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acd &fusion

nurseaannurseaa Posts: 47
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am new at this and have a few important questions for whomever can answer.I have a herniation of c5-c6 that is displacing the spinal cord 3mm. I have had a ct and 2 mri's. The first mri revealed a bulging disc in c5-c6 area.I also had a rotator cuff tear in the right shoulder. I had the rotator cuff repaired in Dec09. My first NS told me that all of my pain and symptoms were from my shoulder and he was just goin to watch my neck, after the shoulder repair my neck just got worse and worse and i had numbness in both arms and hands, severe migraines, sharp stabbing pain in my neck and pain so intense i could not hold my head up at work and would have to go lay down to get any small amount of relief. I finally got another MRI in May 10 and the same dr said there was nothin surgical he could do and sugessted PT or cort. shots. I got another opinion and the 2nd dr said that PT and cortisone shots werent an option and that I needed acd and fusion. This all came from a car accident where i was sitting still on the road and was rear ended by a car going over 80 mph. I am scared to death of neck surgery and really want to know if i have this done what should i expect afterward as far as mobility, pain, quality of life, and any problems that u have had. i am in sooo much pain right now i have to do something, just want to know if this is the right thing and get anyones opinion that has had this done.


  • Howdy Nurseaa,

    Welcome to Spine-Health!! On the top of the web page is a search box. For those answers that we don't get to, or for more research, try typing in 'ACDF' and you will see what I mean. :)

    My first level was C5/6. My herniation was abutting the cord, and also exiting into the right exit nerve and as such I had similar symptoms that you describe. Since that level went slowly, I pretty much had full relief upon waking after my surgery! I was in the hospital like 23 hours, off work (pilot/law enforcement) for 6 weeks with an additional 6 weeks later extended to 8 for light duty.

    I had minor pain at the incision site, was on solid food within hours after the surgery. I had a scratchy throat for about a week if memory serves. On mine the disc was removed, and a PEEK cage was used with cadaver bone, and a plate placed over it. Hope this helps. Again, Welcome aboard!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Our stories are very much alike. I went through several rounds of PT for my shoulder. My symptoms didn't improve. I was told for a couple of years I probably had fibromyalgia. Things got worse, was unable to read with head down, not able to write my notes due to pains in my arm, etc. etc. Finally I had an MRI and ACDF of C5/6 was recommended. I did have severe nerve pain in my left arm that required a couple of months to completely heal, but now there are days I don't even realize I had the fusion done. I notice only a slight loss of ROM when I back up my car. I also have to be careful not to overdo activities that require my bending my head down for lengths of time.

    Does your insurance require you to do all conservative measures before surgery?

    Best wishes,


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  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You'll find a lot of information on this site and I encourage you to check out some of the videos and articles regarding an ACDF surgery.

    I've had a 3-lvl (C4/5,5/6,6/7) ACDF in 2008 and it turned out that the anticipation was worse than the surgery. I know how scary it is to be facing this surgery, but the recovery won't necessarily be a long or bad one. Some have had problems with swallowing, pain etc., but many of us get through it rather smoothly.

    I can ditto Brenda's statements. My hospital stay was just one night, the surgery went well, no catheter, and they had me up and walking a few hours after I woke up from surgery. I ended up walking a lot that night as I had to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes it seemed, and you have to call the nurse to help.

    Naturally there will pain after your surgery, but the surgeon should prescribe some good meds to help you through at least the first few weeks. When you get home, it's good to start walking when you can, extending the length as often as you can until you can get out and walk around for about an hour or so at a time. Walking is a spiney's best friend for healing and fusing.

    Even after having a 3-lvl ACDF, my quality of life is good, although I have an incomplete fusion at C6/7 due to it being the most difficult to fuse. That still gives me some pain and muscle spasms, but with your one level and where it's located, hopefully you'll fuse just fine and find your quality of life improved. My range of motion is really not bad either, considering.

