I am a 54 year old relatively healthy woman who has had 2 surgical opinions at prominent hospitals in Phila. One opinion came from a neuosurgeon who said my neck was so bad that he couldn't fix it all. The other was from an orthopedic cervical spine surgeon who is rated as one of the top 100 spine surgeons in the USA. He stated that I needed a laminectomy and fusion from the C3 - T1. I have weakness in my left arm that has led to muscle atrophy in my forearm. My right arm is beginning to show signs of weakening. My many MRIs indicated that I have 2 indentations pressing on my spinal cord, spinal stenosis as well as foraminal stenosis. I have also shown my reports to two neurologists. One indicated that I didn't need surgery right away while the most recent neurologist visited concurred with with my orthopedic spine surgeon. In fact, he emphasized that the surgery had to be done in the near future or I risked paralysis. This was the same opinion from the spinal surgeon. I have tried physical therapy, chiropractic work, massage, etc - all to no avail. Needless to say, I have scheduled the surgery for November 7th and I am terrified. The spinal doctor is extremely confident that all will be well. He told me that the operation will last approximately 3 hours and that he will use the bone taken from my vertebrae for the fusion. If he doesn't have enough, he said he would use cadaver bone. I will be in the hospital for 3 days following the surgery. All of this is going to be done from the back. I am so scared about having so many vertebrae done at one time. When I asked him if this was a common problem, he said no but that it was very common to him because patients with this type of problem come to him all the time. He is the chief of the Rothman Institute.
My question is has anyone had this many vertebrae done at one time? I keep worrying about becoming paralyzed from the operation. I'm also afraid about the recovery period if all goes well. Can someone out there steady my nerves and offer their experiences?
Thanks so much!
Last edited by ariz4me; 09-25-2011 at 08:24 PM.
Welcome to the board. You may want to post on the part of the board that mainly deals with cervical issues...the "Spinal Cord Disorders" section. The back board has more lumbar spineys and a few thoracic. However, I can say that I am glad to hear you're going to the Rothman Institute. You will get very good care there and can feel comfortable that you will have a surgeon who knows what he's doing.
Your surgery is big and most surgeons do not like to have to fuse that many levels, but, it is not unheard of. Unlike lumbar issues where paralysis is almost never an issue, the patient sometimes cannot afford to wait on surgery when the spinal cord is being compressed. A simple fall or bump in a parking lot could cause major problems. So I don't think you have much choice in whether you have surgery, or not. And I don't think you want to risk finding out the hard way that the ortho spine surgeon was "right" and the others were wrong in their diagnosis.
You may as well be honest with yourself and acknowledge that your recovery will probably be long and difficult. It will be VERY important to follow your surgeon's instructions perfectly -- no cheating and no getting in a hurry to do things before you are "given permission."
Your recovery will be longer than usual due to the many levels that are involved. I know you are worried about paralysis from the surgery, but I think you might have a greater chance of paralysis if you had no surgery at all. Don't worry about the recovery period. The first couple weeks are rough, but after that it can become boring, but isn't all that bad.
Stop in at the Spinal Cord board. You'll find folks there that can tell you from personal experience what you will go through. Good luck to you!
I did not have cervical fusion, but I am fused from T9-sacrum...so I have a longer fusion than you are looking at. It is a hard healing, but it can be done.
I was suppose to have three levels fused, but due to complications I ende up back in surgery and am now solidly fused. It was a long recovery period. It took me almost 6 months to get back to a normal enough schedule and life.
Do not worry about paralysis from the surgery. Worry about that if you DON"T have the surgery. If you follow your surgeon's orders after the srugery and are cautious about what you do, you will be fine. Some surgeons are now having their patients have physical therapy BEFORE they have the surgery and these folks feel that it has helped them with their healing. It might be something to inquire about.
You won't be left without meds for pain control. No surgeon wants their patients to try and recover without meds.
You will need someone to help you at home as you recover though. It is a major surgery and you will need support of family member or friend to help you get through the first few weeks of healing. As long as you have help, it will get easier and easier to get better...
Keep your chin up, you will do fine...