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C4,C5,C6 Fusion/Discectomy Surgery - HELP!

From: edged - on 03/10/2010 12:31am

I'm scheduled for this surgery April 2. I've seen an Orthopedic Surgeon and a Neurosurgeon - both agree that this surgery is necessary.

I have not been in an accident - there was nothing obvious to cause this; it's clear from X-ray and MRI that C5 is collapsed, C4 through C1 completely straight. I have numb fingers and numbness and tingling down my arm, but no arm pain. Neither doctor has said that the surgery will completely remedy the pain; they have agreed that arm and finger numbness will go away.

If I was just dealing with numbness, I wouldn't have this surgery. So I am looking for information/feedback from others who have had similar symptoms and the surgery - to hear about outcomes and what recovery looked/felt like.

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on 03/10/2010 3:43pm

In general, the type of surgery that you are planning is very very predictable, and in good hands, most patients should expect an overnight or 2 day hospital stay, and experience near-complete relief of arm and hand symptoms right away after surgery. Any neck pain symptoms will take a little longer. If they plan to pursue your surgery from the front (most common) your throat will be sore (like you've had your tonsils out) for a week or so...popsicles, ice cream, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese are all good. You have done your homework in getting the second opinion, and I think you can feel confident you are on the right track.
Many people also ask if there is a role for a nutrition or vitamin regimen to support best recovery after neck fusion. There is absolutely a role, with abundant literature showing more rapid and higher quality healing and outcomes, and decreased complications. There are a handful or dedicated products available, though the best I've seen so far is SurgiPlex MD. It's expensive, but definitely top-tier for those interested in really achieving best-possible tissue repair and recovery. You can find it atwww.topdoctorschoice.com Worth a look! You'll do great.

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on 03/13/2010 3:35pm

Thank you Westy123.

I meet with the doc again on the 23rd of March and I'm using that date to make a final decision. It sounds stupid, but I wish I was in more discomfort so the decision would be clearer for me.

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on 03/14/2010 9:42am

I had a c4, 5, and 6 fusion a week ago. The doctor did an outstanding job. However, if you can manage the pain and symptoms you have now, I would recommend holding off as long as you can. If I had it to do all over again, I would not have had it done. After surgery you feel fine for the first 24 hours but after that I feel the worst pain imaginable. Please let me know if you need updates. I also forgot to mention that I have on a very uncomfortable neck brace that I have to wear for THREE months. I was told 30 days prior to getting the surgery. Good luck and many blessings,

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on 03/14/2010 3:23pm

My fusion is L345 and S1..I was operated on in June of 2007...I have pain everyday, and continue to try and find relief besides medication. However I take daily hydrocodone, and a mild muscle relaxant. I would give one piece of advise before having surgery..... try every other option out there...physical therapy...accupuncture...so that if you DO have the surgery, you will know you tried everything else first.

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on 03/15/2010 12:44pm

I had my first neck surgery 6 years ago, I had a fusion from C4 to C7. It felt great after the surgery I had gotten back to pretty much all normal activities. Last year I started having problems with hands and arms, at first they thought it was carpel tunnel I had the surgery on my right hand didn’t help a bit. MRI showed a bad c3-c4, I got c3 to c4 fussed they removed the plate from c4 to c7. Refused c5-c7, no help in fact hands and arms got worse. They went in the back and removed bones from c3 all the way to c7. I had this done in Jan been two months and my hands and arms are still pins and needles, my hands feel week but they are not. Don’t have much feeling in hands. My Doctor says there is no pressure in the neck on the nerves but they are not getting better. How long does it take or will my hands ever get better. it sound like I have been thru what u are doing now. I wish I could tell you how great the surgery was but from the back is the worst feeling I ever had, front is a piece of cake. They say I will get better just don't know when.

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on 03/15/2010 2:07pm

You should check out Lasar spine int. LSI on the web. I had this done for lower back and I met a lot of people with neck problems in Tampa. best thing I ever did. operated on me ill I was a wake that night went for a walk on beach.http://www.laserspineinstitute.com/ beats regular surgery all invasive

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on 03/15/2010 4:32pm

I had the fusion done C6/C7 approx 18 months ago and like you had neck pain and numbness in my fingers, BUT i am worse off now. The surgery was a complete success and the colapsed disc is repaired the numbness is gone from my fingers but the pain in my shoulder and neck and my entire left shoulder is far worse and getting worse with time. I cannot work now and take Ocycontin (80mg) twice daily which helps but has horrid side effects and plus i dont want to be on painkillers my whole life. i am desperate and wish i had never done it, so my advice is that if you can possibly op to not do the op then dont, but obviously if its life threatening then you will have to.

