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Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Trying to decide about surgery...

Dana128DDana128 Posts: 7
edited 11/28/2015 - 7:15 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone,

I am a 35 year old female and have had neck issues (bulging discs and degenerative disc disease) since about 2010. I went through physical therapy back then for 6 weeks and it didn't help too much. I am getting married this April 30th, 2016 and of course want to feel good for my wedding! I am so tired of being in pain and it's gotten to the point

Things had dubsided a little bit until about 2 weeks ago when I woke up and could barely move my neck. This was on a Thursday.
By Monday afternoon, the pain was shooting down my left arm and into my shoulder. I was also having very bad and constant headaches. I ended up in the ER where they gave me A LOT of IV drugs (including Dilaudid, Valium, Torodol, etc.) They did a CT scan (which I'll tell you the findings after I explain what happened.) They sent me home with Norco, Valium and a Medrol dosepack. I got the presciptions filled and started taking the steroids the next day (Tuesday.) I was still in so much pain. I continued the meds as needed but took the Medrol as prescribed.
By Saturday, the pain was terrible again! I was also having ringing in my ear and more pain shooting down my arm. My fiance took me back to the ER and they called someone in to do an MRI. They compared the MRI that I had in 2011 to now and things have definitely gotten worse.
Here are the findings:

C3-C4: 3 mm broad-based posterior central disc protrusion without significant neural compromise.

C4-C5: Nominal disc bulging without neural compromise.

C5-C6: Disc desiccation. Moderate lobulated circumferential disc bulge with uncovertebral spurs. No central canal stenosis. The disc osteophyte complex mildly encroaches into bilateral foramina

C6-C7: A underlying circumferential disc bulge and tiny uncovertebral spurs. Superimposed broad-based, approximately 3 to 4 mm left paracentral disc protrusion. The disc osteophyte complex and disc protrusion encroaches into the spinal canal partially effacing the subarachnoid space. The dural sac measures 8 mm AP. Asymmetric stenosis of the left lateral recess. Mild encroachment into the anteroinferior portions of bilateral foramina.

C7-T1: Small 3 mm broad-based left paracentral disc protrusion causing a mild asymmetric flattening of the left lateral recess.

I'm hoping someone can give me some advice about the surgeries and if you've had them. The doctor did tell me he doesn't see many 35 year old females with the level of problems I have. I want to know about the recovery time and if this is something I should do. I want to be out of pain and be able to move again!

I saw an Orthopedic surgeon last week who was very good and went through ALL of my tests and spent quite a bit of time with me. He specializes in the neck and has been doing surgery for 35 years now. He is suggesting that I get a cortisone shot in my neck Monday or Tuesday this next week and then recommends I do one of the following surgeries (which I'm assuming he will decide which is best!)

1.) Anterior Cervical discectomy and fusion-instrumented
2.) Cervical Arthroplasty LDR Mobi-C

Thank you in advance!

There are no medical professionals on the forum side of this site. Therefore everything you read is based on the personal experiences and/or research done by the individual member. Comments should never be taken as pure medical facts. You need to discuss this with your doctor. They are the only ones that can provide you with detailed information about you, the patient.



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • AS mentioned, it's really impossible for any of us others to advise on a type of surgery or if you should have surgery. I will say that I made a decision to have my surgery because i felt like I had very few options left. I had tried a great deal of PT, steroid injections, a minor surgery (microdisectomy), and things were deteriorating.

    Two things I'd advise:
    Go see at least one other surgeon...I myself am partial to neurosurgeons, when nerves are involved, but there are many very very good Ortho surgeons as well... (people get weird preferences and I'm not sure it matters as long as you have a surgeon you trust completely).
    Ask both surgeons what will happen if you don't have the surgery. For me the answer was "you'll continue to worsen" which kind of made up my mind right away.

