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Anyone had deltoid & bicep nerve damage in arm after ACDF?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:22 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi everyone. I had ACDF (c-3 - 7)surgery on 8-6. I'm recovering fine from the surgery, but had a very rare complication. My left arm/shoulder cannot be lifted and am told that when my dr. came upon c-5 disc he said everything exploded and the nerves popped. I am receiving OT 3 x a week at home but am wondering when can I expect to see any kind of improvement at all? I can't even brush my hair! If anyone has had this happen to them, please, please email me. I'm really concerned. Thank you.


  • So sorry this has happened to you. Paulgla had a paralyzed shoulder and I think he said it has come back 75%, so that would suggest that there is hope. With my first ACDF, I had some pretty serious complications as well and could not even move my fingers on my left arm/hand. This did get better. I am having some significant weakness now though that doesn't look good. But please try not to give up hope, and I'll pray that your arm returns to normal soon. It takes a very long time for nerves to heal, and they can continue the regeneration process for up to 2 years. Patience is difficult when you are living it, but hopefully you will soon be looking back on this experience as a bad nightmare.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • Elinor, that sounds like the same thing that happened to me after my first surgery. But, most of it came back by the time I had the second surgery. So it does indeed get better, sometimes with this nerve stuff, it takes time.
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  • I have a question was any part of your surgery posterior. If so there is a possibility that part of the problem is coming from the posterior neck muscle. I lost the use of the left extremity altogether. However with a lot of physical therapy have regained most of the mobility but still lack any real strength though. I would make sure that you continue to move your shoulder as you don't want frozen shoulder to set in. Talk to your surgeon about continuing the movement as it is extremely important. Your very new out of surgery and have a long way to go in the recovery. Your nerves could just be a bit pissed at the whole thing still and need time to relax. Keep us posted on how you get along.
  • Thank you all so much for your replies. I am having extensive occupational therapy and although I don't see a difference, the people around me see a difference. I know it is a very slow process and I am willing to wait as long as I see results. She is using a TENS 3000 on me 3 x a week and am getting good contractions. I will be getting one for my home use to use every day. She also showed me how to lie on the bed so I could brush my own hair which is wonderful! I use my left arm every chance I get. I'll know more when I see the dr. for my second visit and x-rays and he'll tell me if I am improving or not. Extending the arm out is the problem, but I know a year from now I'll be looking back and thinking about how far I've come along. My only worry is driving a car because I can't turn the wheel with my left arm because I can't lift it. Anyone with ideas on that? Thanks again and I'll keep you updated.
  • I ran up on this site while googling trying to find out what is causing my inability to lift my left arm.

    I fell on the ice last winter and broke my humerus in four places, with the main break being the proximal humerus.

    They decided not to do surgery but to heal it by just leaving it hang, while tied to my body. It healed at a bad angle and still has not fully healed. One end of it wasn't touching enough to heal, but the other end healed at a 45% angle so they gave me a bone growth stimulator to wear and now the healed part has a huge knot on the bone.

    Anyway over all these many months of therapy, I can barely raise the arm a few inches outward and the same thing forward. What's weird is when I lay on my back I can raise it all the way up.

    My own bone doctor was thinking that it was some sort of impingement and so ordered a CT scan to see how well it was healed in order to do a manipulation on it. He then informed me that according to the CT scan that it was still not healed enough to do so and that if he did the manipulation that he might rebreak my arm.

    Then the insurance company sent me to another doctor who also said that it was an impingement but his plan was to do arthroscopic surgery and a very easy manipulation, which he did. He removed part of my clavicle and also some bone spurs.

    I really thought that I would be able to lift it, but so far, it just will not lift, so I began to do a little research on my own and with the help of my PT guy, have pretty much come to the conclusion that there must have been some kind of nerve damage as the nerves that control the deltoid, which is the muscle that I think lifts the arm, wraps all around that area of the upper humerus.

    Now I just have to figure out what tests to inquire about with the doctor to see if I have nerve damage. To make matters worse, this new doctor is not easy to deal with.

