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17 days post ACDF c3/c4 and so worried

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I'm new here and just found this forum. I work in Radiology so when I started getting weird pains down my arms I went and got myself an xray that showed I had congenital fusion of C4-6 and some subluxation at C3/c4 When the radiologist that I work for saw this he sent me to MRI where they found a huge herniation at that level that had compressed my cord down to 6 mm. He fast-tracked me into a neurosurgeon who booked my surgery in for the very next week. Wow, my head was spinning. Before surgery I had chronic pain between my shoulderblades and in my neck and then the new shooting pain down my right arm. When I woke up post op I was MISERABLE. I had so much pain and was taking anything that they would let me have to alleviate it. The pain was in my throat when I swallowed and I could not move my head at all. My neck hurt so bad. The surgeon said that he had trouble getting to the area of the lesion and he was not surprised I was in so much pain.

I was in hospital for around 24 hours. Once at home I began to do much better very quickly and within two weeks I was completely off pain meds. My neck feels stiff but does not hurt. I still have a bit of burning between the shoulderblades but not like before. Of course I am not doing as much as before.

Here's why I am worried -

When I woke up from surgery both my hands were numb, number than before surgery. They are still just as numb. Fine motor control is slightly affected. I work in ultrasound so fine motor control is my lively hood. I jokingly refer to my right hand as my "money-maker" and so I'm very worried that the numbness is permanent.

I caught bronchitis last week and have coughed my head off. Violent coughing spells that I worry are affecting my healing. I wear my neck brace religiously even though my doc said I didn't have to unless I was in a car but I'm still worried about all the coughing.

Last thing I'm worried about is insurance. My insurance company sent me forms saying I'm being investigated for pre-existing. If it was pre-existing I didn't know about it. I have insurance provided by my employer and my neurosurgeon works in the same group. Hopefully he will fill in the forms in such a way that they pay but still I worry.

I'm a big worry wart and I feel like it is keeping me from taking any active part in my healing. I just sit here and obsessively research numb hands and insurance issues all the time. I'm hoping someone out there has some positive news for me because I'm so scared right now.


  • Ness,

    I haven't had my ACDF yet, but I did have a PLIF (Postreior Lumbar Fusion 3 levels). My legs were pretty numb after the surgery- I couldn't feel ly left leg at all. My NS said they had to move the spinal cord a little and when they do that it causes these things. I would say I am 96% better. I still have some numbness in my left toes and it is doubtful that those will come back.

    You are not to far out so I would expect that you should see a better recovery eventually.

    If you are worried about displacing your hardware during a coughing fit call your doctor and ask for an xray.

    The insurance is crap. I am fighting mine right now as well. They tried to say they same thing (pre-existing condition) when I started my lumbar road. I had insurance previously (hubby's) so they had no leg to stand on. They can be terrible- Can we say insurance reform? If you are truely worried- contact your HR department and see if they have some one who can help you. If that doesn't work see an attorney.

  • Julie Thanks for your feedback. It gives me hope that your were numb but got better. I can still type just as fast as before and I hope that means that I have the same function when it comes to my job. I carry the insurance for my family so it is so important that I keep my job.

    I did not have insurance before and so I may have a fight on my hands but if you go by their policy they have no reason to claim it is pre-existing because I had never sought treatment for it before. However, I don't trust insurance companies. So I sit here and worry.

    Good luck with your upcoming surgery!

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  • Don't worry too much about your insurance! I am sure your hospital got pre approval BEFORE they did your surgery. My insurance tried to say my 2 level fusion was elective surgery Like someone would elect to have ACDF surgery (RIGHT). Anyway let the hospital deal with your insurance company dont even try to talk to them yourself. Your hospital brings allot of business to your insurance company and believe me the insurance company doesn't want to loose the contracts they have. The long and short of the story is if the insurance company gave the approval to your hospital for your surgery they will pay the bill!.
  • Welcome to the forum Ness. I hope you get as much help here as I have.

    What does congenital fusion mean? Were you born with those fused? That must have limited your range of motion. I have congenital narrowing so I was born that way too?

    I went into surgery very strong due to my occupation and woke up with noodle arms. I couldn't even wash my hair my husband had to do that. I was reacting to the anesthesia. It took a bit before that wore off.

    I am now allowed to strength train. I could only lift two pounds when I started and I was lifting 30 to 40 pounds before the surgery. I'm now up to 16 pounds so there's progress.