    Best wishes.
  • Thank you for your response.
    If I may ask, how old were you when you had the surgery? How do you feel now? Did you stay in the hospital? How was the pain after? I'm assuming they control that in the hospital?
  • I'm 40. I had a lumbar fusion 3 weeks ago, a totally different procedure. I feel ok, just went back to work on Friday, mostly worried about actual fusion occurring (or not!). I'm a Nurse, and I've seen people of all adult ages with various fusions. I work with a woman who has most of her neck and back fused she's 33. She seems to do very well. (she isn't the most athletic person I've met, but she doesn't complain of contact pain, and works full time has 4 kids) If you look through the boards here you will see people in their early 20's. Younger people tend to heal better and faster than old folks. So Im not sure you should look at your age as a factor. For me it was the level of pain I was experiencing daily, and how it was limiting my daily activities and what treatments were available and what was recommended... It was a hard decision for me as well, though by the day of surgery I never wanted that surgery so badly....
  • TomNTTomN PhillyPosts: 14
    Hey Dana,
    So Sorry you are having such problems!!! I had a bad car accident a year ago which left my with instability at C6. So when I looked down, my feet went numb and my pinky fingers. It took a neurosurgeon to properly diagnose me after 8 months of crying to orthopedics sports medicine doctors about my symptoms. All they want to do is PT and steroids. I hope the shot works for you but, if not, I would see a neurosurgeon for a second opinion. And see a guy who does ADR (Artificial Disc Replacement) and ACDF (Fusions) . Time to do lots of research. I met with 6 surgeons who had a lot of different opinions, sadly, since instability is a grey area in spine surgery. I went with a neurosurgeon who knew exactly what was wrong with me and assured me he could fix the symptoms. I fused C6/7 Nov 2 and am doing ok. It took a month to finally get off most of my pain meds. I've been told it's a 12 week recovery and I sure can understand why. Google ADR and ACDF and start doing your homework so you can ask educated questions to your doctor, especially a second opinion Dr. Good luck!!!!!!! And if you see another Dr, have them "Show you" on the films what they are talking about. You have a long road ahead of you and it's time to get real and do your homework. Also research your doctor and see what people are saying about him. My doc had 350 5 star reviews on vitals.com which was nice to see.
  • Dana128DDana128 Posts: 7
    edited 11/29/2015 - 10:40 AM
    Hi Tom!

    Thank you so much for your advice and I'm glad to hear you're feeling better!

    I have a question. I've been seeing an orthopedic surgeon that my primary care doctor recommended that specializes in the spine. He really took the time to go over all of my CT and MRI images as well as the report. Do you think I need to see a Nuerosurgeon too as it would be better than seeing an orthopedic surgeon?
    Thank you in advance!
  • TomNTTomN PhillyPosts: 14
    edited 11/29/2015 - 7:21 PM
    It's a great debate between Neuro's and Orhtos. Basically my neuro said this: We train for about 5 years longer than Orthos so we have more experience with complex neurological issues with the spine. What's funny is two neuros understood my problem and the orthos pretty much dismissed me. I asked an ortho why my feet went numb when I looked down. He said, "I dunno." It was at that point in the game I really leaned towards neuros. But my case was not clear cut so I needed a neuro. I guess it depends on what you want to do. If you want an ADR than find the most experienced ortho or neuro. I'm biased towards neuros since they train more. I would say go see a neuro and see what he says. It's spine surgery, you really might want a couple opinions as this is a very complex procedure where you want the most qualified and experienced Dr. And ask them how many procedures have they performed and what's their success ratio. Hope this helps!
  • Hi again!

    I am scheduled for Mobi-C Cervical Arthroplasty on January 15th. 10 days ago I had an epidural shot of Kenalog where they went through the side of my neck. I feel GREAT right now as 95% of my pain is gone! I know this is a temporary fix but my question is if it would make sense to get another shot before my wedding on April 30th and wait until afterwards to have the surgery? I will be in Mexico for 2 weeks as we are having a destination wedding and am now thinking, "why would I have surgery now when I feel so great?"
    Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!
  • SukhreSSukhre San Diego, CAPosts: 181
    You are probably having a one level surgery? At C6-7? I am guessing a second opinion might help you reaching a decision.

