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4 Level Cervical Fusion Pending...and more

bluetechseekerbbluetechseeker Posts: 60
edited 07/02/2015 - 10:04 PM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi, everyone. I've been reading tons over the last month or so, this forum is wonderful. I'm a 51 yr old woman was recently diagnosed by a neurosurgeon with herniated disks and stenosis w/cord compression at C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7. His suggestion was fusion between C3-C4, C4-C5, C5-C6 and C6-C7. SCARY!!! I'm having a second opinion next Friday but really don't expect much different in the way of treatment. The first neurosurgeon said no cream, shots, or pills will correct my neck - I'm having constant migraines, dizziness, tingling, pain, and weakness of both arms, losing my grip on items, and pain shooting down through both shoulders and biceps. I'm more than miserable, and due to allergies, cannot take many narcotic meds (I've only found demerol can be tolerated, but will see what doc suggests). I've been using Tylenol, but frankly it doesn't touch what's going on. I'm nervous and anxious for the appointment on Friday - for whatever reason I just keep waiting for the doc to say, "nah, you're fine, just give it a little more time" - um, yeah, wishful thinking. My GP put me officially on sick leave this past Monday until Monday July 13 - they referred me to this surgeon for a treatment plan which they feel will be surgery.

I had bilateral knee replacement January 2014 (after 7 years of having the shots and other meniscus surgeries), with complications afterwards due to inability to take NSAIDs and anti-inflammatories. I had to go back in for bilateral MUA's in February - knees were frozen from scar tissue at 53 degree bend which made walking excrutiating. My fear with neck surgery is I'll again have complications, and will again be in prolonged pain and have much decreased movement. This past year or so has been very, very difficult recovering from the knee surgeries. I'd just gotten back to somewhat of a "normal" life when the whole neck/back pains started. Initially, I attributed it to my gait changing so much from the knee surgeries. But, obviously that isn't the case. I also have DDD with dissicated discs, bulging disks, stenosis, and herniations in my thorasic and lumbar spine. The appointment on Friday will address ONE area only, so I opted for the cervical spine. The first neurosurgeon said if the fusion wasn't done, I'd continue to decline, the damage would become permanent, and I would be a cripple. Great diagnosis, eh? :( I'm of the firm belief the next issue to address will be my lumbar spine - the pain is awful, my legs literally freeze up and I can't lift them when getting into a car, or walking, they feel so weak and heavy, I've been tripping and stumbling. I'm in Outside Sales, and simply cannot function in that capacity now.

I'm also in the midst of having thyroid issues checked, had a biopsy yesterday. My whole neck was so danged painful last night I was crying. I go for the biopsy results on the 13th, hopefully no cancer and the doc will be able to prescribe thyroid meds to get me on my way forward with that issue.

Anyway, nothing like having a full plate I guess. Hubby says not to worry, it'll all work out. Says to focus on taking care of myself, file for disability and just do what I need to do.
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  • LizLiz Posts: 9,745
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  • Not sure why you are using Tylenol. You need to ask your neurosurgeon for a referral to a pain management specialist and have that doctor manage your pain. The sooner you do this the better.
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  • Wolfpack, I'm severely allergic to all NSAIDS, codeine, oxycodone, hydracodone, gabapenten, and any muscle relaxers that have been tried. My primary doctor didn't know what to give me. I'll definitely discuss with the neurosurgeon when I see him on Friday. Tylenol is the only over-the-counter product I can use, and what I'd been using following my knee replacements. I still had some demerol, I've used that only a couple of times because, frankly, I'm concerned I'll start having a reaction to that as well - then where would I be?? I know there's a multitude of medications available, and have to believe there's something I can use for relief and be okay with.
  • I'm sorry to hear that. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to use mainstream medicines for treatment.

    One thing that you would find with a pain specialist is that they tend to know their medicines well. I had incorrectly assumed that my primary doctor was well versed in the details of opioid treatment only to find out it was not the case. If you do a Google search on "Opioid Metabolism Howard Smith" you will find a well written academic paper on Opioid Metabolism. It discusses how they are broken down and also some of the key byproducts. There are significant differences among them. Hopefully your primary doctor is missing a medicine that the pain management doctor will find whether it be an opioid or not.

