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Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion

JeanJJean Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
It has been two weeks since my surgery having Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion between C3-4 and C4-5 and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. Not normally one to write in forums, I felt obligated because I learned so much from reading other people's experiences.
My problems started with slight tingling in the fingers of both hands about 3 months ago. I waited a couple of weeks thinking that I just had a pinched nerve in my neck (I've always had problems with muscle tension in my neck and between my shoulder blades) but when my right fingers' tingling started to creep up my hand I decided to make a drs. appt. After having an initial x-ray, an EMR and finally an MRI of my neck, I was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation with the disc pressing forward on my spinal cord. In the short time between having these tests and seeing the neurosurgeon my symptoms had progressed quickly in my right hand and arm. My hand was so tingly that it was painful to touch anything and made it difficult if not impossible to pick things up or use a keyboard (my job required typing 8 hours a day) and my right forearm felt like it had been injected with Novocain. My neck and back felt very tight but I was fortunate not to have much pain at all.
When the surgeon recommended surgery as soon as possible to remove the two discs that were compressing the spinal cord and fuse the vertebrae together using a plate and screws I was petrified. Like most people, I had heard and/or read about back surgeries and felt there must be other options.
After much research (with my family helping with that task) it was apparent that surgery was my only option if I didn't want to have permanent nerve damage. We researched my surgeon and the hospital he was affiliated with, all showing excellent results. Because there was only two weeks before the scheduled surgery date, and it was two days before Christmas, there was no way to get a second opinion without giving up my surgery date. With the symptoms getting worse every day, I wasn't willing to do that so, with much fear and trepidation, I went forward. (I should add, between the research we did and from interaction with my surgeon I felt very confident having him do the surgery.) I was told what to expect - a 1-3 night hospital stay after the surgery, 3 weeks in a hard cervical collar and another 3 weeks in a soft cervical collar. The incision would be in the front of my neck, about 2-3 inches long. They would slide my esophagus over to get to the discs, remove the 2 herniated discs, replace those discs with donated bone that would have my bone marrow (removed from my hip during surgery)injected around it to prevent rejection, fuse the two vertebrae together with a plate and 3 screws and sew it up. It sounded dreadful to me! BUT, I woke up from recovery with very little discomfort until I had to swallow some water, and then some soup. That was a prerequisite to going home! The fact that I managed to do that allowed me to go home after only one night in the hospital. The swallowing pain remained to be the most discomfort (it wasn't the throat so much as it was the muscles around the throat) I suffered. Each day it got better and after about 4 days it was just slightly troublesome. I had immediate relief from the Novocaine feeling in the forearm, all the tingling in my left hand was gone and only my fingers on my right hand had slight tingling to them.
Two days ago I had my follow up visit to remove the stitches and to be fitted for the soft cervical collar! I was doing so well that I could begin transitioning from the hard collar to the soft collar and it had only been 2 weeks!
It will probably be another couple of weeks before I return to work full time only because it isn't a good idea to sit in the same position doing the same thing for several hours at a time. As frightened as I was to have the surgery, I am so grateful that I went ahead with it. I should have very little limitations with head movements from side to side, if any, and will be able to resume my normally active lifestyle after the reasonable healing period of several months.
I realize that everyone is different and reacts differently to surgeries but this has been my experience to share with you.


  • Welcome to this forum and so glad to hear your success! Your story is somewhat similar to mine! Have always suffered from aches and pains in shoulder neck areas .. I also work behind a computer for the last 20 years. Well my 4 year old son had a bad accident on 9/18 and broke his right leg femur bone and was in a full body cast for 8 weeks. While at home (on an unpaid work leave of absence) caring for him I thought I pulled something in my neck while lifting his wheelchair into my car. Pain got real pain along with Right arm weakness, numbness down to fingers - the whole novacaine thing! My primary DR knowing my situation needing to care for my son gave me some Anti-inflammatory meds and sent me to PT. The therapy got me thru the 8 weeks caring for my son thankfully but the pain was so intense. Once my son was out of his cast I went for an MRI which showed 2 severely herniated discs c5/c6 & c6/c7 with complete spinal cord compression. Surgery was only option - the day of the surgery my pain level so bad I could not even explain it and I gave birth to twins! Surgery went without a hitch - they removed the discs put in donor bone graphs - nothing from my hip, along with plates and screws! I have to wear a Bone Stimulator for 10 hours per day. The NS said that when she took out the discs my spinal cord was completely dented in and I was just very lucky if I had fallen or something I most likely would have been paralyzed. Still in shock over it. My recovery has been without a hitch as well - hard collar for 2 weeks - no soft collar - 1st Xray showed all hardware solid and in place and some bone growth. The hardest thing for me thru it all was I had to quit smoking which in long run is a great thing but handling all of this stress and the boredome of being at home is hard not to smoke but I am battling thru it! I already know that I have "crappy" discs thru-out my spine and these 2 were the worst so am going to PT on Monday to build back strength but also to learn how to ensure the rest of my discs stay in place especially since I hunch over a computer all day..