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on 03/19/2010 4:16pm

I had C4-C7 ACDF 22 months ago and still have major muscle spasms in left shoulder that seems to strangle the nerves clear down into my hands. I am told my fusion is definately healed and the only thing the neurosurgeon can do is fuse C3, which has a broad based herniation. I opted to try trigger point injections in the muscles to delay the fusion or avoid it totally. The first injection calmed down the burning in the shoulder and upper back and pain down the arm significantly. The second shot I had on Monday has seemed to inflame the shoulder muscle. It causes such pain that I feel shaky. Pain killers help to calm it down, but no one wants to stay on medication, that is why I think most of us opt for the surgery. I am hoping this works so I can get my life back, which is something I know all of us on this discussion board would like. I hope this helps someone.

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on 03/20/2010 2:27pm

I just had surgery for similar symptoms Tuesday March 16, 2010 a level 1 Anterior Cervical Discectomy, Fusion, Instrumentation with Bone Grafting Cervical 5-6 , as of now my shoulder pain is almost gone along with neck pain and numbness at night while sleeping. My surgeon who performed the procedure came highly recommended and was a class act . I will tell you my neck is very stiff and swallowing is difficult but getting better a little each day. during the last seven months i did physical therapy twice a week along with a epidural into the spine and injections between the facets and had relief for about 1 week after the injections. Pain and discomfort came back even worse and thats when i met with my surgeon and decided to move forward with the surgey. At this point i have no regrets but time will tell, i truly believe in getting a second or third opinion and having trust in your Doctor, i can honestly say i have had 3 major surgeries in the last 14 months not by choice and had some of the finest Doctors i believe perform my procedures. Hope this helps,
would like to know your outcome.

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on 03/22/2010 10:45am

I had 3/4 and 6/7 fused in June 09. The shoulder pain, numbness in fingers was gone right after surgery. What they don't tell you is how bad post op is. I have never suffered such pain as I have since then. For 2 months I could barely lift head off of a pillow. I feel like I traded one problem for a new one. The neck pain I suffer to this day is horrible. I try stretches and motrin every morning but the stiffness and pain persists. I am heading back to get a CT done to make sure that the fusion is healing. My suggestion is to live with it until you just can't stand it. Maybe then what happens next won't be so terrible. Best of luck.

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on 03/22/2010 12:33pm

Keep in mind that everyones body is different. That being said everyones pain is different. Three years ago I had c4 - c7 disectomy. It was done by a extremely good neurologist. The pain that I was in prior to the surgery was FAR worse than the recuperation. Dont get me wrong it was painful, but different. I was under 40 and completely incompacitated. I am thankful everyday that they were able to take that pain away, and I am able to interact with my teenage boys now.

Unfortunately now I have been in a car accident. The recooperation is taking longer.....no one is really able to tell me directly that it would be quicker that I had it done.

What I am told is that because I had that surgery done is that it is the strongest part of my spine. I cannot imagine what it would be like if I hadnt done my surgery before I was in this car accident. In my opinion (for what its worth) I would have been far worse off.

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on 03/26/2010 1:02am

I had C4-5 fused in 2001 and C6-7 fused in 2002. Both surgeries were successful and gave me almost total relief from pain and loss of strength. The numbness in my hands never got any better (something the NS said may happen). I now have problems from C5-6 (also something the NS predicted) and am in a lot of pain, but am delaying surgery as long as possible. I am having an internal spinal cord stimulator implanted in the near future (I got great relief in a 5 day trial), which I believe will allow me to greatly reduce pain meds.

My advise is If you have tried the non-surgical treatments, listen to your DR.'s. Surgery isn't a magic bullet, but if it gives you relief it is worth it. The post op wasn't really that bad for me (both times) as my pain before surgery was so bad, that the post op pain seems trivial.

Hope this helps in your decision.

