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INSIGHT - Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Started by johnhamster on 02/27/2010 2:35am

Hello-35 yo here. C6/C7. Can anyone offer insight into what to expect with regards to post-op healing as well as overall success/experience with the subject procedure?

Sincerely,
JH

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Wow JH, you're young! My fusion was C5-C7, they gave me muscle relaxers and pain pills, you may want to take them. I did not realize how much the muscles in the neck area are affected after surgery. I received an expensive bone growth stimulator that I still wear up to 4 hours a day. Just remember the areas around your fusion are subject to stress and all that~ you will probably have Physical Therapy afterwards for range of motion - mine was 3 to 4 months. I had to wear a neck collar for 3 months in the car. You probably will have followup CT Scan(s) or MRI(s) as well as x-rays every 3 months or so. I also had a bone scan post-op 1 year. Was off work for about 3 weeks after the surgery. I wish you the best~

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I am new to this and as my user name says I'm terrified! I am scheduled for surgery March 31, 2010 and although I love my neurosurgeon and he really has spent at least two hours with me explaining the surgery, I am still scared to death! I am 56 yrs. old and my tale of woe began 2 years ago because of someone doing 95 miles an hour trying to pass 6 cars on my side of the road. Thank God, I managed to avoid the head on collision but did leave the road and began hitting trees, etc. As a result, the c-5 disc in my neck was destroyed. The pain has been incredible for the past 2 yrs. and I have numbness, tingling, and pins & needles in my arms and now starting in my leg. My surgeon told me that I only have a 50% chance of my pain being relieved as well as a 50% chance of the numbness, tingling etc, in my arms being relieved. But at least the surgery will prevent any further spinal damage and prevent possible paraylisis. I've heard so many horror stories about having to have multiple surgeries because of the pressure put on surrounding discs and screws getting loose that I just don't know if I'm doing the right thing. But yet, I certainly don't want to lose the use of my arm. I read goldie's response and she mentioned some kind of stimulator, what's that? Could someone who has had this surgery please let me know what to expect? I was told that it is not a complicated surgery and that post-op varies but that at most 6 weeks and I should be back to normal. Good luck to all.

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The name of the bone growth stimulator I have is called "Orthofix" - they have a website. it is a device that you put around your neck. They make them for many other parts of the body too post-surgery. Surgery is a risk in many ways- you just have to know as much about it as you can. Although I still have numbness in my left index finger actually after a foraminotomy & fusion! However it could be coming from my shoulder... we will see soon....

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Hi John- I can offer a lot of insight to you concerning an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion because I underwent the same thing twenty years ago. I had a herniated disc @ C5-6 level and I was in excruciating pain for one year.
I failed physical therapy, in fact, I truly believe this ended up making things worse. The interesting part though was a cat scan read my spine as normal! Due to the pain, an MRI was given and thank God, it showed the herniation.
I was very scared to have the surgery due to the risks involved, but I am glad that I did. It is a tough surgery due to having not only the neck pain, but also having hip pain as well.
It took me five months to begin feeling strong and fairly well again. Even then, I needed to really work on building up my neck muscles. The pain was relieved at least 75% in my arms and neck eventually. I always had to be mindful of over doing it, especially lifting anything.
All in all, the surgery gave me my life back. I was not able to have my former job anymore due to lifting, but I was retrained by VESID. I went on to have a wonderful career for twenty years.
I would absolutely recommend the surgery. Please have a lot of patience and motivation after surgery and you will be the better for it. No one wants to live with chronic pain, it wears you down and lessens your quality of life. And for the record, when the neurosurgeon did the surgery, he found my disk to be crushed into pieces! That never would have healed!
Good luck to you!

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Hey JH...
The most common procedure for a cervical (neck) disc problem that is causing nerve compression symptoms is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This is usually performed through a mini-open minimally invasive approach to to the front of the spine in order to directly access the disc. It is most typically performed on an outpatient basis or with an overnight hospital stay. The predictability of durable, long-term good to excellent results for relief of nerve pain is on the order of 93-95% with present generation surgical technique. It is typically very well tolerated and highly predictable, especially in a healthy younger person like yourself.
Most people have a sore throat for a few days or a week after surgery, especially with a one-level (one disc) procedure. After surgery, you'll like things like popsicles, smoothies, yogurt, mac and cheese...you get the picture...things that are soft and smooth. Thin liquids like ice water, or tough stuff like a good ol' porterhouse are best avoided for a few days until things are less sore with swallowing.
Most nerve pain symptoms respond very quickly, and most patients have relief of arm/hand pain, numbness and tingling very early after surgery.
Day to day things are usually manageable within a week to 10 days.
Talk to your doctor about your specific activity restrictions, but many surgeons will permit a return to unrestricted activity on a graduated basis beginning a 3mos, and may will permit a return to completely restricted activity (like professional contact sports, military special forces duty, etc) in the 4-6 month window. Ask your doctor what you can expect in your situation. He can also go over the risks, benefits, alternatives and other considerations as they really apply to your individual setting.
If you decide that surgery is the right approach for you, there are some things you can do on your own to optimize your potential for best healing and tissue repair after surgery. For example, many people ask if there is a role for a nutrition or vitamin regimen to support best recovery after neck or back fusion surgery. There is absolutely a role, with abundant literature showing more rapid and higher quality healing and outcomes, and decreased complications after neck fusion surgery. There are a handful or dedicated surgery recovery products available, though the best I've seen so far is the SurgiKit-Bone&Joint. It's expensive, but definitely top-tier for those interested in really optimizing tissue repair and recovery. It is made by a company called Top Doctors Choice...take a look at ww.topdoctorschoice.com
Worth a look. I'm sure you'll do great...keep asking questions a the more you know, the better you'll do!

