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Swallowing-----After ACDF Surgery

mrleemmrlee Posts: 67
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
To all who have had Cervical Surgery. I had a four level fusion with hardware (C2,-C6) on Sept 25, 2008. I was told that I would have a very sore throat for 2-3 days and that I would have less motion in my neck after surgery.

It has been 3 months and 3 weeks since and I am still having problems swallowing. I have had a barrium swallow test that showed OK, Then I was told to see an Ears, nose and throat Dr. She performed a fibroscopic exam through both nostrils. Said my vocal cords were ok but saw amount of mucus below vocal cords which is indicative of an infection coming from somewhere. Also saw red spots below vocal cords. The Dr. suggested that I increase Protonics to twice a day and take a Zantac once a day. Well that did not help. Still can't swallow food without chasing each bite with liquids or regurgatating food back up. Next, was the order for a Modified Barrium Swallow test with Radiologist and a Speech Pathologist. Was told by both of these Professionals that everything looked ok. Food appears to be going down throat.(Said it could be just in my head). I saw NS today and thanks a GI doctor should scope throat. Am scheduled to see a Gastro doctor Jan 21st.

Swallowing is still a problem. Has anyone gone this long after surgery with similar problems? What do you do for this problem? Any input or thoughts will be greatly appreciated. Right now I can not swallow any type of BUNS,
chicken, meat, cakes, beans & more.


  • Hi Mrlee,
    I can certainly relate to what you are going through. I have the swallowing issues as well. My last surgery was done in June. Will be headed back to surgery on the 12th to take care of it. Although i was rather lucky that mine did show the barrium swallow test. For me it is the hardware as it is into the esophagus. I did go to a digestive disease specialist to find the issues. So i think your headed on the right track. If the surgery doesn't resolve all the problems in my situation they will scope and stretch the esophagus to fix the rest. Since your surgery was done though a anterior incision they had to move all of that to get to the spine. It is possible that you have some scar tissue causing the problems. Now what concerns me is they said there is a infection coming from somewhere. I think that needs to be investigate further. Did your Ns have copies of that information and did you ask about that. Have they checked your white blood cell count. Did the Ns say anything about how your fusing at this point. To help my problem i gave up anything with carbonation in it. Also cut my intake of caffeniene down a suggestion by the GI doctor. I also eat a very bland diet mostly all liquids which has helped tremendously. Ice cream still my best friend at this point. Let me know how you do at the GI office on the 21st and if you have other question feel free to pm me.
  • for 2 weeks but it has ended-now 4 weeks+ post-op. My problem was the difficulty swallowing as well as reflux which just made the food not want to go down and stay down due to the pressure of gas. I drank Galvsicon all the time! Like you for that 2 weeks I had to take small bites of food and chase it down with water. Once the hard lump/swelling in my neck went down a bit-it seemed to get easier for me.

    I know this does not help you but it looks like you are being proactive, so hopefully a solution will be found. I wish you luck. My surgeon said in the 2000 cervical operations he's done only 3-4 had trouble with swallowing and all those were resolved in time by other specialists. Keep the faith!
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  • have they put you on antibiotics or a different one? you mentioned mucous and red spots..maybe there is an infection...just a thought!
    I had trouble swallowing for about two weeks, but occasionally find food getting stuck there.
    Hope you find the reason soon so you can feel better!
  • Dave is still having swallowing problems 6 months post ACDF. He is having the swallowing test done in a couple weeks. In his case, he had LPR reflux even before the surgery. Don't say the word infection---puts me on hyper alert!! He already went through that 2X!!

    Anyway, from what I understand, the mucus is due the the trauma from the surgery.

    Linda MI
  • Sounds like they put you through an awful lot of tests reasonably soon after surgery. I had 3 level on Sept 17 and had/have swallowing problems since. Its just now starting to get better (can finally swallow pills if I am really careful). I still drink a lot while eating and find that adding gravy/soup/mayo etc to what I eat really helps, IN the beginning the only way I could eat a sandwich was to drench it in soup and eat it that way. I am very careful to chew my food well before I try to swallow it because a few times I found myself choking on things. I have a cough that has not gone away since surgery and I joked with my doctor that I am keeping the throat lozenger companies in business since I always have a pocket full. He said don't worry till at least 6 months and then if the coughing continues he will send me to an ENT to check it out. I don't cough all the time, only a few times a day (or night) but when I cough if I don't have a drink available I find it very hard to stop. If I feel it starting sometimes I can stop it by sucking on a throat lozenger.

