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My Experience with ACDF C-4 to C-7

Started by briandenhart on 05/28/2010 4:52pm

Greetings –
I wanted to write and tell everyone about my experience with ACDF surgery that I had last week for C-4 to C-7. I am a confirmed hysteric when it comes to surgical treatment for anything. When I was 22 (1982) I was in an auto accident in Newark NJ on the way home from the airport. I had a really bad fracture to my left femur and was in the hospital for 3 months before surgery. After the surgery I had really bad fevers, pain, etc. The doctor told me it was all in my head, blah blah and that it would pass. 6 months later I ended up in Stanford medical center with acute staph infection of the bone and it took 3 years of bone grafts and debridement and exotic devices to get my bone to heal. Fast forward to last week, and so being hyper aroused about anything to do with surgery I finally went through with the ACDF after putting it off for a year. I was a bad case, numbness and weakness walking (could barely make it up the stairs) and so on. Scared silly I finally picked the spine center at Cedars Sinai in LA (figuring if it was good enough for the movie stars it was good enough for me). My experience started with the class act that Cedars is – my hand being numbed before the IV was put in so I wouldn’t feel any pain. (YAY I like it already)!!
My surgery lasted 3 hours, and I woke up crying because the anticipation was so far worse than the experience. My amazing doctor had made a 1’ incision in my neck and it was covered by a band-aid when I woke up. I wasn’t really in pain but the muscles had been stretched a lot and my neck was visibly longer. I went back to my private room, (I don’t think they have two bed rooms at Cedars) with the crown molding and amazing staff. My amazing doctor came up a little while later to see how I was doing and told me that I had major surgery through a very small hole. I was scared fearing that I would have problems walking and so on but they gave me a nice shot of Dilaudid and up I on my feet I went 4 hours post-op. I was pretty amazed to be stepped down to Norco the next day, and have the doctor check me out of the hospital. I stopped on the way home to have a huge lunch. My throat hurt equal to strep, the SOMA took care of the muscle spasms, and that first night home I walked 1/3 of a mile the first time in 15 years. As I write this today is day 10. I take very little pain medicine anymore, a soma now and then and walk every day and even went to the movies last night. The pain has all but vanished and there is some numbness in my thumb that wasn’t there before. I see my doctor for a follow up on Tuesday and hope that I can do some more stuff. I want to exercise for the first time in a long time like 30 years and am crazed to be out an about and travel again and go back to work.
So in summary – I had very little pain, no collar, no restrictions except lifting nothing heavier than 1 lb which is hard, and no removal of the band-aid until the doctor does it. (He did a plastic surgery closure, so I guess it has something to do with that) I was able to sleep on my side again although it can cause some problems in the morning with pain, and I had good motion after surgery so I have not really seen the loss of range of motion as others have. I am worried that I might have dislodged something in my sleeping since I move around but I am such a worry wart that it will probably be nothing just like all my apprehension before surgery. I have read so many posts from folks that have had bad experiences with their procedures; I wish all of the procedures were as easy and clean as mine. I will update you with my progress as I move forward on my journey so that hopefully my experience will give insight to others. (I remember the fear and loneliness before my procedure and would like to help others experience less stress)

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Congratulations on a successful result. I was interested in the name of your spine center MD ?

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please let me know how its going.surgery comming soon.do you have any more into on type of surgery you had?

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Good to hear about a successful surgery after reading through 3 dozen bad stories.

Keep us posted.

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Hi Brian, and congratulations on your sugical success! It is so refreshing and wonderful to read a "happy ending" to a major surgical procedure! I have just posted my first discussion topic this morning, and stated that one of my biggest fears (shall I say extreme worry-wart?) is regarding the possible difficutly swallowing after the surgery. For some reason, the thought of that terrifies me. You said that your throat hurt similar to strep, but did you have any swallowing difficulties? Also, did your Dr say about how long you'll be off work? I don't know what you do for a living, but I work in an office, and am at a computer all day long. Nothing very strenuous, just helps aggravate the neck and arm pain some. My neck hurts quite a bit, but the shoulder/arm pain is about the worst. It is relentless and there is nothing positional I can do for relief when the epidural wears off.

