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Surgery Decision

mspleemmsplee Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,

I am new to this site. Seems to have a lot of good information and support.

I have seen my neurosurgeon and he is recommending surgery. Anterior cervical decompression with fusion of C3-C7 (three levels). I am very apprehensive about this surgery, but I have had problems with my arms, shoulder, neck and upper back for the last 5 years. It seems like I really should have this surgery because my quality of life has changed a lot. I even lost my job. Also, I feel that the chronic pain has changed my usual fun loving personality.

I am hoping that others that have had this surgery will have some encouraging words for me.

Thanks and I wish everyone well out there!


  • Hi msplee.

    I had the exact same surgery (C3-C7 ACDF) December 1st and can tell you I had tremendous relief. I had 3 herniated discs, spondyolethesis, stenosis, osteophytes and compression. I put it off for about 8 years but the last 2 years were unbearable. As surgeries go I found this one to be pretty easy. The incision is quite small on the neck and doesn't become a bother. I had an Aspen collar for 2 months. BTW I decorated it with blings just for fun and it really brought smiles to the nurses faces! Why not?!?

    There are several threads on this site for this surgery under ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) that are enormously helpful. Also youtube videos. I'll try to find the ones that helped me the most. Bottom line, my occipital headaches went away right away, my right arm weakness and pain took some time but is now 80% better, and I grew 2" (LOL). I was so compressed and bent that the surgery gave me more height.

    I was worried about this surgery I suppose because it was my first spine surgery (have had 18 other surgeries) but as I read more on this site and planned ahead I became comfortable. My surgery was 3 hours long. My surgeon is very cautious and puts his patients in the ICU overnight so he can leave them intubated. He said he didn't want any breathing surprises in the middle of the night and have to intubate again after the surgery had been performed. Had I not had left arm weakness during surgery I would have been transferred to a regular room the next day. Also had to stay longer, but normally my doctor keeps patients in 2-3 days.

    Recovery at home went well. I slept in a recliner so I wouldn't have to pile pillows around me in bed or have difficulty getting out of bed. I had prepared a month's worth of meals so I didn't have to cook for us. I took percocet 5-325 for two months which took away almost all of the pain. After surgery my throat was quite swollen (everybody is different) so I ate soup and smoothies for a week and then went to soft foods. My throat was not really sore but others reported they had sore throats. My vocal chords were affected, though, for about 60 days. I was so swollen that I couldn't get enough air through the vocal chords. I guess this is somewhat normal but for me it lasted longer than usual. Had it continued, they can inject cortisone to decrease the swelling but they didn't want to treat because it could slow down the fusion process.

    I had home healthcare which included an RN, a physical therapist and an aide. I didn't need the PT nor the aide and the nurse came every other day to check my progress. Also, the doctor ordered a bone stimulator which I wear 30 minutes a day for 9 months post op to aid in the fusion. I have no feeling when I use it. So far so good.

    Since my husband is retired he was around to help me with my needs. I slept most of the time the first week home and didn't really do much for the first 3 weeks. By the 4th week I was back to doing light housework and a little cooking but with extreme caution. No bending or twisting my neck. I would definitely want someone around or checking in on you for the first week or two at home.

    Even though the fusion will take the entire 9 months, I am free of the bulk of my pain and have all of my range of motion back. In fact everything went so well that my surgeon is going to due a 2-level fusion of my lumbar spine (L4-5 and L5-S1).

    The more you know the less you will worry. If you have any questions, I'll try to help.
  • msplee,

    I recently had a fusion. My L4 / L5 - L5 / S1, and while your levels are different than mine I feel I made the right choice as well. I had chronic pain for years, and it was getting much worse. I almost lost my job as well. I am not even 2 weeks post-op, but the pain has changed to operation pain, not the previous pain. That is how I know I made the right decision is the old pain seems to be lower, or in some cases gone.

    Just a little insight, because I fought that battle, of surgery, no surgery, etc...???

    Here was the bottom line for me: Did I try all non- surgical treatments like: PT, medications, stretching, injections, etc, etc. The answer was YES for me on all the non-surgical treatments.

    Finally having the final testing and the fusion I know I made the right choice because my Dr. found 2 ruptured discs that were leaking. No other treatments would have fixed this problem.

    Good luck, and hang in there. Please feel free to IM me with more in depth questions and I will be happy to help. Thanks,
    Left foramina stenosis of L3/L4 (retrolisthesis)
    L2-ilaic revision fusion ( loose screws) with a laminectomy at L3 (cage at L3-L4)
    (PLIF) -@ L4/ L/5 - S1 (cage at L4/L5)
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  • I saw a neurosurgeon a couple of weeks ago who has recommended a 2 level ACDF. My levels are C3/4 and C4/5. (I think that C3-7 is actually 4 levels - C3/4 C4/5 C5/6 C6/7)

    I am also struggling to make the decision, I think particularly because I am in nothing like the pain that caused me to have a lumbar fusion. I have similar symptoms to you, with hand, wrist, arm, neck, shoulder and upper back pain. I also get frequent occipital headaches. LOOSELINKS : It is soooo encouraging to read that yours have now sstopped. I am also getting symptoms in my legs and feet which they say is from the compression of my cord.

    One of my neurosurgeons keeps saying that we should wait and watch every 6 months. I am not sure what he is waiting for, but I suppose that there is a symptom that I don't have yet.

    I agree with Looselinks, that the more you know, the less you will worry. The most scary thing is the unknown. With my lumbar fusion, I think that I was so prepared for a very difficult recovery, that the reality was better than I had anticipated.
    I hope that will be my experience with a cervical surgery too.

    Welcome to Spine Health. :H

    This is a great place to meet others who have travelled this road before us. Ask any other questions you may have as you think of them.

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