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New here & first post - question re: cervical anterior discectomy w/ fusion

Started by moodycreator on 05/26/2010 2:33am

Provided I get through all the pre-screening, I'm scheduled to have a disk removed on June 9. According to my surgeon, this is supposed to be a "simple" procedure that will take less than an hour, and I will go home that same day. He will be removing the disk between c5-c6, then putting a spacer in it's place, along with some hardware. Naturally I'm terrified of the entire idea of this process and the possible complications, especially the part where it's said that not all surgeries of this type are successful. I know that no surgery is guaranteed 100% effective, but this one seems frightening for a number of reasons.

The pre-screening I'm doing now is all routine, and although my surgeon is aware of my other health problems, I can't help but worry that my other conditions could wind up making this even more difficult than "normal" for me at every stage. I'm hoping that anyone with any knowledge or experience might weigh in here and give me some honest feedback.

First, my other health concerns include another injury with chronic pain to my right hip and low back, so I'm worried that this pain will either make my surgery pain even worse, or that it will extend my recovery time and need for pain medication beyond what the surgeon would usually expect (he says "possibly" but that we can deal with the low back once the neck is "fixed").

I also have a number of health issues aside from my neck/back/hip problems. I have carpal tunnels in both wrists, GI problems, and among those I have GERD, gastroparesis and an esophogeal stricture. No medications have been found to help me with the GP at all.

I'm also a psychiatric patient, and I have the brain disease bipolar 1 disorder (with episodic psychosis), general anxiety disorder (GAD) including panic attacks, PTSD, ADHD, along with many phobias, including claustrophobia. I'm already panicking over the idea of having to wear a collar and worrying that I might find myself in a state of constant anxiety and the feeling of being strangled. I've made my surgeon and my other doctors (primary, neorologist, psychiatrist, pain specialist and GI) aware of all of the above (and everything I haven't listed here too). All seem to agree, and I hope it's the case, that I can still be a candidate for this surgery. None have warned that I might experience any added difficulties because of my other Dxs, and the surgeon doesn't seem worried at all, nor does my PCP.

Here's what I can't stop thinking anyway -
1. My claustrophobia and having to wear that collar.
2. I also think that having to wear the collar may temporarily worsen my agoraphobia that leaves me incapable of being in public or even leaving my house (I'm otherwise generally a very social person who loves people, but I'm like "Jeckyll and Hyde" when I have "spells".
3. My espophogeal stricture was stretched about a year ago, and is mostly okay, even though I do still have problems with swallowing on occasion. I always feel nauseas after surgery or any type of anesthesia (even "twilight sleep") and nearly always throw up most of the day afterwards, sometimes longer. I'm terrified of this prospect every time, but with this neck surgery the fear is all the worse because of the incision being in my neck.
4. Admittedly, and unpopularly, I'm a smoker. I've smoked about a pack every 1-2 days for over 30 yrs, but there are times when I literally chain smoke for days at a time when I'm overly stressed or unable to control the various states of my bipolar illness. This is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, if ever.
5. I'm a migraine sufferer, and have been since the age of 17, long before my neck and spine were injured.
6. I have a seizure disorder.

I realize that just these things alone make it sound like I'm trying to talk myself out of surgery, or find a reason not to have it now. That's not what this is though. I worry that perhaps I'm not a good candidate for it, in spite of what the drs say, and if this was something I found out after the fact rather than before, it would be devastating. I need my bad news to come right up front whenever that's possible, which is why I'm asking here.

The truth is - I have to have this surgery if I have any hope of ever ending the constant pain and misery that I'm in from these injuries. I already have cervical spondylosis along with the disk herniations (in both my cervical and lumbar spine). I've been in agony with my pain for 5 years now, and the conservative approaches have not worked for me at all, other than whatever relief I can get through my pain meds, but even those don't always help. Sometimes they don't even take the edge off. I desperately DO want to have this surgery if the chances are better than not that it will help me, but I am worried that my additional health problems and concerns might actually make my particular recovery and prognosis worse. My dr's seem doubtful of that, but I'm a little paranoid that they may be just telling me what they think I want to hear, or telling me what's easiest for them to say in order to seem "optimistic". I want to know the whole truth.

Extreme fears right now -
1. that i will be extremely sick after surgery with the usual sore and swollen throat, along with my usual nausea (and vomiting afterwards).
2. the whole deal with having to wear that collar. I told my psych just yesterday that I have panic attacks just thinking about it.
3. that the anesthesia wont take hold and work like it should (it's happened to me twice before...i still have nightmares about it)/
4. that the actual recovery time will be a lot longer than what i'm being told to expect
5. that i'll end up with an enormous scar and hideous bruising that doesn't go away
6. that my "outpatient" surgery will turn into something that's very NOT outpatient and I'll wind up stuck in the hospital alone. I live about 100 miles from the hospital where my surgery has to be performed. Right now my boyfriend/partner has it worked out to travel with me, then stay home with me for the first week after. I'm scared of being trapped in the hospital, or stuck at home alone too soon with nobody to help me.

Am I crazy to even consider this surgery? Because I REALLY want it if it will help my neck. I'm not sure how much longer I can take it if I don't, since I've pretty much exhausted the other, non-invasive approaches. Still, I'd rather not go through all of this if any, or a combination of the above would give any other doctor pause. It would be so great if anyone out there has had any experience that involves these other kinds of health issues, who HAS had the surgery.

Sorry this post is so long.

Thank you.

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1 Response



The anxiety is normal. I've got similiar diseases, fears, and problems you do... I think when it comes right down to it, you have the normal fears and problems alot of us here have.
You said you have exhausted all other options, but how many surgeons have you been to see? How many second opinions?
I too get sick after surgery, have esphogial dysfunction, have seizure disorder, long time migraine sufferer, and (up until the 14th when I was admitted into the hospital for pnemonia) a heavy smoker for 25 years. I'm a little in shock that they want to do surgery just for the simple fact that you smoke. Alot of surgeons won't touch you until you have been smoke free for atleast 6 months because of someone's opinion that smokers don't heal well after any kind of back/neck surgery. I still have that crave...oh boy I need one now, but I can't breathe to do it and the COPD evidence in my latest CT scan scares me.
Do you drink alot of caffiene? I'm wondering because that was a major problem for me after hysterectomy....they didn't give me my fix of starbuck's doubleshots or even a pepsi. I was sicker than sick for three days because of the tobacco and caffiene withdrawals. But they didn't read my pre-op papers to know how much I drank caffiene and how much I smoked every day. A patch and a shot of caffiene might have allieviated alot of it. Don't know. I was soo sick this last time in the hospital that I didn't need anything for my addictions....

I better get off this thing...it's only 3am, sleep may come??

Keep in touch! My prayers are with you!