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Range of motion after multi level cervical fusions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:31 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had a fusion at C4-C5 in November of 2007. All was fine for about a year, no pain, numbness or tingling in my left hand and arm. Starting last August I began having pain and numbness and tingling in my right arm. After putting me through about every test you can imagine, including a CT myleogram my orthopedic surgeon asked me to get a 2nd opinion from the surgeon in his practice who is the expert on revisions of previous spinal surgeries. His suggestion is if I decide to have surgery is to fuse C5-6 and C6-7. Aside from the usual risks of this surgery I am concerned with how much this will limit my range of motion in my neck. After the first fusion I did not feel any difference in my range of motion at all in my neck, and my recovery was very quick and easy. Would love to hear from anybody out there who as had a similar surgery or has multi level cervical fustions and can tell me about their experiences and what to expect after this kind of surgery. I have a meeting with my orthopedic surgeon next week and will probably make the decision then. Any usefull questions I can ask him would also be appreciated.


  • HI Mustangsally,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. There is so much information to taken in here. Along with the forums, are articles written and reviewed by medical doctors. You will also find many here who have gone through what your are, or just starting as well. Keep in mind as you read those who have had success have returned back to busy lives and no longer posting.

    Originally I started as a two level fusion and went through text book style. Was back working and felt the pains returning and thought it was just all in my head. Long story short a new series of test proved it wasn't. Eventually a the third level was added into my fusion. Your question on range of motion(rom), is a bit difficult. At first I'm not sure i realized the additional loss of motion but as the levels fused it became more clear. I'm not sure that I notice it as much, as you learn other ways around things. Your mind retrains itself not to do it as you can't do it. The only time it is clear the loss of ROM is when trying to get out of a bad parking space. So I just edge along using the mirrors. I don't think I will be visiting NewYork city, any time soon, as I have severe limits on looking up.

    One thing you may want to discuss with your doctors is if adding the two levels is a necessity? The risk of non-fusion almost double with multi-level fusions. I'm sure you still have your old hardware and will they be leaving that plate in or removing it on the new surgery? I see you say revision on spinal surgery are the going back to the original c4-c5 level? Unfortunate it is common for other levels to go when fusion is done from the additional stress that is placed on the adjacent levels.
    I aspected on the revision surgery that I would heal just as I did on the previous surgery? Unfortunately that was not the case. Also my revision surgery was done posterior which is more involved and much harder to heal from. They have to cut through the posterior muscle and you are at risk of loosing that muscle. If you look in the FAQ section at top of page you will find a list of questions to ask a surgeon. Although you have been there done this kind of thing before it may help you organize your thoughts.

    Anyway welcome to spine-health and look forward to reading more of your post. Keep us updated on how the appointment goes. If i can be of further help don't hesitate to pm me. Take care.
  • Welcome and as already said, many different experiences are posted here. You had one level done. Do you know why surgeon is recommending 2 levels below? Is there concrete evidence that you need 2 more levels?

    Since they are considering levels below, your range of motion may have some limitations. I would be more concerned if they were going above the C4-5. Obviously doing a fusion that goes 3 levels will impact you now and in the future. Stress will then be transmitted above and below the 3 levels. Sadly this can lead to more problems at the adjoining levels.

    I had one level C5-6 done and 2 years later needed C3-4, 4-5 done. They removed the old plate and put a new plate onto all 3 levels - it was a tough recovery! I do have limits especially any tilting my head backward and still have problems with swallowing bread with peanut butter :) I've learned to rotate my shoulders as needed when driving and adapted well. A year later I developed which is referred to as 'dural irritation' which took some detective work to understand this. It was the PT person who explained it to me....it is caused by the transmitted stress. Good shoulder exercises helped to open up the thoracic area to better accept the stress (breast bone lifted up, scapula exercises to get my posture better, shoulders back)relieved the arm pain in about 3 weeks. It was impressive! I was so relieved because I was sure the surgeon was missing something even tho all the tests were negative. It was the physiatrist in their practice that diagnosed the source of the problem. Remember surgeons think only is surgically related problems!

    I hope that there is a non-surgical reason for your new onset of pain.....

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