    Best Wishes,

    SVB
  • DarylZDDarylZ Posts: 2
    edited 07/07/2015 - 9:25 AM
    bluetechseeker, I am in my 6 month recovering from 4 level cervical fusion ( C4-T1) and I can tell you for me it has been worth it!!! It was a long recovery and for about the first 2 weeks you wont care about anything and will def need a great supporting team at home. slowly you will recover and the first thing you will notice is that any pain between your shoulders is gone and it took about a week for my numbness in my leg and hands to return....that part of it will depend on you ...everyone is different , but I had many of the stumbling tripping issues you had and they are all but gone now for me....
    I wish you all the best and can tell you to stock up on pillows and a foam wedge to help sleeping when you come out of the recliner ......
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  • I have no disc left in C2 - C7. Just found that out. I have all of your symptoms plus facial pain. I really don't want more surgery as I've already had lumbar fusion. Glad you are getting a 2nd opinion. Hang in there. If it doesn't feel right, don't act on it until you are convinced in your heart that you are taking the right path. Thinking of you. Kathy
  • Barbiegirl8891BBarbiegirl8891 Posts: 1
    edited 08/22/2015 - 11:40 PM
    on june 9th 2015 i had c3/4 through c6/7 fused. so yes 4 level fusion. about 4 years ago i had the same area in back done. they did a laminectomy. what that means is the bones that stick out to protect your spine and the bone that covers the spine are all cut out from c3 through c7. so for 4 years i have not been stable. then on june 9th 2015 i went in for the front and had c3/4, c4/5, c5/6 & c6:/7 fused with a plate infringement of them. i also have a bad back. i have had 5 different dr's at the uw tell me i have the worse back they have ever seen. my entire back is herniated as well as just about everything you can think of. i will need at least 2 more surgeries on my back. prior to this last surgery i had my thyroid removed. it was so bad that it was wrapped around my vocal cords - this paralyzing my left side for about a year. thank goodness it came back. so this last surgery the dr said i bleed worse then anyone ever has. my veins in my neck were so enlarged. i told him that i figure it's cuz of my middle back that is getting pinched and hopefully after we do that surgery it should get better. he said that sounds about right and we'll see. i woke up from surgery and felt ok. it's been almost a month and i can't talk cuz now my right vocal cord is paralyzed with possible nerve damage. so i'm waiting for my vocal cord to come back. i would like to have gone back to work the following monday. but de wouldn't let me. i can't lift anything for a long time. now cuz of voice i'm stuck at home. i didn't use any pain pills after leaving home hospital. i have a very high pain tolerance. but i'm getting tired of this. i just want to be fixed. i also have an abnormally small spinal canal. it's smaller then half the size of everyone else. this is just the way i was born. i so far don't fell better but most of my problems is in the middle of my back. the dr's never wanted to believe it was a problem cuz it is very rare. after forcing them to look and check it out by running reports, scans etc they were very shocked to fine my back was so bad and in fact needed to be fixed. i have all my records and notes so if anyone wants to compare for their dr just let me know. i won't let anyone put me as a disable person. regardless if i am. i am 48 years old and i go to work and live my life every day. as soon as they labor me i will probably not be able to do anything. i chose to look at the bright side. ever dr i have ever seen is in disbelieve. they say i'm the strongest person they've ever seen. i said i'm not looking for cookies. i just want fixed. i have a copy of the x-ray of my neck so if you want me to forward what might be in your neck send me an email and i'll forward to you. teresagtautosales@gmail.com