    The surgery is such an assault to the body that it quits for a bit and all needs to be retrained. Hopefully your arms will come back to life. I squeezed a hand ball from day 3 to get my nerves reintroduced.

    Keep posting to let us know how you're doing.

  • Yankee

    The weird thing is that if you have your surgery done at the hospital then they do not require pre cert. I did get a bill from the hospital that was zeroed out at the bottom, but that was BEFORE I got the forms from the insurance company questioning pre-existing. I just don't know what to make of it. I'm just trusting them to do the right thing.


    I was born with three (C4-6) of my vertebrae fused and that is called a Klippel Feil anomaly. The herniation was above the congenital fusions at C3. C3 was fused to the clump that was already fused so now I have very limited movement in my neck with C3-6 fused together.

    How long did it take for you to get the feeling in your arms back? It is just my hands that are numb. They work fine but just don't give me a lot of feedback. They feel fat and clumsy. I wonder if it is the anesthesia I am reacting to as well. My feet and tongue are also numb to a more limited extent. I am hopeful that it will get better. Either that or I get used to it!
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  • Funny how we forget the tough stuff LOL

    I know it was at least 3 weeks because I had hired help then. I think it started to get better after 3 or 4 weeks.

    I'm still working on getting my strength back but it's more normal loss not the weird OMG what happened weakness. It was like when you get out of bed and your arms are asleep and you go to scratch your nose but your arm can't do it cuz it's wobbly. So weird!

    I went back to the ER twice. It takes a while for the anesthesia to get out of your system. I'd still talk to my doctor if I were you. I tormented mine LOL I was freaking out.

    I'm doing well now. I'm still working on retraining my body but other than a stiff neck I'm improving like crazy!

    That's a tough thing to deal with your whole life. You must have never had much range of motion. I had a friend that was born with no ankle joint. His feet were attached to his leg and he couldn't flex his feet. He was amazing. I met him while training in the martial arts...yes he was a martial artist! We seem to get things done don't we Ness.

  • Lynn! Funny you should mention that it was three weeks. I woke very conflicted this morning. Firstly I was nauseated for the first time since that first week after surgery. Secondly I think my hands are just a tiny bit less numb. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I got on the treadmill for the first time yesterday. I didn't walk long. Just 25 minutes but I'm wondering if my body is trying to get rid of the anesthesia. Wednesday is my 3 week point. Today I plan to walk on the treadmill again. I would have been on it a lot sooner but I got bronchitis and that set me waaaaay back.

    The funny thing is that I never knew I had the congenital fusions until it just showed up on that x ray that got my radiologist so excited. I always knew I had limited mobility and I would get muscle spasms in my neck but I never knew I was fused. I used to go to the March of Dimes clinic every 6 months as a child for scoliosis but even then I don't think they ever x rayed my neck. Even now that I've seen the films it doesn't bother me so much. I'm used to having to turn completely around so see something behind me and I have used extra mirrors for driving since I first got my license so I shall carry on as before. I think it's easier to deal with something that you've had all your life than having to deal with some new limitation.
  • Walking and drinking lots of water helped me get the anesthesia out of my system. I walked the first week. Slow and stupid looking ( like a 100 year old woman) but I went for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 at night per my doctors orders. That helped me get that nasty stuff out of my system.

    I read up on Klippel Feil anomaly. Do you have a short neck? I never thought about that. Mine is very long but if my neck fused on it's own I'd lose height. I'm short already so another reason to be glad I did the surgery LOL

    I'm learning to deal with my new limitations. I use the mirrors on my car now too. My PT hopes to get me to 40% rotation I'm at 20% right now. I'm told most people have 80% rotation. That is good that you don't know any different. I feel weird but I'll learn to adjust.

  • Lynn,

    My neck is short and I have the classic low posterior hair line but I look pretty normal, just with a short neck. I guess that's why it was never caught before. I don't have the webbed neck like some people with kfs before.

    This week I have been having varying degrees of improvement in my numbness. I think that it is not the anesthesia because it changes with the position I am in. If I keep good posture it improves. The less I wear my brace the more it improves. I still wear it lots though because I have a rowdy 5 year old and kitten, both of which are always underfoot.

    My doctor said not to worry about the insurance. That it should fly just fine. So I'm taking him at his word.

    How nice that you're working with a PT. I'm hoping that I get referred. If I don't I have a PT friend that I will pay directly to help me. I just need to be shown what excercises to do and I will follow up.

    Well hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

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