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Hi, I'm Michelle. ACDF surgery scheduled for Oct. 9

I've been "lurking" on this forum for awhile and finally decided to join. I have had numbness and tingling in my right arm for several years and I tried muscle relaxers and massage but that didn't help. I went to the chiropractor and had an adjustment and that wonderful electrode therapy and that always fixed me right up. I figured it was a muscle pressing on a nerve. This summer, it started in my left arm. I happened to mention it to my PC physician at a well check and she seemed to think there might be something going on in my neck. I scheduled an MRI and an appointment with a neurosurgeon only to discover I have 2 herniated discs that are compressing my spinal cord to the point of there being little to no protective fluid around my cord in that area.

He recommended surgery but could not believe I wasn't in pain. I have pain once in awhile but nothing tylenol can't handle. It's the annoying numbness and tingling that is most bothersome, but again...not horrible. I think the fact that my spinal cord is compressed and the thought of being hit in the head, falling and hitting my head, or being in a car accident being "disasterous" (I don't think they like that word "paralyzed") is what scares me most.

Anyone else out there in my situation? I don't know why I'm not in pain but I'm grateful. I try not to think about the surgery too much or read too much about it at one time because it makes me anxious.

Would welcome any experience/stories anyone would like to share and am so happy to have found this forum :)



  • I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    Here are just some of the highlights:

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    The decision to undergo surgery or not is one that only you can make, but when the nerves are being compressed in the spinal canal or the canal is being compressed, forgoing surgery is not necessarily a decision that is wise. Nerve damage can become permanent in a short time and the spinal nerves do not recover as they do in the peripheral parts of the body, particularly when they are effected within the cord itself.
    I would carefully consider my options and discuss them with at least two surgeons and maybe even a third, and find out what the risks of permanent damage are if you decide not to pursue surgery. As far as not having pain requiring opiates types of medications goes, it is good news now, but can worsen . If I can be of any help, ,please feel free to PM me.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 1,031
    edited 08/27/2013 - 8:36 PM
    Like sandi and your Dr have said, putting off surgery can have long term permanent issues. I unknowingly let my cervical spine issue cause permanent nerve damage to my left hand, fortunately I can adjust and it's not that serious in my opinion.
    But also do not be afraid to get a few more opinions from other professionals, it will help your confidence in your decision whatever that may be.
    I am 6 years out on a major 3 level cervical fusion and doing just fine. Due to adjacent joint degeneration I will be having a few more levels added on. Fortunately I have a very good team of medical professionals that give me the confidence to face these new adventures set before me with strength to move forward and be strong.
    Wishing you the very best, keep us posted on your progress,
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  • Hi
    Like the post above when the cord gets involved it's time to take care of it before cord damage is done. Many times a cord can be compressed and the surgery can release that.
    If left for a long time like mine cord damage will come along. In many cases no cord damage has been done but time is a factor.
    I would get at least two surgeons that agree on a treatment.
    And more important to me anyway is to make sure no new or off label products are used in your neck. These have caused some problems for many people.
    We should not have to ask about this but we have to.
    If you need more info PM me but it's easy to search and read about off label use and the lawsuits going on. Don't mean to scare you just want to make you aware.
    By the way I saw your Frankenstein thoughts on another post. Good idea.
    But wait till you see your xrays after. LOL

  • mbridgemanmmbridgeman Posts: 20
    edited 08/28/2013 - 10:41 AM
    Thank you for welcoming me so warmly to the forum! I personally know someone who has used this NS and one other NS. They told me to avoid the other at all cost and they LOVE the NS I am using.

    I research everything I can and have done some searching on him. He is the only Fellowshiped trained NS in my area and he has done 4-5000 of this particular surgery. He said since I was only asking for a few weeks, he would grant me that but I am aware of the risks. It's ashame that it comes down to money over health these days :( I have 4 children and a husband to help support. I hope my decision to put it off a few weeks won't result in permanent damage.

    Any thoughts, advice you have to offer are welcomed!

