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sad/worrying about imminent cervical fusion

ouchoouch Posts: 107
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I know that there are many folks out there who have had single, double, or triple level cervical fusions. I was told yesterday I will need at least a single level as I have two herniations, bulges, ddd, bone spurs, etc in my neck. I have a C4/5 very large disc herniation causing the majority of my symptoms and it is causing myelopathy: weak arm and leg, weak hand grasp, decreased reflexes in the triceps, dropping things, urinary issues, etc. I know I cannot forego this surgery. I am very sad over it though. But, I am a fighter. I would like advice from you pros out there who have had this surgery. What do you recommend going in to the surgery? Did you use your own hip bone or cadaver? What was the surgery like for you? How is your throat if they went in anteriorly? How was the outcome for you? Are you glad you did it? Did it help your symptoms? sigh...


  • Ouch,
    Perhaps some of my experiance may be helpful. My first ACDF was a 2 level, it did keep me out of major trouble. I had a lot of things going on at the same time which let to my second and much longer surgery. My first surgery the OS used a material called Trabecular Metal instead of bone. The web site is www.zimmerspine.com . He told me they had better sucess with this compared to bone, just his opinion. The surgery was about 4 hrs, my recovery was rather uneventful, was off all pain meds by day 5 or so, with a muscle relaxer once in a while the first week. I was in a hard collar for 6 weeks while in a car, soft collar out in public for the same amount of time, during the day my OS told me I did not have to wear either collar, seems there is such a vararation in this subject. I started PT around the 5-6 week point, that made a big improvement with my ROM. My throat was kind of sore for about 3 weeks, soft food and had to chew things very slowly. As far as the outcome I would say both surgeries together were a sucess, my symptoms of myelopathy are not getting worse at this time, my left/hand still has some numbness, but it is bearable, I also have hyperreflexia and clonus. Again this was just what I went through, we are all different, some people have problems and some do not. I did not have much choice as to have surgery or not, but the way things have gone I am happy with the outcome. Good luck and I hope all goes well with you.

  • I had a car accident and had to act fast to have the same surgery. Myleopathy was happening fast. I had a feeling of leaning to the right all the time and was losing my balance and couldn't hold onto anything in my right hand. Just know there are lots of people who will help you through this. Sadness and even depression are acceptable and expected. This is a major surgery not to be taken lightly. I am 3 weeks post op and I can say with all honesty that I have more good days than bad now. If you have a good doc he won't let you deal with pain of any kind because stress is not good for your healing. Use lots and lots of pillows for comfort. I even still sleep in my recliner most nights just because it's easier to get out of in the morning. My throat still feels tight but I can eat whatever I want. My doc doesn't do the whole neck collar thing so someone else can give advice about that. Just most importantly after this surgery. Listen to your body. When it says "No" it means "No". Take your time to heal and don't let anybody tell you how long it takes for your body to heal. Only you will know that. My only issue today is that I have a scar on my throat that reminds me everyday of what happened and I have some back spasms. I know the scar will heal and eventually become a non-issue. My doctor gives me medication for the back spasms and it works. I am grateful for the help of family and friends so don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it and you can always come here for answers to any questions that you have. And remember take baby steps at first. Don't rush into anything. Housework believe me will still be there when you feel up to it and no one in my house has died yet because the bathtub isn't clean. Work will be there when you get better so even if you have a desk job don't rush back. Oh and I had cadavar bone which worried me at first but now I'm glad I did because I have heard too many stories about all of the donor pain site. If I had to make the choice I would do it again in a heartbeat because my kids don't have to come visit me in some nursing home and bring me a new straw because I'm paralyzed.
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  • I appreciate your expertise, and I do mean expertise. You have been through it and come out great. Congratulations. Thank you for you time and comments.
    I am still waiting on my doc to set the time/date. He wants to do an SSEP (somatosensory something or other) to test the information coming to and from my spinal cord. ) Anyone heard of that test?
  • I totally understand you being nervous its totally normal.

    Was I glad I had cervical surgery?? YES YES YES I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to, but right now I got other things goin on ;)
    I had severe headaches weakness on the whole left side.
    As soon as the MRI came back the ortho scheduled surgery for 2 weeks after.

    That was in 04. I have full movement of my neck back and forward and to the sides. I don't even know I had surgery there unless I think about. The scar is minimal and you can hardly see it. I had steri strips and glue. The hospital stay was 36 hrs due to swallowing. Most are let go in 24 hrs for a 1 level. I was in a soft collar. Sleeping was tuff for the first few weeks.
    I also have herniations above and below but they don't bother me that much only if I sleep wrong.
    I caught mine early and did not wait. In some cases I think that is the best route to go.