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I had a sore throat post-surgery too for a week - the second surgery my friends told me to ask the anesthesiologist for a smaller tube, and that worked! Like you need more pain after surgery. I had no idea how sore my muscles would be around my whole neck area~ didn't have any index finger numbness improvement but am also still faced with shoulder problems and tendonitis in my forearm, which I am trying to deal with now. Ugh!

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Hi John, I am 47 and had an ACDF 2 years ago levels c4-c7 with allograft (cadaver bone) and titanium hardware. After surgery, follow all of the doctors instructions. When they say don't do anything, take it literally. It will speed your healing process and you won't be in so much pain. I still have major muscle spasms in my neck/shoulder/back region and have had to have several epidurals and the latest was trigger point injections in the muscle. These were administered by Pain Management, which is where your neuro-surgeon will refer you to if you have post-op pain past a certain point and time. Mine was about 6 months post-op. I was off of work from the end of May to the end of August and took a leave of absence. This also depends on the type of work you do, computer, manual labor, etc... I think with a one level fusion and if you follow all the doctors orders, meaning no exercise or use of arms until he/she says so then you should be fine. Don't be afraid to ask alot of questions. Wishing you the best.

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Hey - I am 25 years old and I am on my 8th day of c6-c7 discectomy and fusion surgery. Maybe I just have a very high pain tolerance (after shoulder surgery not much hurts), or maybe I just had a very good Doctor, but I am in almost no pain. Sure my neck feels stiff and I can't make quick movements; but I have no serious pain. After my first 4 days I only took pain medication at night because I was uncomfortable with the way I had to sleep. I only wear my neck brace at night, and I not longer get light-headed from walking. Perhaps I am a rare case, but this surgery so far has been the best thing ever. I was in constant level 8-10 pain every day, and now i have a level 4-5 pain for only a couple hours a day. When I first woke up from surgery my throat felt like it had been crushed by an elephant, but as soon as the 4th day i was able to eat food without any problems. Compared to the pain I was in prior to surgery, I would have the surgery again and again. I consider a surgery a success when I am in less pain post-op than I was in pre-op. If anyone has any other specific questions please don't hesitate to ask me. I know I had a lot before I had surgery.

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To: rkristen3

You had good success, so can you tell me the name of your surgeon and what city? I have pain and tingling in my right hand as well as neck pain. I am planning to have surgery and trying to find the best surgeon.

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I just had fusion surgery at C5/6 and C6/7 after suffering for over six months after a car accident. It has only been about 5 days since my surgery, but I am already glad I had it. My first couple of days I had a very sore throat, and the muscles in my neck and back were so sore it hurt to breathe. My sore throat is already feeling much better and I am getting more comfortable every day. My headaches, terrible arm pain, and numbness I have had since the accident seem to be completely gone! I am taking pain killers and muscle relaxers, but have been able to shower and dress myself each day without help. I hope this is helpful to anyone looking for information. Does anyone know what causes the muscle spasms in the neck and upper back following this surgery and how long they can be expected to last?

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The Muscle pain lasted a few weeks for me~ give it time. Why, I am sure it has to do with the surgery.

I am going in for shoulder surgery soon and plan to have a massage prior to it to help with the recovery time. :)

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Hello, My name is MIke. I had an accident at work. ( 42 yearsl old).. one year later and I just had a leve 3 anterior discectomy and fusion. c3 4 and 7 If I have the numbers right. top were replaced and 7 was fused.
Recovery in hospital was brutal. Lots of meds. Went home after 3 days wearing soft brace. One week a trip to dr, where they removed bandages and tape.
Getting comfortable is the most difficult of tasks. You cant really lift your head on your own and nothing seems to work, no matter how many pillows u use to prop up.
I hate taking pain meds, so I try to space them out as much as possible but if you go to long the pain will catch up with you.
It has been like 2 weeks since the surgery, I have 2 insicions on my neck and it is numb there but also my whole chin area, under your jaw, the flat part.. is numb as well. HUM... hohpe that goes away.

