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Posted in: Neck pain, Nutrition, and Surgery.

ACDF - What to do based on my experience to prepare

Started by LocksleySim on 12/27/2012 12:19pm

Hints for Patients undergoing Neck Surgery from Locksley (54 year old accountant) who had a C5/C6/C7 fusion on 12/6/12. This is not a medical opinion, just some ideas to help you through the experience. Most of this is just common sense, but I was not in my best thinking mode prior to surgery.
The first 24-48 hours you are going to be very foggy. The doctors will call your main contact and let them know how you went to sleep and the results of the surgery. The Doctors don't usually come out and talk to your family. Remember they are in back-to-back surgeries, so be mindful of the limited time they have to talk to you. They may come by and tell you things after you have been in your room a while. Designate someone to gather and take notes from your main contact and from visits from your Doctors. I have no independent recollection of anything my Doctor said in the 1st 24 hours. Maybe designate one of your family to email or call folks (this means they need a list of who to call or email). Later you can review the notes.
Your throat will hurt and you will have trouble swallowing. Be cautious. Take tiny bites and get everything you will need to make protein shakes ... there are tons of ideas on the Internet. Get a big cup with a screw on top and a big straw to drink water out of because you are only supposed to stare straight ahead, no turning your head or looking up and down. My nutrition nazi (aka my mom) insisted on organic lemons squeezed into the water to help me detox from the anesthesia. Drink lots of water.
Your incision will have to be covered the first week to 10 days, so have a supply of large 2 by 3 or 4 inch bandages. My husband just connected 2x2's together and then taped them on with paper tape because I am allergic to Bandaid adhesive. No big deal, but if you have the supplies on hand BEFORE you go to the hospital, it's just one less thing to deal with.
The main thing the first week is to get your system (bowels) back on track. Anesthesia, stress, pain, lack of sleep, and painkillers can cause horrible constipation. This is not great for your recovery or comfort. The first thing I would advise is to take Miralax, milk of magnesia, or Smooth Move tea 2 nights before your surgery and eat only liquids the day before. I did not do this, but if I had it to do over again,thats what I would do. Have these and stool softeners available when you go home. Take a stool softener with every meal after you go home and take Miralax if you need to on Day 2 after surgery until you are back on schedule. The faster your system is back on track, the better your life will be. I mainly had yogurt, soup, and vegy/fruit protein shakes the first week. Remember that even a small rise in your blood sugar can inhibit healing. (My mom made me say that).
You can't look down for a while, so BEFORE your surgery, find cardboard boxes or little storage boxes of varying heights to help bring things up into range.
The neck brace is a 24-7 thing for a while, (OK a long while) so here are a few neck brace hints: V necked shirts, V neck PJs and zip up robes, slip on stable shoes, and those socks with non skid stuff. You can't bend from the waist, so you need all of your stuff set out and laundry done before you go in. Your skin, especially around the neck needs to be in the best shape it can be in. Moisturize heavily the week before. Maybe get a massage and stretch out the day before and morning of surgery, cuz you won't for a while after. Bottom line, you will grow to hate the neck brace LONG before you are out of it. You get out of the hard brace after a while, and then you are in the spongy one forever. DO change the liners and wash them. Otherwise you will get skin ickies and infections, zits, etc. You can get covers on the internet at collarcover.com - they come in the most ridiculous colors, but they are better then the white fraying and starting to get dingy ones from the hospital....
Showering - My husband installed a stabilizing bar and a hand held shower for me and they have been fabulous. Again, this is a good idea to do BEFORE you go into the hospital. It's very tricky at first, so have a shower before you leave the hospital. I had blood and glue in my hair from the electrode monitoring, so it was essential. Baby wipes purchased prior to the Surgery can help you freshen up.
Have your hair, toenails and nails cut before surgery. Get your legs waxed, because you won't be shaving them for at least six weeks.
Get an iPad and audible.com for books to listen to. Or a CD player and books on CD from the Library.
Resolve to be patient....this is a long process and bones do not grow at corporate speed.
Take a nap every day, or at least lay down for a while. Take walks around your house and outside as much as you can. Do the isometric exercises the give you. Don't sit around - get up and walk around for 5 or 10 minutes every hour. Have you always thought you would like to meditate, learn some new songs or go through all your old photos and write captions? A little pre-planning and having things ready to go can make this time more fun.

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6 Responses


This is great advice that I wish I had before my surgery on 11/27/12. I had 4 level fusion C3-C7 and am doing well. So far I am thrilled with the result. I am only taking Tylenol at this point. Great to see these collar covers can be replaced - I have to wear mine for another 3 1/2 weeks at least (that's when I go back to the doctor).

One think I wish I had known - I had terrible back spasms the night I spent in the hospital. I didn't realize what it was, and even though I was on muscle relaxers, it felt like a bubble that I needed to burp! Sorry, but that's how it felt. Unfortunately, the nurse treated it as such! I got through the night though, and was home the next day.

Another piece of advice - if you don't have a recliner, it would be helpful to purchase some type of wedge pillow, as they don't want you to lay flat, and it's not comfortable anyway!


Thank you for this! I'm on my way to target now for some wipes and a bed husband to sit up on (I think that's what their called if the PC folks haven't banned them!)

This is VERY helpful so thank you very much for posting! I'll advise of my progress.


This is great advice. Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I am having surgery on the 19th of Sept. I was not sure what to do seems how my drs don't want me doing much walking before surgery. Walking around the house is allowed but nothing that can put more strain on my cervical spine.


OK, so I had my ACDF surgery on 9/4/2014 and I'm doing great (single level fusion c5-c6). This is BY FAR the best post regarding the little things that you may not think about ahead of time. My surgeon was awesome and I really didn't have much pain. I'm pretty vain and my incision looks GOOOOOOD! It blends right into the creace of your neck. You really have to look for it to see it. Didn't need anything more than Tylenol or Tylenol PM over the counter.

A couple of suggestions I would add, having learned the hard way - I would get a shower caddy. You won't be able to bend down for a bit so it's helpful to have all your shower goodies at eye level. The other thing I would reccomend, is having some comfy clothes readily available at eye level as well. I put stuff on top of the dresser so I can access it. You won't be able to pull and push for a while so opening heavy drawers might be a challenge. I would also take out one or two outfits acceptable to wear out in public. You'll feel noticeably better in about a week (at least I did) and you'll want to get out of the house, even if it's just for a walk or lunch. Be careful, don't push yourself. I felt really good and a couple times had to remind myself that I just had surgery! 6.5 weeks later I hit the gym. Nothing major but the eliptical for 40 minutes. Felt great.

You'll be a little tired after surgery and after a couple of weeks resting you'll tire very easily when you try to get back in the swing of things. You'll need to build up your stamina. Try to keep healthy snacks in the house if you can. DEFINITELY get a bunch of popcicles for when you first come home. Your throat will feel like you have strep for about a week thanks to the intibation tube and the retraction of your esophegus (sp). Ice chips, Ice cream, popcicles, soup and tea are good for the first few days at least. That was by far the worst part for me. If I think of anything else, I will be happy to share!!


This is great advice! My husband is hanging a 3 level acdf very soon. I googled preparing for it and got your discussion. Any more info or ideas would be great. Thank you!


Thank you. I found this very helpful. I am trying to find some information on recovery time. I know everyone is different, but I need to have two back surgeries, each 3-level fusions, cervical and lumbar and I have not seen any information on the spine web sites.