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ACDF Surgery 3 levels

dschmidt56297ddschmidt56297 Posts: 32
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi, I am having ACDF surgery on 3 levels on December 30th. I have a herniation at C4-5 and degernative discs at C5-6 and C6-7. The closer my surgery date gets, the more nervous I'm getting. Have pain and numbness and tingling in both arms and my hands. Also have muscle weakness in both arms and hands. I will be getting a bone graft from a bone bank and a metal plate put in. It doesn't help when people have to give me advice, when they haven't had this type of surgery done on them. My questions are what can I expect after surgery and after I come home from the hospital? What about sleeping in a hard brace, what's that like? Also what about showering? What about eating? How long did the swallowing problems last? Thanks to all who answer


  • Glad you found this website, wish i'd found it before my surgery. Recovery is different for all of us so I can only tell you my experience. I was in the hospital 23 hours. The first 3 days we're easy, I was jacked up and in lala land and I slept a lot. I had my mom with me and my H the first 6 days.Some folks have a hard time swallowing, my throat was sore the first 4 days but I could eat. I showered 2 days post op with the help of my Hubby and I recommend either borrowing a shower seat or make shift something. I used a tall metal plant stand. It worked, especially when shaving my legs. Definitely read the list of Must haves for surgery. it's a sticky thread. Get a grabber for sure, you wont be able to pick anything up for a while should you drop it. If you have long hair, I highly suggest you getting someone to french braid it. Two so that the pig tails or on the sides vs in the middle. more comfy. Then you don't have to worry about hair stuff for a good 7 days...just a shower. Start walking when you can, you'll be tired from doing the most minute things. But walking is good for you. I'm sure vets will come and chime in here soon. This is just what flowed out of my fingers for now! your going to be fine!
  • Hi dschmidt,

    I had a two level ACDF at the end of September. I did a ton of research and forum reading online prior to surgery so I felt I was really prepared. I knew to expect the swallowing issues but what I hadn't read anywhere (maybe it's not a common problem) was that every single time I swallowed all my neck, shoulder and back muscles went into spasm. This was really painful and much worse than the choking that I had read about. It lasted about 5 days and then when it was gone it was gone for good. The choking on food was about two weeks.

    I was terrified of taking a shower so I didn't have one the first week. We only have very high soaker tubs in our house and I was really scared of falling. I did have my husband wipe me down with a washcloth.

    I don't know about a hard collar because I only had a soft collar for two weeks. I rented a recliner to sleep in and it was the best thing I ever did. I rented it from a medical supply shop and slept in it for two weeks post-surgery. Laying flat was just not possible and I don't think the wedge pillow would have been as comfortable.