    thank you. wish you all luck. always get 2nd options.
    bluetechseeker said:
    hi, everyone. i've been reading tons over the last month or so, this forum is wonderful. i'm a 51 yr old woman was recently diagnosed by a neurosurgeon with herniated disks and stenosis w/cord compression at c3, c4, c5, c6, and c7. his suggestion was fusion between c3-c4, c4-c5, c5-c6 and c6-c7. scary!!! i'm having a second opinion next friday but really don't expect much different in the way of treatment. the first neurosurgeon said no cream, shots, or pills will correct my neck - i'm having constant migraines, dizziness, tingling, pain, and weakness of both arms, losing my grip on items, and pain shooting down through both shoulders and biceps. i'm more than miserable, and due to allergies, cannot take many narcotic meds (i've only found demerol can be tolerated, but will see what doc suggests). i've been using tylenol, but frankly it doesn't touch what's going on. i'm nervous and anxious for the appointment on friday - for whatever reason i just keep waiting for the doc to say, "nah, you're fine, just give it a little more time" - um, yeah, wishful thinking. my gp put me officially on sick leave this past monday until monday july 13 - they referred me to this surgeon for a treatment plan which they feel will be surgery.

    i had bilateral knee replacement january 2014 (after 7 years of having the shots and other meniscus surgeries), with complications afterwards due to inability to take nsaids and anti-inflammatories. i had to go back in for bilateral mua's in february - knees were frozen from scar tissue at 53 degree bend which made walking excrutiating. my fear with neck surgery is i'll again have complications, and will again be in prolonged pain and have much decreased movement. this past year or so has been very, very difficult recovering from the knee surgeries. i'd just gotten back to somewhat of a "normal" life when the whole neck/back pains started. initially, i attributed it to my gait changing so much from the knee surgeries. but, obviously that isn't the case. i also have ddd with dissicated discs, bulging disks, stenosis, and herniations in my thorasic and lumbar spine. the appointment on friday will address one area only, so i opted for the cervical spine. the first neurosurgeon said if the fusion wasn't done, i'd continue to decline, the damage would become permanent, and i would be a cripple. great diagnosis, eh? :( i'm of the firm belief the next issue to address will be my lumbar spine - the pain is awful, my legs literally freeze up and i can't lift them when getting into a car, or walking, they feel so weak and heavy, i've been tripping and stumbling. i'm in outside sales, and simply cannot function in that capacity now.

    i'm also in the midst of having thyroid issues checked, had a biopsy yesterday. my whole neck was so danged painful last night i was crying. i go for the biopsy results on the 13th, hopefully no cancer and the doc will be able to prescribe thyroid meds to get me on my way forward with that issue.

    anyway, nothing like having a full plate i guess. hubby says not to worry, it'll all work out. says to focus on taking care of myself, file for disability and just do what i need to do.
    welcome to spine-health
    please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
    Teresa Johnson
  • bluetechseekerbbluetechseeker Posts: 60
    edited 08/19/2015 - 11:00 AM
    Hi, all. Well, I felt the need for a second opinion, I just received the "official" opinion on Friday after having a second full back/neck MRI and full EMG of both arms done. The neurosurgeon said he didn't see ANYTHING wrong with my neck, and felt the tingling/dead feeling in my arms was simply due to carpal tunnel syndrome (course, that was only diagnosed in right arm). He felt the horrible pain in my thorasic region could be due to something with my aorta and ordered a CT w/contrast to check. Now, not going into my long rant and rave which my poor hubby has heard numerous times, but I'm soooo not in agreement with him. This doctor has done precisely ZERO for me, no referral for pain management, no referral for physical therapy, no recommendations on how to move forward at all. It's like he simply isn't hearing me when I try discussing with him how I feel or how I'm doing. :(

    My hubby and I closed down our house in FL and relocated last weekend to CT, he has a family home there. Due to the loss of my income, we're far better off financially being here than trying to pay rent and such in FL. I'd already lined up a care provider locally and have an appointment with him next week.

