When I was getting ready to have my acdf surgery I spent weeks reading everything I could on the internet about the procedures, outcomes, complications, etc. While it helped ease my fears, it also caused some anxiety because more people who have a bad outcomes seem to post at forums rather then those that have success, which makes sense, so I thought I would post my (so far) positive outcome.
I am 54 and have always been an active person with a physical job. Back in Jan I woke with a stiff neck that rapidly increased to terrible pain down my right arm and shoulder. After numerous, chiropractor, doctor and physical therapy visits with no relief and now tingling in my arm as well, it was determined that I had 2 herniated discs and surgery was going to be my best option. On Wed April 2nd the NS performed ACDF surgery on 2 levels ( c4-6 ), using an allograft and a tintanium plate with 6 screws. I spent 24 hours in the hospital and was sent home without a collar as my NS feels that the plate is enough of a brace and that wearing a collar encourages the neck muscles to atrophy and makes for a longer recovery time and often necessitates PT.
I am now 10 days post op and having really positive results so far. The second day home was by far the worst as getting comfortable was impossible and I initially had major throat pain and difficulty swallowing. But I had zero pain in my right arm or shoulder and that was an amazing feeling. I was weak from anesthesia for about 3 days and moved between a mountain of pillows on the couch and my bed, where laying flat with only a memory foam contour pillow under my head was actually the best option for me. I made myself walk for a least 10 mins twice a day from the start.
By day 5 I noticed a big change and each day is getting better. Throat pain is gone and swallowing is only an occasional issue if I dont take small enough bites and chew well. Interesting that water is actually harder to swallow then smooth solids and chicken has a tendency to get stuck, but overall all, not an issue. For the first week I would have muscle spasms in my shoulder blades and down my left arm (of all places) when I woke up and only slept about an hour or 2 at a time and only on my back. Last night I slept 5 hours straight and even was able to slept on my side (both right and left) for short periods with only stiffness in my shoulders afterwards. My Partner says I still make awful snoring noises but the purring in my throat is gone for the most part.
I have been completely off pain medication for 4 days now. I stopped the Norco on day 3 because it was causing terrible constipation (the one thing my NS did not address) and found that ex strength tylenol worked just as well, but have not needed that either the last few days. I am walking about an hour a day now in short bursts and incorporating my Tai Chi exercises as well, which the doctor says I can resume once I start driving again. He said I could drive as soon as I was off the Narcotic, but I dont feel ready to tackle that yet, as I do have quite a loss of range of motion still in my neck. Planning to try in another week or so.
My doctor says fusion should take about 6 weeks and wants to see me then. In the meantime I am not suppose to lift over 10lbs,or over my head, do anything repetitive or strenuous and walk walk walk. So we will see how things continue to progress. My biggest complaint is getting stiff if I stay in any one position too long, and pain at the incision site of course, with numbness under my chin and right side of neck (the side he cut). The bandage is suppose to fall off in 10 days to 2 weeks so we will see how that goes , it still seems stuck on there pretty good.
Keep in mind that each person IS going to heal at different rates and have different issues depending on lifestyle, location of surgery and additional health issues if any, but I hoped this helped easy some people's fears about having acdf surgery done, since so far, I am very glad I did.
Will post an update over the course of my 6 weeks as well.