    I had some pretty hefty duty symptoms, like numbness, pain and tingling in my right arm 24/7, and extreme pain and weakness in my left arm. All of those symptoms were gone when I woke up after my surgery. It was a wonderful feeling.

    Please try not to let this scare you too much. It's really not horrible and with a good surgeon, you will do fine.

    Feel free to PM me if you have questions or just want to vent to a fellow neckie.

    Take care
  • Thank you to all of you who replied to my post. I do have to say that after my rotator cuff repair I havent had many problems with it!! I am really confused about my two totally different diagnosis on my neck :? ,afterward I was told that the first doc I went to was a NEW doc and didnt have much experience and the second doc I have had many people say he is a good one with many years of experience under his belt. I feel that the last doc is a good one but no one knows how surgery affects them like the people that have went thru it!! So thanks to all of you and if anyone else has ANYTHING to add you can reply or private reply me! Thanks again, and I hope all you do well with what you have to have done!
  • You will find soon, the members *most* are spine patients of one level or another. The others that I have seen are significant others/spouses who care about a person with spine/nerve issues. We all get and give support to each other. That is the HUGE benefit of this site! Please don't hesitate to ask if you still have questions or concerns as someone here has "been there, done that, and sadly still have the shirt!" *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
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  • I had the same thing happen to me. I was stopped at a light and a van hit me doing about 50 I would guess. Same type of pains as you.

    At first they said the arm pain was rotator cuff. My ortho, who I trust, did all the tests and the mri showed a tear. When he did the surgery he told me after that the damage was very small and he couldnt understand how it was causing all the problems. Well two months and no better he ordered MRI.

    They found a herniation at T1/2 and some osteophytes in the cervical spine. So in Jan they did surgery for the herniation. Things got much better and then went down hill and worse. Now I have a boney ridge at T2 that they think is causing the problems. I'm curious to find out if any of the cervical spurs could be causing some of this as well.

    I would get another opinion before deciding anything. I had 3 surgeons plus my ortho and a neurologist. What I learned is that for some doctors if it isn't in the textbook they don't believe it can happen.

    Good Luck and I can't wait to see what happens.
  • Hi

    Welcome to spine-health have a look around and you find many going through the same as you or have gone through it. You might want to look at the video section where there is a animated video on ACDF.

    As far as the differential opinions, it can and does happen all the time. The 3mm marking is a common marking when referring to herniations or protrusions. The other questions is did both these surgeons read the films themselves or use the radiologist report. As Kris said to error on the side of caution I would go for the third opinion. Be sure that the surgeons have no affiliations with each other. I am always up for using conservative treatment when possible. The thing about ACDF is you are changing the structure of the spine. Also you may want to ask what your risk are for adjacent disc disease by fusing?

    As far as the surgery itself it is pretty straight forward. I think many people the surgery pain is minimal and they tend to forget they had major surgery and do to much to fast. I would also talk to them about your ability to return to work and how much of a recovery time you will be looking at. Make sure they understand not light duty return but full duty return. I am not trying to scare you but rather just arm you with more questions to ask. If you look under the FAQ section at the top of the page there is a link to 38 questions to ask a spine surgeon you might find useful.

    Just thought i would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Keep us posted on what decision you make and will be here to answer any questions you may have, or for support. Take care.
  • One dr read the report(the first) and the second actually brought the films in and showed me the herniation against my spinal cord. Yeah I made sure the surgeons had no affiliation with one another cuz i didnt want that to sway any diagnosis. As far as conservative measures the second dr said that the PT would be very dangerous and the shots ( i have had 2 in my back and 1 in my shoulder that did zero for me) wouldnt help either due to the extent of the herniation on the spinal cord. I am a registered nurse in a cardiac unit so i would have to be at full duty to go back. I cant really afford another opinion right now( im havin to pay all my medical from the wreck for now). I have had many sugeries over the years but never had two docs with TOTALLY different opinions. Both of these guys are spine specialists, makes me nervous!!
  • oh thanks for your reply!! it means alot!
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