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on 08/02/2010 12:32pm

Hello, I was in a car accident in 2008 and a fusion then. I was still in alot of pain and found out the disc didn't fuse so i had another fusion in 2009. I am yet still in alot of pain and finally went to the doctor again only to find out that C4C5 is pressing on my spine. My neck and across my shoulders and down my right arm hurt terribly. I really don't want to have another surgery, is there anything else that can be done. Also, i have been having alot of really bad headaches.

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on 08/11/2010 11:32pm

Wow people. I am on the fence about this surgery thing. One minute I was on the top of the world healthy, energetic, loved my job and so on. I was injured on the job and now I am faced with surgery which is a flip of a coin or go on disability. I don't know what to do but from what I hear, surgery is not a fix all and this surgery thing is a chance. That's life. Do I want to chance having this surgery then having to have more surgeries, more pain, and more pain meds? Is this surgery guranteeing my return to work? What if I don't have the surgery, do I want to continue through my life in pain where in affects my everyday life? Answers please.

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on 08/31/2010 11:29am

I too am facing a 3 tier ACDF surgery in Sept 2010. I have so many unanswered questions that the doctors just can't help me with. I am being told that the pain after surgery isn't as bad as the pain I am feeling now in my Right Arm, Shoulder and hands. I was previously being treated for Arthritis before my Family doctor had the insight to send me to have an MRI. My concerns are: 1. Pain after surgery, what will it feel like ? Incisionally or overall neck ? 2. Swallowing - Kind of worried about this, will it make me feel claustrophobic ? 3. Will I be able to talk ? - Concerned because it could make a major change in my life 4. Ability to do everyday things after surgery ? Lift my arms, shower myself, do my hair 5. Infection - everytime I have had surgery I end up with an infection. The surgeon assures me that infection is such a low %, but in my case, each one ended up with issues. Do I push him to treat me more then just the once via IV on Surgery day ? 6. Depression - feelings of being too dependent on others during my recovery.

I just need to know how others felt going into this themselves. Where you nervous ? scared ? I know that the % of people with complications is low, but there are always some. I feel I am still young @ 52 and I don't want to end up more miserable then I am now. Thoughts ?

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on 08/31/2010 11:49am

You can see from earlier post that I am fused from C3 to T1 now just had C7 to T1 done last month. The surgery is a piece of cake from the front, I never had problem with my throat did not hurt or had any trouble eating at all. This last surgery did cause me to lose my voice for awhile because C7 to T11 is real low so going low bother my voice but it is coming back. I still have some slight tingling in Hands and arm mostly in the morning but it is getting better. I am back work full time and feel pretty good. My advice to you is don’t worry about it piece of cake. I asked Ask my doc how long the surgery is and he told me for Me it would only about 10 seconds! He was right I got on the table they put me to sleep and when I woke it felt only 10 seconds ;-) piece of cake

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on 10/25/2010 9:37pm

I've had this surgery & I already had blown out my discs in spine. Had it done in 2008 n thank goodness for the SPINE TEAM OF TEXAS IN SOUTHLAKE. Never had a problem. 1st 2wks of recovery was fine with the medication and by 3rd week I was weaning myself off of it. After that on 4th week I was back at work doing just great. Good luck. I had a great doc. Dr. Bartholomew at SPINE TEAM TEXAS. Check them out. spineteamtexas.com

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on 02/21/2011 1:26am

Hello there. I've just signed up and am very interested in learning more about surgery of a C-4 - C-5 Fusion. I am scheduled to have it on Feb 28th. And, I guess, I'm more than a little bit scared.
I have most of my pain in my lower neck and between my shoulders. I have damage to my long-thorasic nerve from a previous rib surgery (R1 & 2 were trying to grow together). I have numbness quite a bit in my right arm and hand and some in my left hand. I am right handed and my right hand will go numb when I am eating sometimes just from holding a fork.
My pain between my shoulders is very deep and even causes swelling and spams under and around my right scapular. It feels like it swells more to the inside than the outside and causes sharp burning pain when I take deep breaths. I have a lot of weakness in my arms and really all over as I stay tired all the time. I was treated a year ago for chronic Lyme disease after testing positive on the Western Blot for Lyme and 2 other tick-borne infections. I was also clinically diagnosed with Babiosis (Cat-Scratch Fever). This diagnosis came after many years of suffering with fatigue and chronic wide-spread pain which I still have. Now, I do not have any resistance to pneumonia or tetanus and am having IVIG treatments monthly with my infectious disease specialist. So, yes, I am also scared that I may get an infection following surgery. I pray everything will go smoothly and I can get relief from pain, not have an infection and gain a quality of life that I have not experienced for nearly 30 plus years. The suffering and stress of sickness and financial strain has just about wiped me out. Through it all, God has been there to comfort and assure me.