Anyway, any additional info you can give me regarding your recuperation, keep us all posted!, and any issues you've had would be a great help to me. I am so happy for you; it is just wonderful to read a good outcome for once! Take good care, and I hope you continue to heal as quickly and well as you have been! Thank you for any help you can give me. I may help for you to read my first post-for history, & I entitled it Severe Spinal Stenosis and other issues (something like that!). Best wishes to you!!!!

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Glad you had such terrific results. I had ACDF on January 29, 2010 at C6-7. Net result: absolutely no improvement. Went to physical therapy three days a week post-surgically. Physical therapist said nothing she can do for me, must be nerve damage. She called my spine surgeon. He called me and I am having a cervical epidural injection this Wednesday. I had one last fall with no effect so I am not optimistic going into this.

No pain pills I have taken do anything to even lessen the pain---I wish they did.

Surgeon has talked about a second surgery. Anybody had a second surgery that met with success? I am beginning to think I will be stuck with the pain forever. Reading these boards helps. Remind me I am not alone.

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Hi glad you are doing well since your surgery. I am having this surgery on the 28th. My C2 and 3 and C5 and 6 are messed up! My question is have you had problems swallowing since your surgery? I had a friend who had is about 6 months ago and she could not swallow for about 6 weeks which resulted in her loosing 35 lbs! Would like to loose about 20 lbs so this does seem like a plus for me. But wondering if this is a common side affect after the surgery? Hope you continue to do well.

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Your story is amazing. I just had my 2nd opinion yesterday and my neurosurgeon has suggested surgery. My symptoms so far are not too bad. I have experienced some numbness and on one occasion a year ago it felt like electric shocks were shooting thru my arms. My MRI revealed two compressed vertebrae C5and C7. He seemed very concerned that without surgery this will only worsen over time. Upon further examination it was obvious that my reflex of my right arm is none existent which was alarming to me (how often does one check their reflexes anyway?). Long and short he is ordering another MRI as the last one was taken over a year ago. Upon review he wants to book the surgery. I have to admit I am very afraid to have this type of surgery. Maybe because my symptoms are not near as bad as the other posts that I've read.

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Scared: All I can recommend is to get multple opinions. If your nerve is being impinged then it will never get better and will most likely get worse. I have had the fusion and it worked like a charm. 6 1/2 years later I am having some pain again. I sure it is from the level below the fusion. Going to see the Nuero next week to get MRI and see what is up. The fusion is a very common surgery and thousands of folks get relief. Most will need to deal with issues down the line and the fusion puts stress on the disks above and below the fusion. For me it was worth it to get 6 1/2 years of pain free living. I hope they can fix me again this time. It is all about getting as many years of active pain free life as possible. Getting old sucks but it beats the alternative!

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Scared: All I can recommend is to get multple opinions. If your nerve is being impinged then it will never get better and will most likely get worse. I have had the fusion and it worked like a charm. 6 1/2 years later I am having some pain again. I sure it is from the level below the fusion. Going to see the Nuero next week to get MRI and see what is up. The fusion is a very common surgery and thousands of folks get relief. Most will need to deal with issues down the line and the fusion puts stress on the disks above and below the fusion. For me it was worth it to get 6 1/2 years of pain free living. I hope they can fix me again this time. It is all about getting as many years of active pain free life as possible. Getting old sucks but it beats the alternative!

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Thanks for the encouragement Brightside....I wish you all the best with your appointment next week. Send me a post and let me know how you make out. You are right right it does suck getting older.....