Walking around is getting better, Still hard to get comfortable. Can only sit for small amounts time and then the neck gets soar and tight. I will go take a nap or just lay down and that seems to help.
I have been told I will be off work for at least 3 months, I have a very physical job, so I assume that is part of the reason for such a long break.
I realize every day, as I try to do things, why they say it will be a long recovery. Besides I have been told most times only level 2 is done, whereas I had all 3 done at the same time...
Best of luck to you all. I will post more from time to time.
It was really hard to find anything prior to surgery on this , so I will try to post what I can to help someone out who might be searching for info.. If this site allows it, feel free to email and ask questions or what ever... Thanks and good luck everyone, MIke

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Hello again.
I was just at my 1 month follow up with dr yesterday. The insicions are looking better. I was told to stop wearing the soft neck brace as much as possible. I do wear it from time to time, my neck gets tired and it really relieves pressure. Still taking the pain meds, 10 ml valium and 75 mg of Nucynta for pain. (great pain killer that has no side effects.. it doesnt make me sick like when I take hydrocodone or percisets (?).
Having problems sleeping because of the pain in the neck during the night.. The doctor tells me I am able to slowly increase my lifting of things, gradually up to 25 lbs. I am aloud to drive now, but I do not have full range of motion on neck up or down or side to side, so it is not exactly safe yet. I cannot look up at all, when I do there is a lot of pain and I get dizzy, barley look down either. Side to side is getting better, slowly, no where near where it should be. Lots of therapy.
I have to be careful walking up or down stairs.. Its hard to explain.. my kneck feels like kind of like my head is pounding on my neck. It weird.
The numbness under my chin is still there. Dr. says it will come back in time.
ok, by for now. Mike

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Make sure you have Physical Therapy for moving your neck. And keep doing the exercises and turning to each side to keep things working. Healing takes time, so hang in there ~ and have patience too!

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I had C5-7 fusion in jan. I am now back out of work until I see the dr in Aug. I went back to work at 6 weeks and only made i only made it 2 days. Out for another month and went back made it 3 weeks. I have muscle spasms when I do alot of head movement and arm movement. I had physical therapy and am doing the exercises but they are not helping this. As long as I don't lift, jar or make movement above eye level I do ok. Pain now down back of my arms sometimes to little finger. My job has continuous head, neck, arm movement with alot of bending, lifting and twisting. I hope they find out the cause of yours soon.

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Johnhamster. In 2010 you were the same age as my husband was when he had this surgery. C6/C7 also. I am wondering what your experience has been so far. He had surgery back in Nov. of 2011 and now 9 months later is still struggling daily with pain and is so frustrated. Please respond and let us know how you are doing? Thankyou so much!

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Hello, 42 yr old who is 6.5 weeks post op after 3 level C4-C7 anterior discectomy. It appears I had cervical myelopathy and prior to surgery my biggest issues were back of the head pressure headaches, lightheadedness, and top of the head dull headaches. A month after getting these head issues, I started have sharp shoulder blade pain, tingling/numbness in arms and twitching in limbs. Surgery was said to have went well, but I am still experiencing significant shoulder pain (almost worse than prior to surgery). Also, I am just now starting to get around without the hard collar. Today I had a significant lightheaded episode. Anyone had anything similar? Not sure if in not wearing the hard collar I will continue to have lightheaded episodes. Thanks for any thoughts.

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Hi,
Can tell you that I had my C5-C7 ADF in June of 2012.... All was good for the first 6-8 weeks, until I went bank to work as a Mailman..... That's where all went wrong..... Went from pain killer to pain killer... PT was done and I ended up having to medically retire, since I could no longer perform my duties.... Now it's 2014 and still have a pretty fair amount of pain, can't lift, but had to drop the pain killers, due to dependency on them... Pain is every minute of every day, completely sucks, but it is less pain than I had pre surgery.... Neurosurgeon says all is structurally good, but I tend to disagree.... Neck grinds, pops and snaps.... Not normal shit..... On a good note.... Not too much numbness and or tingling, unless arms move a certain way....

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I would also like information on this.

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Hi Steve Lovegrove, I would also like more info on your condition. Back in June 2012 I had a second fusion with plates and rods from C2 down to my T2. About 2013 I went to vet out of bed listening my neck from my pillow, and heard a big pop on my leftside of neck. Now it's gotten worse, popping and grinding at the base of neck, with really bad neck pain on my leftside into my eyes, also muscle spasms. Sometimes my left arm goes numb.

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