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home from 3 level ACDF 7/11/12

Surgery went well, but there were a few complications - C7 was harder to get to than the surgeon anticipated, and C4-5 & 5-6 were more collapsed than shown on imagining, so there was more jack hammering than originally planned.

Surgery was last week Wednesday July 11, 2012, I was finally released late yesterday Monday July 16th - I spent 2 days in ICU before being sent to the Neuro/Spine, and I feel like a troupe of elephants is practicing a tap dance routine between my shoulder blades.

I feel absolutely wretched, though my incision site doesn't hurt, and I'm able to easily swallow liquids and smooth foods (anything that requires chewing is difficult). I don't think that my surgery was "normal", they had to give me a diluded pump that continuously fed me dilauded 24h/day with the ability to give myself more every 8min, in addition to shots of 4mg morphine every 2-3h to attempt to counteract the pain. They sent me home with 3 different pain pills and valium for the muscles.

I feel better than I did right after surgery, but I hurt constantly, and could scream from the frustration (I spent most nights in the hospital awake & sobbing from the pain. I did the same last night (first night home).

Very glad I was sent home, I was afraid the next person who told me "don't worry honey, you'll never have to go through this again" was going to be severely beaten with my cane or the new walker for failing to read my chart - I have an upcoming lumbar fusion & 2 SI joints to have done in the coming year - STFU about the worst being over.

I'm a little grumpy, thanks for letting me vent :)

PS Any ideas on how to kill those damn dancing elephants????
Slipped on a wet stair case the morning of 10/31/11, landed flat on my tush & blew up my spine & both SI joints.
3 level ACDF C4-C7 7/11/12 (collapsed discs & severe cord compression)
lumbar fusion to be scheduled once healed from ACDF


  • i just wanted to pipe in for a second... i had a 2 level cervical fusion last september, and i'm 3 weeks out from a 1 level lumbar fusion right now. I think the lumbar has actually been easier recovery wise, than the cervical. i had alot of problems swallowing anything beyond the consistency of pudding for weeks, and the pain in my neck and shoulders after surgery was really difficult. honestly, the lumbar has been easier, i feel better, i'm moving better and faster than i did the last time. maybe its because i've gotten rid of most of the other pain already, or maybe i'm just an old hand at lumbar surgery since this was the 3rd one.) but i do think the lumbar fusion has been easier than the cervical. so maybe you will have the same thing, and you'll find the next one easier than this one.

    good luck.

    Microdisectomy / hemi-laminectomy 6/2010 and revision 10/2010
    Cervical fusion C4-5 and C5-6 9/2011
    Lumbar Fusion L5-S1 6/2012
  • Hi Tran - I honestly think there might be something to that! The majority of my pre-op pain & symptoms were (and are) lumbar & SI joint related, nothing to do with the cervical/neck - I wonder if the lack of baseline pain in that area "primed" it for more intense pain post ACDF/if the Lumbar will be 100x easier because at least I'm used to debilitating pain in that area lol

    In any event, I plan to consider the ACDF the tough one & tell myself tht the lumbar & eventual SI joints will be quick & easy :)
    Slipped on a wet stair case the morning of 10/31/11, landed flat on my tush & blew up my spine & both SI joints.
    3 level ACDF C4-C7 7/11/12 (collapsed discs & severe cord compression)
    lumbar fusion to be scheduled once healed from ACDF
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  • bookcatbbookcat United States Posts: 66
    I am sorry to read that you have had such a problem w/pain post ACDF. Do you have a pain management doc? If so, how is the doc helping you w/pain management? If not, perhaps it's time to find one. I imagine part of the pain is your body's response to a tough procedure. I knew 3-level surgeries have more extensive manipulation than 2-level surgeries but never translated it into pain interventions. My thoughts are w/you during this transition. I am glad you are on the recovery side for this surgery.

    Please keep us posted on how things are going. My hope is that the pain lessens quickly now you are home and able to better control what you are doing and when. You may need some time for your body to understand there is no more manipulation and you are done for now.

    Best wishes for a rapid relief of pain and the return of the elephants to the savannah where they belong,

    2-level ACDF (C5-7) scheduled 8/6/12
    3 PLIFs: 2003, 2005, 2008
    Have pain management doc
    PLIF L1-3 6/13
    ACDF (C5-7) 8/12
    PLIF (L2-5) 2003/05/08
  • charlie6017charlie6017 Posts: 412
    edited 07/18/2012 - 12:35 PM
    Hello there,
    Just from my own experiences, I think the lumbar is worse to deal with in recovery just because it does so much as far as movement of most body parts. Of course, recovery from any spine surgery is no walk in the park. I never had a three-level done but did have 2 doubles twice (ACDF). I can imagine how it feels, though, and I hope you feel much better soon!