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on 02/23/2011 7:51pm

Have you had any carpal tunnel tests or electrical testing done on the nerves? I've had two cervical fusions 2007 & 2008 and endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists (R) Nov & (L) Dec 2010. The numbness in my hands didn't go away til the carpal's were done.

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on 02/23/2011 10:12pm

Yes. I do have cts in my right wrist. The pain under my right shoulder blade and between my shoulders is what I am in hopes of eliminating. I can deal with the numbness in my hands, but this pain has got to go. I have no strenght and stay fatigued from being stiff and trying to get a position that will be comfortable and I can breath with ease.

I'm wandering what to expect in the progression of recovery. ie; What I can do and when? What can I eat without problems, how will I be able to shower? When I can ride and drive? Stuff like that

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on 04/05/2011 3:49pm

First, take it easy for the first two months after surgery. DO NOT lift anything over 1 pound first couple weeks, then only 5 pounds. I know the doc says 10, however, I am now looking at a 3rd surgery as i have a broken screw in C5 and the bone is deteriorating. If you are a smoker quit it. This stops proper bone growth. You will be able to ride in a car (short distances only) in a week. No driving for a month! You have just had a Major Surgery and you need to be resting as much as possible. The pain in you arms, and hands will not go away until to CT's are taken care of. In fact you will feel them worse after C-spine surgery as all the nerves in your neck are healing and starting to function again, normally, so now you will feel them even more. Ask for a referral to the Brown Hand Institute for the CT. They are the best & you heal really fast. Walk around the house for exercise the first week or so, then around the yard (this is so you can hold onto something so you don't fall !) For food; Smoothies, mashed potatoes, broths, yogurt and Protein powder ( Trader Joe's Soluble around 10.00/can) are good foods to start with. Showering, below the neck only until the steri strips fall off (by themselves)

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on 04/06/2011 7:58am

I hope you had the surgery. You can research things over and over until you can find the answer you are looking for. Trust your Doctors, this is type of surgery is being done every day. It is all about quality of life. I have had several surgeries,fused from C3-T1 still have hands problems, would I let them cut again, you bet I would trust your Doctors.

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on 04/14/2011 5:33pm

HI Folks,
I'm new here. Does anyone know if there is a message board or site for discussions exclusively for Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion, where people mention who their surgeons are and results? I just had a hip resurfaced and there are great sites for hips but am having trouble finding help for Disc and Fusion information, as well as feedback on doctors and hospitals. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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on 01/24/2013 5:14pm

in 2007 I had a discectomy. It was C2-C7 3 prostetic vertibeas, everything is wrapped in a cage with a plate to hokd it is place. My spinal cord was pinched off 3/4 of the way due to running my string trimmmer/weed eater with the weight of it on the strap upon my neck for 2 Hrs.. I felt fine the night I ran the string trimmer but the next morning I woke up and my neck was literally stuck to the left side for 4 weeks. I went to the Dr. and of course we had to try these muscle relaxers and this pin pill and then we had to try this therapy and that therapy. I went to 2 Chiropractors in the mean time, Both promising that they could help me!!... Well hell they were all worthless. Finally my insurance company said ok go to a realy Nuro surgoen. I went to the so-called-best one within 100 mile radius. I saw her Dr. that evaluated each case and assigned the best Dr for the case. Well, She told me my spinal cord was 3/4 of the way pinched off and I would soon be in a wheel chair if I didn't have surgery done. The other 2 Dr.s agreed.
I had the surgery done within 2 weeks. This was in 2007 ... Had 2 surgeries after that for strep infection... My air passage started closing off from the infection. Then it slipped cause it wasn't secure enough. Very Honestly, I would have to think 4 times over B4 I would have surgery done like taht again. I go to bed 6 out of 7 nights a week hoping I don"t wake up and Pray every night that if I do wake up I won't hurt like I do. The pain is so unbearable most of the time, I just want to give up. I try to hang in there cause I just got remarried 2 yrs ago and want to make a life for me and my new husband but DAMN-IT, it is so hard. I Love hinm and he loves me, but it is so hard to get thru the days anymore.. Sometimes I wonder if he understands or realizes!! Think twice about upper neck surgery PLEASE

