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Since cervical fusions diagnosed with swallowing problems

Hi all I have multiple things going on. However I have five cervical disc fusions. Six in the front and three in the back of the neck. Well I had has swallowing issues for 6 years now and was just diagnosed with a swallowing disorder now. I am so upset it is caused by the hardware in the front of the neck. The hardware stops the flap in my throat from opening all the way and pushing my food through to my stomach. So I gag on everything. I cannot even take pills. It is horrible and they never tell you that could happen. I asked them if they could remove the hardware and they tell me it is to dangerous. So I get to life the rest of my life with a swallowing problem and chocking on things. I am careful but it happens all the time. Has any of you gone through this issue and were they able to take the rods out for you?



  • My mom had 3 level acdf and resulted in feeding tube directly after surgery. She couldnt manage her own siliva. Fast forward almost 2 years later. She is still on the tube but she does eat by mouth but it never returned the same. She struggles to swallow and certain foods she does better than others. It takes alot of energy for her to finish one meal and she does cough and choke at times. At this point we kind of live with it. Our surgeon was never really supportive and just pass us off to the ent doctor.  My mom struggles on liquids, thick meats. Basically oatmeal and thick soup she does best on. What is your case like? My mom has never drank clear water again since her surgery. For thirst, we give her naked smoothie drinks. She always feels like there us stuff stuck in her throat like phelgm.

  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 693
    hisbeauty4ashes - Have you had any consultation with an ENT surgeon?
    After my second ACDF at C3/C4, I developed swallowing issues months later after the surgery.  I couldn't swallow anything, including water.  I was hospitalized to be rehydrated and feed intravenously.  While in the hospital, I had some swallowing tests and worked with a speech therapist (yes I typed that correctly).  The medical staff was able to teach me how to swallow puréed foods.  They also had me
    drinking water with thickening agents.  Maybe I was just lucky, but I was able to avoid a feeding tube, but I had to live on pureed foods for months. 
    After months of additional tests, living on pureed foods, being coached on swallowing techniques, I was able to graduate to soft foods and eventually back to regular foods.  During the months of working with the ENT doctor and speech therapist, they also observed the growth of a massive osteophyte from the bottom front of C4.  I was advised by the ENT doctor to get the osteophyte surgically removed.  The neurosurgeon who I was working with that would of removed the osteophyte stalled for time, because he was n the process of trying to get me approved for another ACDF at C4/C5.  Finally, I was approved for the C4/C5 surgery this past January, so my osteophyte was removed as part of my third ACDF.  I can swallow with minimal issues.  With now three ACDFs, the swallowing tests show that I have lost some control of swallowing on the right side of my throat. 
    So what is my point? Even with some permanent neurological damage in my throat, often there is techniques that ENTs along with other medical support professions, can work with you and some times/many times help you develop alternatives techniques for your swallowing issues.  My ENT doctor/surgeon had told me in my case, if I couldn't get the osteophyte removed, she had alternative procedures as back-up plans.  She refused to give me details as long as direct surgical removal was an option.
    If you have not yet had a consultation with an ENT surgeon, you deserve it to yourself to get one.    

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  • Hi nutcase- did the 3rd acdf cause any worse swallowing compared to before ? I know the swelling always cause temporary swallowing issues but im always afraid opening up that area again since so many important nerves and muscles are there. 

  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 693

    Jennypai - On my third ACDF to fuse C4/C5, my neurosurgeon had to go through the scar tissue from my second ACDF at C3/C4.  That incision was nasty.  He had to dig out all the scar tissue and my fusion procedure was about the worst he could have expected (so the neurosurgeon told me after surgery).  There was two positive parts of my last ACDF surgery: (1) he already had my neck open at the  C4/C4 level, so he had to remove the massive osteophyte that had developed on the bottom of C4 after my second ACDF and (2) he was able to obtain insurance approval to use a zero-p spacer that does not require any plating on the front of my spine.  If you google my highlighted words, you will see the device.  Remember, I already had plating over the C3/C4 joint, so there wasn't any space for new plating, outside of cutting my neck open further and removing the C3/C4 plating.  

    The zero-p device had worked great for me.  From the x-rays that were shot nine months post-op, I am totally fused through the device and around the front of the device at C4/C5.  This results in a totally smooth fusion on the front side of my C4/C5 joint. 

    My swallowing is just about normal, almost back to normal before this whole mess in my neck started.  From the incision point into my neck for C3/C4 and C4/C5, I have lost some swallowing control on my right side of my vocal cords and epiglottis.  Some nerves were cut that have NOT regenerated.  I can live with it.  I chew my food more thoroughly and swallowing on the left side of my throat.  I have never head of any cervical fusion that didn't leave some type of permanent lose of function.  Remember, I was never a candidate for any ADRs, because of the severe damage to the facet side of my cervical spine.

  • Thanks for the update. Ya, after the surgery..i did find out about the zero p hardware. Im not sure why my surgeon didnt bother looking into that or consider i might have swallowing issues before. Im 70 yrs old with advance parkinsons. I had a regular diet before the acdf. I think my surgeon should of run a baseline swallowing exam prior to surgury knowing i had preexisting conditions.  Our ENT at ucla hospital did few largnaescope exams and concluded my swallowing is very weak. He was going look into an esphagous dilation operation in case the hardware was causing issues but my mom decided to not perform it because the ENT said it may not do anything to help so basically no guarantees. I just feel the acdf was overkillfor my mom because she never had nerve pains and the surgery was recommended because my moms neck started deforming and cause her to bow her head down. 

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