    MRI shows C4-C7 severe steonosis. Pain in hand.
  • Dana128DDana128 Posts: 7
    edited 01/09/2016 - 9:54 AM
    Hi all!

    I have Mobi-C one level replacement scheduled for Friday January 15th on my C6-C7.
    It was just approved by my insurance company. I will let you all know how things turn out. I am SO nervous but know this is the right choice!
  • Hi Dana - I know you are already scheduled for surgery, but if the epidurals are working for you in my opinion I would wait. I always tell people, if you can't open the refrigerator door, then it's time for surgery. Pain is one thing, but you could lose feeling and muscles in your hand(s) as I have. I have had 4 surgeries on my neck, both anterior and posterior with hardware in both areas. It all started with pain down my arms, and eventually I couldn't open the fridge. But, I see you have "bulging" discs - mine were herniated. There's big difference - are you numb anywhere? I know the pain really sucks, but like I said if you can tolerate the Kenalog and it works, then use that for as long as it works. Going under the knife is not reversible and the scar is ugly, the scar tissue can cause more pain, the fusion can not take (mine didn't and my neck collapsed having to be rebuilt), and they can bruise so many things when they're in there. I don't mean to scare you, but if you can tolerate it to at least after your wedding I would. Then you won't have the scar for your beautiful day, and afterward less stress which reduces pain.
  • I'm contemplating the same thing - to have surgery or not. I'm scheduled for ACDF at C5 - C7 on Feb 9th. Over the last couple of months my pain is much better and I'm not having as many issues with numbness and weakness, although both are still present. The surgery kind of makes me nervous and I've read about many people having more problems after the procedure; most notably additional disc weakening above and below the fusion site. I simply do NOT know what to do...have the surgery and hope for the best or put it off and hope all those terrible symptoms don't come back. I'm guessing they will though. This might be the toughest decision I've ever had to make. I almost which I was in more pain right now as it would make it an easier decision. I realize this post is zero help to you...just wanted you to realize there were others out here going through the same thing.
  • I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's a hard choice but I feel that it's right. I pray you come to a decision that's best for you. Please let me know if you have any more questions.
  • wf1852wwf1852 Posts: 1
    edited 01/13/2016 - 4:39 AM
    Hi Dana,

    I am a 41 year old male. In great health, never been in hospital before. I completely understand what you are going through. I just had an ACDF C5-C7 (bulging disc and disc disease). I had the surgery 1 week ago today (1/6). Going in I had the same hesitations as you. From August - November I literally could barely move. I had trouble getting up, walking, sleeping and even eating I was in so much pain. Then at the beginning of December they changed my meds and a lot of my pain went away. The dr. assured me nothing had changed and I still needed the surgery. By the way I had the surgery done by a neuro not an ortho. I spent 3 months going from dr. to dr. looking for relief. Finally I found where I am now.

    What I could tell you is one week out I still have numbness in my thumb. Which I could deal with. I do not have pain in my arm. Big relief. Still hurts swallowing. A lot better though. I have pain in my back, right underneath my neck. All which I was told to expect. I am walking a couple miles a day. I was really active person before all this. Sitting around drives me crazy. Overall I feel much better then I did when I was in complete agony from Aug-Nov. I do not feel as good as I did when I changed meds, but I am only a week out. Honestly I am feeling much better then I thought I would at this point. Extremely nervous going in. But the whole thing wasn't bad at all. Went in on Wed, came home the next day.

    I personally think you are making the right decision by having it done now and not waiting. I have a vacation coming up 4 weeks from today. Dr. told me I will be more then fine to go.

    Congratulations on the wedding!!! Much health and happiness to you.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
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