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Cervical spinal surgery 7/12/12 - questions

SwedishFishSSwedishFish Posts: 57
edited 07/04/2012 - 9:55 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am having a posterior laminectomy foraminotomy a week from tomorrow at C5, 6 and 7. I'm not sure if there is an actual acronym for that? I am NOT having a fusion. I have 3 bulging discs, spinal stenosis (which is not too bad), foraminal narrowing, straightening of the natural lordosis, DDD, bone spurs - I think that's it. No injury - in all probability from OA. My PT told me that I have the neck of a 70-80 year old woman! :-( .The hard thing is that it seems like the bulk of the info that I've come across seems to assume a fusion and so wondering if anyone else has had this surgery and if so if you have any tips or experience that you'd be willing to share with me both about the procedure and recovery.

I know that I will stay 1 night in the hospital after the surgery. I was told that I will not have to wear a cervical collar. I was also told by my neurosurgeon that it's a 2-week recovery. I think he said my incision will be 3-4" in the middle of the back of my neck. I have talked to one person who had this same surgery but only at 1 level. She said that for her more realistically it was more like 3-4 weeks before she was back doing most normal activities. And I have no expectation of being 100% in that time period. She is 62 and I'm 46 which could make a difference. But due to neck and back pain along with radiculopothy in both arms through hands (and legs and feet but that's a different issue we'll look at after my neck has been dealt with), I'm definitely not in the best physical shape ever. I'm a high school teacher and I go back to work almost exactly 5 weeks post-surgery. I do have a pre-op appt on the 10th so I have started putting a list of questions together so that I don't forget if it doesn't come up. I also go to the hospital for my pre-reg that same day.

I read through the list of what people advised to have on hand during the recovery period. I plan to get a shower stool, handheld shower nozzle and a grabber - that's my list for now. I have waterless shampoo just in case and will probably pick up some baby wipe type sheets as well. I will move as many things to waist height as i can. Oh and probably a bed tray.

My parents will come for the surgery and stay for about a week after. I have 2 boys ages 10 and 13 who can help with a lot of things as needed so I will have a fair amount of help. My ex-husband lives 2 blocks away and has offered help if I need it and I have a few friends/neighbors who I can count on if I'm in need as well. I will also have my mom cook "double" so that we can freeze 1/2 for the week after they leave to make things easier.

Anyway - hoping there's someone out there who has had this procedure and can provide some info. Maybe even things you wish you'd known or thought of prior to your surgery! Thanks.


  • Good luck with your surgery. Is somebody going with you to the pre-op? I have found it really helpful in case I got overwhelmed or just forgot to ask something or come up with a follow-up question. It's great that you're having food made ahead of time. Since you're posterior, I guess swallowing /throat won"t be a problem? A recliner or a lot of pillows to support you might be helpful. If you have any trouble turning over you could put a sheet under your hips that someone could pull on as you turn to help you turn. Slip on shoes are very helpful. That's all I can think of for now.

    Let us know how things are going!
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • SwedishFishSSwedishFish Posts: 57
    edited 07/05/2012 - 5:49 PM
    Thanks for those suggestions. Good idea on having someone with me for my pre-op appt.. Swallowing shouldn't be an issue unless there's some irritation from a breathing tube but nothing like with an anterior surgery. But the neck pain from the incision will be worse than the anterior because they go through muscle. I live in Vegas so thinking flip flops should work. And good tip on the sheet just in case. And I have a double recliner loveseat and tons of pillows as it took eons to find one that didn't hurt my neck. I just wonder with that incision on the back of my neck how hard it will be in any normal sitting situation with anything behind my head! Anyway, thanks again and I will for sure check in after. I want to provide info on this surgery for others as it is so much less common than a fusion and it's been really hard to find recovery info!
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  • I've had two posterior cervical surgeries and a few things that really helped me out were;

    -A shower caddy for keeping all the supplies at chest or shoulder height
    -Instead of buying milk or liquid products by the gallon, get quarts or half gallons
    -Lots of pillow cases. My neurosurgeon was adamant about making certain they were changed every day to reduce risk of infection
    -Bottled water instead of a glass of water. Easy to grab, easy to use in any position.
    -A good short hair cut before surgery so it's out of the way for a while
    -Shirts without the tag in the back so it won't irritate the incision
    -Jelled style ice/heat packs
    -Sun glasses and a brimmed hat. I had incredible photo-phobia post op

    When I think of more I'll jot them down. Posterior cervical surgery is no walk in the park, but it does do the trick for many of us. I hope you gain the much needed relief the surgeon feels you will gain.

  • Thanks you SO much for your responses on both threads. I have gone back and forth on my hair as I've worked so hard to grow it out! I can now put it into a ponytail though (short but enough to gather it) so thinking that might be better than going super short? Although with surgery in 6 days doubtful I could get an appt anyway. I really really appreciate you sharing your experiences and tips. I definitely would appreciate any others as they come to you! And thanks - hoping it does the trick too and since most of my issues besides well neck pain is the radiculopothy so fingers crossed. :)
  • I wish you well with your surgery and hope that you will get great relief and have a smooth recovery.
    I have also read that bendy straws are very useful after cervical surgery.
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  • Thank you and thanks for the additional suggestion! I saw that on the looooong list on the surgery page and forgot to put it on my list. Thanks :)
  • Sorry one more question (hopefully that's it) - were you able to take a shower by yourself (or even with some help) once you were allowed to or did you need a shower stool/hand held shower nozzle? Thanks. :)
  • Yes I was able to shower by myself with the use of a hand held removable shower sprayer.

    Ask as many questions as you need to.

  • Thanks - much appreciated! OK so thinking I just need the handheld shower sprayer and not the shower seat/stool?
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