    I used my own bone and it fused fine.
    The hip was painful for a few weeks, but that went away.
    I was on liquids for about a week and half, then to soft foods and reg foods.
    Of course at the time I had no other issues so I was able to WALK WALK WALK it felt so good!!!
    I had lots of burning from the muscles and nerves being cut, but with the proper meds, LOTS OF ICE and pillows things stayed comfy..

    I wish you the best of luck!!
    Terri O:)
  • I had my cervical fusion done Wednesday and came home yesterday. I'm having a few complications but thanks to this forum....I'm finding out what is and what isn't normal. I had 2 discs removed c4-c6, cadaver bone transplant with the titanium implant to help fuse it. Post surgical pain is nothing compared to what I had been going through. Most mornings I could barely lift my head off the pillow without it feeling like someone was sticking a huge knife in my neck. My biggest problem before surgery though was my right shoulder and arm....the muscles were in a constant state of contraction. I had to hold my arm up to get any pain relief. Now....just have really bad weakness on that side. My dr said after the surgery that he removed two HUGE bone spurs...he told me....man were those things impressive. So...I'm looking forward to healing and getting on with my life. Right now though....I'm looking for the tylenol...I have a killer headache.
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  • Hello there Sarahsphotos: I just wanted to see how you are doing a week or so out of surgery. I hope that you are feeling okay and that your pain is manageable. Let me know how you are. Take good care. Laura :H
  • I'm doing good Laura....the pain level is so much less than what it was before surgery...I hardly consider it pain. A few swallowing problems but popsicles have been a godsend for that. So keep a lot of those in stock for after the surgery. I think the most important thing to remember after the surgery is to be patient. I was so ready to just be done with it and move on with life that I have to keep reminding myself that I'm still healing. Things take time and the swallowing thing is already starting to correct itself..just like everyone said it would. I think after the surgery you are going to feel such a renewed sense of life. Good luck to you...I hope everything goes very smoothly and you have a speedy recovery.
  • I'm very happy you've less pain and went through with it. Wishing you a speedy recovey. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I am a 40 year old veterinary technician and had a C5C6 ACDF 13 days ago at the University of Utah. I had spinal stenosis and neural foramen narrowing which caused pain and numbness in my left arm. Conservative treatment (steroids, then NSAIDS, and spinal decompression) relieved most of my symptoms, but I still opted for fusion surgery because any small trauma could result in inflammation and pain again. I also talked to a couple people that had postponed their surgeries too long. They now have permanent nerve damage and some atrophy in their affected limbs.

    Cadaver bone was used instead of an autograph, because my surgeon feels that there tends to be more pain and complications from the bone harvesting site than from the cervical fusion itself. As for my post op experience, I was only in severe pain for the first 2 days (due to positioning for my post op X-rays and the 5 hour car ride home the day after surgery). My neurosurgeon did not give me a cervical collar to wear post-op. He explained that the instrumentation will stabilize my neck better than any external fixation anyways. He believes long term recovery is easier if you are not immobilized with a collar. If your neck muscles stiffen up and become atrophied due to immobility in a collar, PT later will be much more difficult. I was sent home the day after surgery and told to rotate, flex and extend my neck (slowly and carefully) in all directions. I had a lot of muscle spasm pain in my neck and shoulders for the first 5 days which was managed with lortab, valium, heat, ice and massage. I found that the more I moved my neck (especially under a hot shower or warm rice bag) the less muscle pain I had.

    I couldn't eat solid food for about 5 days, and then I started slowly and washed everything down with plenty of water. I'm eating totally normal now. As for my incision, I have cat scratches that have left bigger scars than the one on my neck!

    In less than two weeks I have almost as much ROM as I did before surgery. Right now I only take one lortab in the AM and 1 valium in the evening and I am already back at work part time. Of course I'm taking it easy, getting plenty of sleep, not lifting anything over 10 pounds, and I'm taking omega 3, glucosamine, MSM and multi-vitamins. I also threw in Citrical plus Bone Density Builder in hopes of speeding up my fusion. I've read a lot of horror stories of post-op pain lasting months and months, so I consider myself very lucky. My experience with the neurosurgery department and whole hospital at the University of Utah has been great. If you're anywhere near Salt Lake City, I suggest you check them out. I live 280 miles away and it has been well worth the travel time. (Well, actually the 5 hour drive home the day after surgery wasn't exactly fun, but worth it in the long run)

    My surgeon told me I should be able to return to all of my normal activity after 6 months, which includes lifting at work, ATV riding, skiing, horseback riding and whitewater rafting (which, BTW, caused the injury in the first place)

    Good Luck!
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