  • Thank you for all of the kind messages and allowing me to vent!
    I think a good amt of the pain came from a combination of things - 1.) I'd had ZERO cervical pain prior to the ACDF procedure, so there was none of the pain relief typically associated with the surgery, and 2.) the surgery was more complicated than expected because of the difficulty in reaching the C7, and the smaller space between the discs requiring more work to regain the correct spacing.
    I'm telling myself that the lumbar will be easier because I'll have finally gotten rid of the pain in my lumbar region, and that will make me a happy woman :)
    Thank you again for all of the information and support on this site - it's wonderful to have a place to come to vent to people who understand where we're coming from, and are able to lend their support as well as their opinions & knowledge (usually based on experience!). I feel better posting here than "boring" my friends & family with details that are all gobbledygook to them! :)
    Slipped on a wet stair case the morning of 10/31/11, landed flat on my tush & blew up my spine & both SI joints.
    3 level ACDF C4-C7 7/11/12 (collapsed discs & severe cord compression)
    lumbar fusion to be scheduled once healed from ACDF
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  • I am so sorry to hear that you are having so much pain! I think it is probably because you had 3 levels fused and the fact that the surgery was more difficult than expected.
    I have read so often on here that cervical surgery is easier to recover from than lumbar surgery. Well, I had a lumbar fusion done two years ago and the recovery wasn't as bad as I had feared. I was in a lot of pain before the fusion with terrible bilateral sciatica and lower back pain that meant I couldn't walk for very long and could stand for even less time.

    I think it is probably wise to go into spinal surgery ready for it to be really bad, and then hopefully we'll feel that we are coping better than we expected.

    Cheeky, it is lovely to hear from you and I hope that your pain levels will go down soon and that you will be aware that things are getting easier each week. (I know from experience that if you measure each day, you are likely to be disappointed!)

    I now face a 2 level ACDF. I asked my neuro surgeon if the recovery would be easier than my lumbar fusion. I really expected him to say yes! He looked at me for a few seconds and said not really. He said I would be more mobile but that I would have severe pain over my shoulders and back of neck and would have problems swallowing for a while afterwards. He said it could last from a few hours to a few weeks!

  • the swallowing was the toughest part of my ACDF the pain was not bad. My nero surgeon tells me this next one a cervical laminectomy will be more painful than all my other surgeries. I look forward on getting this one over with, I have less than two weeks until I go under again. I hope you recover well.
  • I wish you well in your posterior surgery in a couple of weeks.
    Just to give you hope, I had a friend who had a cervical laminectomy 18 months ago and by 6 weeks she was so much better and had good mobility. I couldn't believe how well she was. She had to have an ACDF 3 months ago because her problems returned, and she has found this much more difficult to recover from.
    Let's hope that you find that the laminectomy isn't as bad as you have been told.

    I had a laminectomy and fusion of my lumbar spine a couple of years ago, and it has really helped with the awful sciatica and low back pain. If I could get as much relief in my neck.

  • crystkenccrystken Posts: 1
    edited 07/25/2012 - 10:49 AM
    Hi Cheeky.
    I hope by now your pain & discomfort have lessened some. I had a 2-level ACDF (c4/5, 5/6) 5 weeks ago requiring more work than previously imagined, and it's still a rollercoaster ride with the level of pain. Grant it, I've had a few good days, but the recovery is much more excruciating than I expected.
    I can certainly relate to the "elephant dance rehearsal routine" that seems to get worse by the minute, but you can expect some good days ahead. I've had no incision discomfort, and the swallowing dilema lasted about 2 weeks for me. You won't get used to the pain, so stay on your meds schedule. Closely monitor your types of pain (spasms, headaches, neck & shoulder, sleeping discomfort) for you may have more questions to help cope with the whole experience. It's a wicked ride, so pepare yourself for anything in the realm of pain, and I do hope yours is not so unforgiving.
    And it will get better as time passes. Let it take it's course, for it can also be unpredictable.
  • I have two lumbar fusions at separate times and the pain wasn't bad at all. I was off pain meds after about a week after being home. I just took it easy and went for short walks. However I did get a staph infection between my fusions and it was most painful thing that has ever happened to me. I could barely move. I am actually facing another fusion of L5 S1. Will be having the MRI on Monday. I don't want to have another surgery but at least I know what i am looking towards if I have too.
    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
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