    The more I thought of the last doctor's total disregard for my symptoms and pain, the more I felt I needed to have my MRI reviewed by someone else. I mean, I don't THINK I'm crazy - the pain, tingling, numbness, clumsiness, dropping things, migraines, etc. all certainly FEEL real - how can there be nothing wrong??? I had another independent review with a specialized spinal surgery practice, and have a follow up appointment scheduled for specific recommendations and a plan of treatment on Sept. 21. They called and reviewed their impression of my MRI this morning, and they're really aghast at how the last doctor could say there was nothing wrong with my neck. I firmly believe there's all sorts of treatment options in between a 4-level cervical fusion and nothing. This second place has already described possible treatment options for the various conditions diagnosed on the MRI, which is more than reassuring. AND - they're actually listening to what I'm describing to them and correlating that to what's in my test results. The appointment next month will involve sitting down with the doctor, reviewing the MRI level by level, and coming up with an overall treatment plan. They're actually looking at the cervical, thorasic, and lumbar spine (I have multiple issues in all three).

    Because I'm still dealing with my work short term disability, I need to be under the care of doctors that will correspond with my insurance provider. My hope is the local practice I'm seeing next week will take over my treatment, and deal with me while we're here until I see the surgery center next month. Presently, I'm off work through Sept 22, the date I'm supposed to FUP with the last doc. I have zero intention of having the CT w/contrast done the last doctor prescribed, so I'm pretty sure the last doc would have little to say when I seen him and more than likely try releasing me to work - OMG, I cannot begin to fathom trying to work right now!!

    I've also submitted for SSD, have had several discussions with my account manager, and have also lined up an attorney if (probably WHEN, but I'm trying to be positive) the application is denied.

    I just really don't see how there can be such varying interpretations of the MRI report and pictures. How can one highly qualified neuro recommend a 4-level fusion and another equally qualified neuro say there's nothing to address???? Certainly, from one extreme to the other. I know many others have been dealing with pain and discomfort far longer than I, but I'm really at the end of my ropes right now. So much uncertainty, so much unknown.
  • kelly ingramkkelly ingram Posts: 1
    edited 08/22/2015 - 11:38 PM
    i had two discs removed and replaced with a medal rod, my regular doctor has advised me not to go back to my job. i am a driver for special education i lift wheel chairs and kids i put car seats in i also need to be able to lift 50 pound, just wondering what others who have been through this think.

    welcome to spine-health
    please click on link for helpful information!
    ~ spine-health moderator, savage
  • Well, I met with another neurosurgeon today. I really, really appreciated the time with him, and left with a much better feeling than I had with my other doctor. He's put me in PT for about six weeks, had given a prescription to try for Lyrica, and has said the tingling/numbness definitely means my nerves are being strangled. He showed my hubby and I my MRI's, walking us through level by level in the cervical spine. Not only the side view, which is nasty enough, but also from the top down. THAT really showed how the nerves going to both arms are being impinged and cut off (hubby was appropriately aghast). The doc said that he definitely wants the PT first before finalizing surgery plans - he wants me to hopefully gain some strength in my back for the recovery period. Plus, he's hopeful PT will alleviate some of my pain (me, too!!).

    Goodness, an actual plan of action. And, a plan that sounds right, not too extreme, but with definite goals. I return to him in six weeks, I expect further discussion on cervical surgery based on results/progress reached during PT and any impact the Lyrica may have. I don't hold my breath with the medication, I am very, very sensitive to drugs. If I can take it, wonderful, but I have a horrid track record. Doc and I discussed this at length today as well.

    As hubby and I were parking at the docs, my STD rep called. She was baffled on the paperwork my last doc sent in because he didn't provide any treatment other than note a chest x-ray being requested, and no real diagnosis. I explained to her I was seeking a second opinion because doc and I were worlds apart, he'd prescribed a CT w/contrast for my aorta for heavens sake, and hadn't even looked at the thorasic or lumbar MRI's yet. I told her I 'd expected him to at a minimum order PT, possibly pain management as well. I decided that I couldn't just wait here for something to happen - he wasn't doing a thing for me from my perspective. She asked how my symptoms were, and was very sympathetic when I told her they were actually getting worse. She agreed it sounded like a second opinion would be good for me, said no issue on their end to just supply them the doctors information and such. She's going to discuss with their nurse to confirm if they can extend the STD until the date first doc has me off through, Sept. 22. I'll have to call my new doc's office tomorrow, make sure he'll complete the form and confirm he'll hold me out of work doing the PT stuff until I return to him on Oct 9.
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