    Anyway wishing you a continued smooth recovery - let me know how you are doing! Thanks for sharing. I also normally never blog on forums but have found some new friends on this site that I now will cherish and know that I could not have mentally gotten thru the last few weeks without this site!

    Talk to you later,

  • Thank your for sharing.
    I am glad to hear about your success.
    Although we never know how soon, I see myself at the begining of a long journey (based on my MRI).
    It is really good to know there is light in this tunnel.

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  • Did you have surgery yet or are you still in the process? Here for ya if you need it - although I am no expert by any means..
  • I had my 3 level ACDF on Dec. 30th. I haven't had hardly any pain after the surgery. Feel so much better since I've had it. Glad to hear there are others out there who are glad they had the surgery too.
  • Hi Mary,
    Seems that delivering twins would prepare you for anything! Glad your surgery was successful. I am getting quite bored with the soft collar I have to wear for another few weeks but it seems when I don't wear it, or when I try to go a day without a pain pill, I get a burning sensation at the back of my neck where the fusion is. Maybe I'm trying to do too much too soon? Once I sit down with my collar on and a bit of medication things calm right down.

    I hope you have some help with the twins while you recover???

    I went out with my son and daughter in-law tonight for dinner and then they wanted to take me grocery shopping but I just didn't have it in me! One step at a time! But it did feel good to get out.

    A strange thing happened this past week. Wed. I started having swelling of my middle knuckle joints on both of my hands with red spots mostly on my right hand, almost like burns. They were slightly raised and quite tender, a little itchy at times. Some sort of a reaction to??? medication, maybe? I called the surgeons office and they were as puzzled as I am...referred me to make an appt with my primary care dr. which won't be until next week. All of the medications were the same ones since the surgery except for the Celebrex (it took a while to be approved by my insurance co.) so maybe adding that to the combo caused the reaction? It doesn't seem life threatening so I guess it can wait until I see my dr. next week.

    Other than that, the incision is healing nicely and today I have hardly no tingly feelings in my fingers at all!

    Take care,
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  • Thanks for your message - YES I have an amazing husband who really has been full-time Mom & Dad and some other family members that have helped.

    I still get the burning sensation in the back of my neck. I started PT this week so I am really sore in arms, shoulders and neck but at the end of each day the burning sensation somes back in my neck and it just aches. My NS said just part of the healing process and there could still be swelling inside the neck.. About the spots on your hands I would guess it is the meds and would agree to go to your primary. When I take prescription pain meds I get horrible psorasis in my scalp and almost like itchy spots on my chest .. I hate taking them .. I stopped after 2 weeks from the surgery and just use Acetametaphin and muscle relaxers. I wished they had given me a soft collar but my NS does not use them and wants me to keep moving my neck even when it hurts... so I just trust they know what they are talking about ... My tingling sensation is now all but gone - comes around every now and then and PT said should be gone once I get full strength back in my arms!! That I do not have - my right arm is still so weak .. I'll take that though anyday over the extreme pain I had before surgery!
    I think the hardest thing about this whole process is the wondering whether you are fusing or not. I have read so many people who ended up having to have other surgeries because they did not fuse or something. I am an impatient person so when they say it could take up to 12 months for fusion - ugh!
    Anyway don't know where you are but we got lots of snow here today... Hope you have a good day! Great to hear you got to go out to dinner - must have felt great!

  • Glad to hear you are doing so well after a 3-level ACDF .. Are you still in a hard collar or did they let you start taking that off and do you have a bone stim? I have to wear one for 10 hours per day because I have 2 donor bone graphs and was a smoker ..
    Anyway hope your recovery continues well and keep us posted..

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