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on 02/09/2013 3:36pm

Not everyone is the same. I had the 2 bottom cervical disc replaced with bone graphs and plates and screws because they were wore out and my spinal canal was narrowing, neuroligist told me if it was left untreated I could be paralized if the spinal canal narrowed more, because my spinal cord would get pinched and would be the cause if I didn't have surgery. I was in constant pain, my head felt like a ton and the heaviness was keeping me from being able to hold my head up straight. So I had the surgery and hoping that would be the answer to mypain and prayers, but til this day I have more pain than before and they told me everything looked good after. Well I was sent to Pain management doctor, I was having to get shots of steriods and muscle relaxers for my pain, but only had relief if any for a few days. So then the pain management doctor told me I needed to have some type of surgery forgot what it's called, but anyway they go in my neck and burn the endings of my (neck) nerves, that it would numb my pain. I was still in pain while healing it felt like the worse sunburn ever. When that healed, I'm still in pain and even worse than before I had any surgery. My BEST ADVICE would be get a SECOND OPION. Like I said not everyone is the same. I wish you luck and hope you find relief, for me I'm still waiting an answer to my prayers a MIRACLE, a doctor that will get to the root of my pain. I also have a bad lower back and trying to find out info on a procedure I seen on video called AccuraScope Procedure, I really think after seeing this video this would really help. Tired of living with this pain and is crippling at times, I want my LIFE back. If anyone reading this and lives and knows of a doctor in the Western or Eastern part of TEXAS that does this Procedure would be appreciative for any info. Thank you and Good Luck Edged

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on 08/23/2013 1:48pm

I had a level 1 Anterior Fusion between C6/C7, 9 months ago and have had severe pain since, explosive cervogenic headaches which have led to ER visits on a average of 2-4 a month for pain. Pain pills don't touch the pain, I use profolatic migraine meds along with Imitrex injections. Most recent MRI shows that C5 has collapsed and the nerve root is being cut off basically. Saw a neurosurgeon yesterday who informed me that I can either do pain mgt. ( been there) or live with it. He won't do surgery. He said its a 50/50 that I would have neck pain after. I am 41 with 2 growing boys, can't raise my right arm above parallel shoulder height and live with a daily headache? What kind of decision is this? To top it off, I have mild to moderate white matter brain lesions from the vascular tension.

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on 08/25/2013 1:11am

The only good news I have to report and it is probably for myself is that I logged on tonight because I am in pain from a C5 through C7 discectomy and fusion in 2003 and like so many others I am depressed because I am tired of being in pain, dont want to be over reliant on medications, feel like no one understands because they cant see the pain...and by reading the comments I am seeing I am not alone.
I had a bad fall and was told my spinal cord was so impinged that if I didnt get the surgery I ran a high risk of being paralyzed with any further jolts. while the surgery itself was a success from a neurological standpoint, like so many others that have posted, the post surgical muscle spasms, nerve pain, and physical limitations after always being physically active have been difficult for me. I do find when I am "on track" that having a good balance of the medication, massage, and mild to moderate exercise keeps me okay. But I ended up having to retire from work early (thank goodness I was old even to service retire instead of disability retire) but the stress of working long hours and sitting at a desk for long hours as an executive was too much and my condition worsened. I hired a personal trainer for awhile to get my weight down and to help me work my muscles without over doing it which I also noticed others indicated they have experienced. I am having flares up and depression again, as well as numbness in my left hand, so I may ahve something else going on. I am going to attend a pain management class and try to do other positive reinforcement activities so I dont get too bummed out. I wish all of those who read this the best of luck in getting relief. Like a few have mentioned, I am very interested in understanding the research into the root of what causes continued post surgical pain..such as the nerve, brain, muscle connection.

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