    Thank you for the above, Rick. I will definitely ask! I figure since it's close to halloween, the bolts and wig would be a nice touch ;)

  • I had the numbness in both hands and cord compression. I was uncomfortable but not in a lot of pain. About 5 weeks post op now and just started back to work this week. I am restricted to lab work only until my October recheck. I was really uncomfortable with muscle soreness for the first 4 weeks post op. Still sore now but manageable with Tylenol for the most part. The numbness is gone. If I could have taken more time I would have. I also have children to support!! Good luck with your journey! Feel free to ask any questions :)
    PLIF L5/S1 fusion 6/12/13
    ACDF 5-7 7/17/13
    44 year old Mom of 10 and 12 year old girls, full time veterinary technician.
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  • I appreciate you sharing your experience! I have no idea what to ask other than, what will I need post op and I don't get how bone replaces disc as far as mobility. I think lack of that is going to irritate me :( I'm scared but I realize I don't have many options and this needs to be done.
  • xtraviraxxtravira Posts: 27
    edited 09/06/2013 - 8:21 AM
    My neurosurgeon told me that if we didn't operate right away, I might be paralyzed! I got a second opinion later that week, and less than 2 weeks later I had ACDF surgery at C5-C6. It was right before Christmas, Dec 2011. The body is amazing because it can grow a bone where no bone existed before! I see you comment about how you don't understand how the bone replaces the disc... The doctor takes the disc out, and since there is no proven replacement (artificial discs are too new to be proven for long-term use so avoid them!), they put in bone, either your bone (from your hip which has a 100% fusion rate) or donor bone (allograft) which has 93% fusion rate. They use some extra pieces of bone from your spine if any were removed during surgery, and somehow blend your bone with the donor bone, so that your own bone-growing cells will be included. My fusion worked and I had donor bone. What a case to make to be an organ and bone donor, eh? If you have a 1-level ACDF, then you may not notice any limited range of motion. If you have 2 level or more, you will probably notice some limitation in your range of motion. My ROM is better than my grandfather's and still above the "normal" measurement. The ROM is a measurement that your PT will take, and it's in degrees. I wouldn't be scared of this at all. As long as you do the rehabilitation exercises, you will regain your ROM. Don't fret about it. You have other things to think about before surgery. The motion is one thing that you can control. Slowly, over time, you will build your range of motion back to normal, and you will strengthen your neck muscles. I work with a guy who had a 2 level ACDF. He had it 5 years ago, and now he runs around and plays soccer, complete with using his head to hit the ball. I wouldn't try that any time before 2 years post-op, which was his recommendation to me- wait until at least 2 years post-op before you try to do anything extraordinary. But he's back to normal now.

    Before surgery, I had numbness and tingling in both arms, and it felt like someone was pressing their fingers into my neck, with steady, constant pressure, all the time! I couldn't sleep. After a cervical epidural in Nov 2011, I lost control of my legs and couldn't walk. No one can explain that, but those symptoms temporarily resolved (for 2 months) after surgery. It could have just been resting that caused my leg pain to feel better. All along I've had constant low-back pain. Now I'm working full-time and I've had the leg/sciatic problems since Feb 2011. The cause of that is not related to my neck, as far as I can tell.
    Chronic pain since 2007. Have scoliosis. Had ACDF surgery for C5 Dec 2011. Sick of dealing with pain. I just turned 32 and struggle through but work full-time in IT.
  • No fusion process has a 100% success rate. Not autograft or allograft. That being said, as far as the loss of mobility goes, you may not notice it at all if there is only one level done with two, depending on the location, you might notice that some movement is restricted a bit but you can recover most of it during physical therapy. It does get better over time, so once the surgery is done, the more difficult part is the time frame post op for recovering. And it can be what seems to be agonizingly slow at times and often a process of one step forward and two back but sooner or later, you will look back at this and see just how far you have come and be amazed at getting there.
    Surgery is scary, but the consequences of not doing can be far scarier.
  • mbridgemanmmbridgeman Posts: 20
    edited 09/07/2013 - 4:35 AM
    Thank you for your comments/info...that makes me feel better. I like to research things, especially if it's something I have to go through. I know the more educated I become about this surgery (pre and post) the more comfortable I'll feel.
  • If there is anything that I can help you with, feel free to private message me or one of the other mods. That's why we are here.
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