    My recovery from the surgery itself was very smooth and seemed to go very quickly after the first two weeks.
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  • Hi,
    I had ACDF surgery on 9/22 and wore a hard collar for 8 weeks. I was able to sleep in it, on my side, without any problem. I was able to shower without the brace. My doc used some type of glue to close the incision. I have long, thick hair, and it is very heavy when it gets wet, so that was a bit of a challenge, but otherwise, it wasn't too bad. Swallowing, initially, was not so easy. I ate a lot of scrambled eggs, fruit cups, mashed potatoes and soup. I drank carnation instant breakfast drinks and ensure nutrition drinks. Also plenty of water.
    I didn't have much pain after coming home. Just discomfort because of the brace. I live in Florida and it was hot. You actually get used to wearing it. If you can, buy some extra sets of pads for the brace. You will want to change those often. You can wash the ones you have but if you have to wear it all the time, like I did, you can't while the pads are in the machine washing. They cost me $30 a set and I got them at the surgical supply store. I also bought a lot of shirts and pajama tops that button up the front. It just makes things easier.
    After the brace comes off, 6-8 weeks, you may experience stiffness and soreness in your trapazoids and collar bone. I am still suffering from that pain now and I'll be starting physical therapy after the holidays. My doc says that's normal because I haven't used those muscles for a while. Sounds like it makes sense.
    I was very nervous before my surgery also but so happy I decided to have it. I feel better with everyday that passes. Before I had the surgery, I had numbness in my fingers, pain and weakness in my shoulders and arms. The numbness in my fingers is gone and the dull pain down my arms is gone. I will have to build up my strength in therapy.
    Wishing you much success...and don't be nervous. Soon you will be feeling better!
  • Thanks to everyone who has replied. Getting some extra pads for my brace is a really good idea. I do have a recliner that I can sleep in and extra pillows for when I want to try sleeping in bed. I'll be in the hospital for 3 days and off of work for 3 months. After my surgery, I go back and get the wound checked at 2 weeks and then see the surgeon at 6 weeks. What about if I drop something on the floor, does anyone know if I can squat down to pick it up or do I need to get a graber? I did go out and get a chair for the shower, so that will help me. Do you know of anything else I might need? I'm glad to hear from people who have had a smooth recovery from surgery.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,111
    I had the exact surgery you are having and here is my experience. Upon waking from surgery my arm pain was gone!! I felt like I was having really bad muscle spasms around the incision area but I was kept very comfortable with medication during my overnight hospital stay. The first few days at home all I did was rest. The pain controlled by medications. After a few days I began walking daily ( had someone with me) and every day would increase my distance. I had a mild sore throat and ate soft foods for around a week. The one thing I found I could not live without and that is straws. Since you are wearing a brace I would highly recommend getting them. Everyone is different and heals differently but I was able to go back to work at the 4th week following surgery. Good luck on your surgery and keep us all posted
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  • my neighbor loaned me his, its was over a week after the surgery....but it was VERY VERY helpful. You'll not want to bend at the waist and squatting hurt me a bit at the hip due to the autograph. Laxative, get some laxative and ask the nurse when you wake up after surgery for a dose...get that started early. I was miserable. Also, benedryl 25 mg were helpful for incisions itching. Have you checked out the list...


    check this out.
  • 2 levels here, next year revision to 5 levels (adjacent to the thoracic). I was in a hard collar on both for like 2 weeks, then moved to soft for 4 more, and on my second fusion at week 7, moved back to the hard collar for 2 more weeks.

    I loved my recliner, and too for my second surgery, my memory foam bed worked great. Like the others, soft food for the first week or two, protein drinks, lots of water, rest and when able walking. Since they're doing all three levels together, your hardware will be the same, so you should hopefully have no problems. I'm a bad example as I have different hardware (see avatar), and at month 5, cracked the C6 vertebra - still cracked and symptomatic.

    I wish you God Speed, and a great recovery!!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had acdf surgery 3 levels on Dec 9, 2010. I'm still using pain and muscle relaxers meds. I have a soft collar that I wear about 50% of time. My Dr. also has me using a bone stimulater for 4 hrs a day. I still have trouble swallowing on my left side, however pain for left side is gone. I had 3 disc that had degenerative arthritis and a bone spur c3-4,c4-5,c5-6. I have a titanium plate and 8 screws. The goods news is this gets better everyday. I could shower without collar after 10 days,and drive after 2 weeks if I didn't take pain meds that morning.Also weakness in left arm is almost completely gone. I made divinity yesterday with no help.I'll answer your other question. I had just a 1 night stay in hospital and my daughter stayed with me 2 nights. I am 62.
  • :H Just a few more days to go before my surgery. Have a neighbor coming over to take care of the dogs for a few days. She is also a home health aid so once my husband goes back to work she can check on me so that makes me feel a lot better. Doctor says I'll be in the hospital for 3 days and have to wear neck brace for at least 6 weeks. Will be out of work for 3 months. By the end of those 3 months I'll probably go stir crazy. Thanks to all who have replied. Take Care.
  • Hi Diane. I just wanted to make sure you're ready for tomorrow and that I'm thinking about you. I'm glad it's so early in the morning and that you can keep yourself busy today.

    We're here for ya!
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