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Confused about which "C" level should be operated

Hi All,

I have a herniation which is effacing the spinal cord at c5-c6, I also have bulging (not protruding) disc at c3-c4 and c4-c5. My surgeon thinks that surgery is only needed at 1 level where the disc is herniated. However my worse symptoms (shoulder, trap, chest and elbow pain) are not consistent with the typical symptoms for a c5-c6 herniation (for ex I don't have any bicep pain). How does a doc/surgeon conclude which disc(s) to remove? I worry that he may remove a non-symptomatic disc and my symptoms will still remain. Any guidance will be appreciated. 


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,522
    For starters, the mri images would identify the problem discs.  However, that doesnt always mean that the problems you are experiencing seem to come from those discs.  If you have confidence in your surgeon, then let them do they job.  If the surgeon has some doubts, they will do additional tests just to 100% verify which discs need to be operated on.

    If you question all of this, then ask them very straight forward.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • They're generally not going to jump right to surgery if the condition is not so severe to be immediately threatening since physical therapy and time can, supposedly, help improve the symptoms. I say supposedly because time and PT hasn't helped much for me, but hey, it has worked for others so...
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  • I agree with Ron...If you have faith in the surgeon then he will do the job. When you have several cervical issues the surgeon usually looks at the test results and your symptoms to make a clear diagnosis. My first surgery I had serve cervical issues and even had several opinions that varied from one level or two level surgeries. My decision came from comfort of the surgeon's interaction with me, in which I went with a one level surgery. It was successful and I was immediately out of pain.

     You can asks your surgeon questions due to the condition of your neck such as:

         1: risk of adjacent disc disease

         2: What is the percentage of pain reduction after surgery

         3: Will you be able to return to normal activity in the future

         The only thing I can say about my cervical neck journey is ask as many questions as possible. If you don't like what you hear ask again ! This site is a huge resource of patient experience good and bad but remember its subjective to the person's experience not yours. We all have some commonality of our experience but keep an open mind !

        I am now about 3.5 months post-op and back to work from a posterior laminectomy with fusion C4-7 and I feel blessed ! I am so happy that my recovery has been going well and that the chronic pain is behind me. I will say that my muscle on days do give me a run for my money but in time this all shall too pass ~

       I wish you luck on your journey !

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