    I really feel bad for you that you are having so much trouble with eating. Hang in there because I believe it will get better in time. 4 level is a very big operation and the healing time can be a long time.
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  • Two months ago I had to go to ER at hospital for a kidney stone. Get this, had elevated white count in blood (17.2). In urine was NO sign of bacteria, no sign of Red blood cells and no sign of white blood cells.
    Did have swelling in neck, so Dr. gave antibiotic prescription along with pain & nasuea meds for stone.

    Swelling did go down some, but, swallowing has not changed.
    Please stay in touch and will keep all updated.
  • You are right about mucus in the throat. Ears, nose, and throat Dr. said that was probably due to an infection somewhere.
    I urge you to take some kind of food that get stucks in your throat with you. Are you having a regular Barrium Swallow test or a Modified Barrium Swallow test? A regular BS checks only for liquids going down with any difficulties. Modified BS test checks for problems with differnt consistency of foods: this will be a swallow of liguid barrium followed by pudding mixed with barrium, and last a honey-ghram cookie dipped in barrium which you will chew well and swallow. This test requires a Speech Pathologist to be present and it the one who issues the Barrium with food. And then, I hope, they don't tell you it's must be in your head, everything looks good.

    Please keep in touch and I will update all about with my vist with the Gasto Dr's PA.
  • Thanks for responding, My Dr told me before sugery that the ACDF would be a piece of cake compared to Lumbar Surgery. I told him yesturday, "Boy, you were wrong!" and he agreed with me. He had problems inserting the breathing tubing down my throat before he began surgery. He said had touble with tubing tangeling up with vocal cords so he had to do alternate route AND was not able to perform nerve studies during surgery. I asked if there might be a cut nerve causing all my problems, he did not respond. I also told him that this past week that my right hand turns colder than a brick of ice followed with numbness. He said "That sounds like a cut nerve!" He did not offer a reason or a fix for this problem. I need to clarify my terminology. I did not mean to use the workd cough, I should have said regergatate by trying to cough. Please don't be discouraged by MY problems. Take good care of yourself and please stay in touch. I will update soon.

    P.S. Did your surgeon tell you that you WOULD loose some movement in your neck after surgery?
  • My surgeon told me that I had already lost most of the range of motion that I was likely to lose even before I had surgery (this is true). I put off surgery for a very long time and had a lot of damage in my neck by the time I finally had surgery. Spinal cord compression of over 40% in 2 places and badly crushed nerves that caused pain and numbness in my left hand/fingers and right hand/arm/fingers. Right now with physical therapy I find I have quite decent movement from side to side in my neck (a little hard when driving). I have very poor range of motion up and down. I can look down or up from a distance (because then you can use your eyes more then your neck) but if I try to look directly down or directly up it is nearly impossible and very painful. I find it difficult to cook things on top of the stove that need to be stirred during cooking. I expected lose of ROM but maybe not quite as much as I have lost. Maybe I will gain at least a little back during physical therapy. My doctor is very good about discussing any questions. I would go in his office with lists of typed out questions and not leave until they were answered. I still bring a list of things I want to discuss on each visit because otherwise I forget things that are important to me. Currently I see my doctor's physician assistant but I also see my doctor. This way I have the best of both worlds (someone who will spend time with me and someone who will answer any questions the PA can't answer). You should get your doctor to refer you to an EMT (ear/mouth/throat specialist). I think you said you already saw one but it must be frustrating that they can't figure out exactly what is going on. I think at this point so they can determine exactly what is going on and come up with a some suggestions for treatment.
    Good luck,
  • I had a 2 level fusion on 6-6-06, and have undergone many tests only to find out nothing! Very depressing. One thing that they DID find was that I now have Celiac Disease. It's an autoimmune disease that's triggered by stress or trauma. I had no problems before the fusion. I'm now awaiting an appointment with a neurosurgeon to see if removing the plate is an option. If I'm still going to have the same problems, I figure I'll keep the plate on. I've lost over 100lbs and I'm scared that it's gone into esphogeal cancer or something. I don't tell my family this because they just feel I'm crazy anyway. Best of luck to you!! I hope I didn't scare you, but check into the Celiac thing.
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