    Despite the fact that the CT scan that I had about two weeks before with the other doctor, before this new one performed this surgery showed that my bone was not healed, he wrote on my PT prescription that my bone was healed, in really dark letters and underlined it.

    So he has declared my still broken bone as healed. It is still swollen in the spot where the break was. My arm looks like I have a huge muscle there and is always swollen, and more after PT.
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  • My friend had ACDF (c-3 - 7)surgery 6 weeks ago. The neck surgery turned out good. Before the surgery his left arm was OK but after surgery, his left arm/shoulder cannot be lifted. The same out come that you have. It has been 6 weeks with no improvment. The doctor said everything went well during surgery. He had a second MRI 5 weeks later and the docter thinks that he might have to open up a larger hole for the nurve to pass though. Have you had any improvment or answer to the problem? Please respond and I will let you known about his out come after the procedure.
  • I had surgery to remove bone spurs from C4,C5 and C5,C6 on June 4 2011. The surgery was through the back of my neck. When I woke up I couldnt move my right arm and the doctor said he had seen this before and my arm would come back over time. I have been doing PT for 30 visits and my arm was getting some movement back but now it has started to get weaker and the pain has returned with numbness and burning in my shoulder and fingers again. Doctor has ordered a Mylegram which is Monday to see what is going on. I had a MRI done 2 weeks ago and C4,5 and C5,6 looked good but the doctor said that C6 and C7 were bulging some but he couldnt tell if there were bone spurs. I hope yours starts to get better soon.
  • I am gettin ready for my 3rd cervical fusion. This is a new doc (neuro) and he wants to do the fusion from the front and go in from the back to take out the bone spurs. The last to surgeries I had, I had bone spurs as well but they took them out from the front...a little worried about takin them out from the back this time....
  • Anon. pls post your updated condition. I am very interested in all posts ie this condition since I too have arm palsy after 3 level ACDF this Aug 2011. Coming to 6 months since beginning of arm problem. Recent MRI shows plenty of space for spine around c345. EMG's show 50% use of bicep and 30% use of tricep. A second EMG done just last week shows now improvement since first done 6 weeks prior. Doc says no signs of permanent damage. Growth slow, very slow and could maybe a year for real chance to occur. Cant do arm curl with soup can. Too weak to do more than 8-10 empty handed arm curls. Cant raise arm straight out in front or up on the side. C5 nerve is not right!!!!
  • I just had a posterior cervical foraminotomy with C5-6 revision and C4-5 fusion. I awoke with a 75% loss of function in my right arm than post op and still not any better. Pre-op only paralysis was numbness on half of index finger with intermittant numbness on tip of thumb. Payalysis was never discussed.

    Now Doc says to give it time and wait but I cannot even brush my hair. He says that he thinks it is temporary but no tests to assess anything makes me nervous. I think that I need a caseworker, neurologist, physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon, which is what he is. His plan is to follow every 3 weeks but I want a more comprehensive approach. I am very depressed and feed that I have been discarded. He told me last that it could take 4 months before we know.

    I have an appt with a neurosurgeon who I had a pre op consult with in 2009 with first fusion. I have call in to my surgeon again because I cannot wait without any support, etc. I am very depressed and neglected. It is all so hard to understand becoming disabled and no one seems to notice. My support is my dearest husband but I feel so guilty having him be so strong and drive me everywhere when he too has serious concerns.

    I just needed to express my hopelessness and hope that today my doc will call me. Thank you for the help you have provided. Should I ask my orto or neuro about C5 Palsey?

    My surgeon told me that due to severe stenosis at the C4-5 level that weakness after surgery can occur. And the C5-6 nerves work the deltoid and the biceps muscle so the right arm is inflamed and not working completely. I just think that if this is the case, it is time to evaluate the degree of damage so that we will know when and if it improves. Sort of or kind of don't suffice when it could be measured ??% or something really helpful. I don't think that my expectations are unreasonable even this soon after surgery.

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