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Hi Everyone,
I just happened to be surfing the net this evening and came upon my original post. I was so happy to see that so many people had read it and that it had helped out. It’s been one and a half years since my surgery and I had a checkup today with my doctor at Cedars Sinai here in Los Angeles.
The films of my neck looked great to him and I have not had any issues in the last year and a half. I was back to work quite fast, I work in technology and use a computer most of the day without difficulty.
There is really nothing negative to report except that I have to have hip surgery soon for my left hip damaged in the accident. I have dreaded this day having suffered through so much pain and fear fighting osteomyelitis and trying to get my leg to fuse so long ago. So now it’s all going to come out and a new hip replacement put in its place. I am of course afraid of becoming re-infected but after 30 years the chances are quite diminished.
But back to the neck surgery, while I was waiting in the doctor’s waiting room I was asked why I was there since I had no visible marks or signs of surgery. My doctor did such an incredible job of closing that I have a very small faded mark where the incision is.
My chief complaint to the doctor was the pain in my left forearm that has been getting worse and worse. He felt it and smiled, it was tennis elbow from being overactive on the court.
Hang in there and remember that sometimes there is a happy ending in our very real complicated lives here on this most amazing planet we have the privilege of spending time on.
All of my best thoughts go out you who have read this and will read this in the years to come and hopefully will find some peace of mind and hope for what can be a terrifying experience.
Signing off for now,
Brian

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Wow Brian, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience with ACDF. I will be having a 3 level procedure C4/5, C5/6 & C6/7 on Monday (12-10-2012), and I am almost consumed with fear. I have read several others' experiences, and it seems the most that share are the ones with a bad experience. Anyhow, I am not having it done in a place like CSMC, but I have a Neurosurgeon doing the procedure as opposed to an Ortho.

Again, I am VERY grateful that you have put the positive spin on the procedure so I think I just might make it through.

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Larry,
I can understand how scared you are. I would be happy to speak with you on the phone to answer any questions you have. Drop me an email to briandenhart@yahoo.com and I can send you my phone number.
Regards,
Brian

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Well, my procedure was done on Monday. The actual surgery took 3 hours because the surgeon said that my spine was a real mess. He said the spurs were much bigger than he expected, and there was a LOT of calcification below the spurs as well. He said that at one nerve to my left arm, the calcification had attached to the nerve itself, and in the process of removing it he nicked the nerve covering and there was a small amount of CSF leakage but that is stopped pretty quickly. All in all he was able to accomplish the 3 level procedure that he set out to do and he feels that I should have dramatic improvement as things heal up. I have a considerable amount of pain, and the sore throat is pretty bad, but things are improving daily. I have perkocet and soma, so that does help a lot and with chloraseptic lozenges help a lot too there was no drain, no collar and the doctor said I resume driving tomorrow if I want, but I will take it easy for a couple of weeks and let things heal before I do anything physical. So far I am glad I had it done the surgeon said I REALLY needed it and I look forward to continued improvement.

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Wow, 15 months ago I had ACDF C-4 to C7, then 2 weeks ago I woke up with a "stiff neck". I went to see my PCP and she referred me back to the neurosurgeon after getting an MRI. I met with him last Friday and he informed me that C-3/C4 disc ruptured. I have been taking Vicodin every 6 hours and I have lidocaine patches to put on it until surgery can be scheduled. I am SO disappointed, I don't blame him, I did nothing to cause the rupture and I am NOT looking forward to another surgery as I still haven't forgotten how painful the last one was. Part of me hopes that I just won't wake up after surgery because I am so stressed and I don't want the surgery, but I can't take the pain now from it being ruptured!! Apparently my spinal column is just crumbling. :-(

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Thank you Brian! I am having ACDF on my C5-6 on Thursday Morning. I have to admit I took the news TERRIBLY! As you can see by the lovely tiara in my photo, I recently turned 40 and my body is deteriorating. It's a tough pill to swallow but you know what - I thought it was MS so it could always be worse. Your story is very inspiring and I thank you for calming me down a bit. Like you, I have an irrational, indescribable fear of hospitals and doctors. Luckily, I have been able to avoid them for most of my life so the thought of someone tooling around my spine is unsettling!

I hope to have a similar experience to yours and trust that Mass General has some of the best Surgeons in the world. In an effort to pay it forward, I will report on my progress and hope to help others as you have helped me. Wish me luck!
Best to all going through similar challenges.... it's not easy but to Brian's point, life is short so play hard!
MH

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