken hold well and though I have zero range of motion in the neck, have learned to do business in other creative ways.  several things helped me through the tough time and first and foremost a good attitude and a very helpful spouse, finally out of the lazyboy chair but had to get a bed that is adjustable as I cannot lay flat. no pain now but still some soreness in the upper left shoulder, I find this is considered normal at this time and will continue to heal.  My NS says a total of 18 months or so will tell the tale.  Still have difficulty swallowing, depending on what I eat and find that a sip of soda takes care of that quickly, usually its bread or crackers that cause me problems. No problem driving but have to get square with an intersection so I can turn my body both directions to see traffic.  Trying to eat a big bite of something is a chore as cannot tip the head back to open the jaw larger to eat. so a big mac gets squashed flat.  All this from being blessed with a good NS and cadaver bone sure made the process go well.  have to watch the posture a bit as I do get a little twinge on the T1 where all this is hinged. but with care I don't think ill have much problem. My NS says he is surprised im doing so well. again good attitude and support from family are the biggest help.  If any one has questions, I can tell you what worked for me and maybe that will help your journey go better.  Thanks to all for your comments and I hope you all do as well as myself, take care and stay safe piperbill
  • Simply incredible... All the best to you.
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  • Wow, so great and happy for you. Your positivity is inspiring.
  • thank you for the comments, seems that since the fusion and the fact that my skull is bolted to the cervical spine with two rods that run from T1 to the base of the skull, its very rigid and if I lay flat my head is about 2 inches above the mattress,  for me comfort is to raise the mattress several inches, a pillow is very uncomfortable and does not support well. having the total fusion gives me 0 range of motion so the neck and head are totally supported on the hardware installed against the cervical spine, im told this is a relatively  rare procedure and not a lot of data on what to expect with the whole process. im posting as i go on this journey to let folks know what is going on with me, maybe it will help some one els do better.  take care piperbill
  • Wow Piperbill, you are an inspiration! So glad to hear how you have come through!! You are even driving, that is fantastic!

    I too like Mp3 had a fusion C4-C7 10 months ago and still have trouble being able to sleep without causing pain. The best position is lying on my back with a pillow under my knees but I wake up with my head turned all the way to the right. Then when I wake I have incredible sharp pain around the C7 that shoots down. When I sleep in a recliner my head still relaxes down to the side and I wake up in pain. Haven't found a solution that really helps. I'm curious if you use anything else to support your head to be able to sleep?
  • usually i lay flat on a reclined bed and when my head tries to  turn i also get pain in the c7 t1 area. found that a  side pillow pro or something like that, that has a sort of horse shoe you put your head into will keep the head and neck lined up when sleep also yes it does help to elevate knees.  I find that my reciner works well for sleeping and i recently got a rather expensive bed that both elevates my head and shoulders but also my legs and knees so i can adjust till i am comfortable at night.  the pillow i got from amazon but cant remember exactly which it was, only that the horse shoe shape was not uncomfortable and kept me from the cramps and twinges.  Just curious, did you have your surgery anterior or posterior. I had both at the same time and am still dealing with some issues from each.  hope this in informative and helps.  take care and stay safe piperbill
  • Hi Piperbill,
    My surgery was anterior, but I have been told that should my C7-T1 need to be fused they will need to go posterior and I was told it is incredibly more painful recovery than anterior. My anterior recovery really wasn't that painful, it was becoming stiff in the hard collar 24/7 and getting a paralyzed, mid-line, right vocal cord that has caused swallowing problems/pneumonia that has made things more difficult. I think the incredibly strong coughing while I had pneumonia may have contributed to my C7-T1 herniating. I coughed one night and felt like my neck/throat was hit with a steel bat. Then 8 months later hit a large pothole driving. I'm afraid of needing posterior fusion someday. I never heard of anyone getting both directions at one surgery. Must have been so rough.

    I have been looking for a horseshoe pillow the right size and can't find one, so I've been sleeping with a pillow on each side of my head which works until they fall away in my sleep. I know were aren't allowed to say doctors and places but I'm so curious where you had your surgery? I'm in Pennsylvania and had mine done with a reputable surgeon. Thank you for sharing your experience. May you continue on your good recovery!!
  • the surgery had its moments, the posterior aspect was the most problematic as they move a lot of muscle and nerves when they do that, had some nerve damage but that seems to be healing, just takes patience.  I dont have the ability to rotate my head so have not had your problem with the head turning, but some times i lean to far to one side if i sleep sitting up and then the T1 lets me know whats what.  still have swallowing issues due to the anterior aspect and have to sip liquids if i eat some kinds of food. since im fused from skull to t1 my neck is super stable so coughing and such has little or no effect at this time. I had my surgery done in seattle wa and was blessed with some good folks. if you do get it done postierior, there is a whole new set of conditions and yes it was painful for about a month and then started to decrease in level, at six months im pain and drug free, but it was a journey getting here.  Keep a good attitude and i hope you find a comfortable way to sleep, take care 
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