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Old 07-20-2006, 01:22 PM   #1
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ACDF success stories??

I posted a few weeks ago regarding ACD WITHOUT FUSION...

I have since been convinced- begrudgingly so- by 3 different doctors who perform minimally invasive surgeries- that my condition is too advanced for that type of procedure to work, and that a two level ACDF at
C5-6 and C6-7 is really my only option, short of living with the pain.

So- I am calling on all who have had successful ACDF's to give me some encouragement that it's the right thing to do.

I'm 38- not young, but not OLD- so I am really apprehensive about this procedure and what long term effects it'll have. It would be great to hear from anyone who is 5, 10 years post surgery and still feels it was a success.

Thanks

 
Old 07-20-2006, 01:51 PM   #2
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Well, I am 53 years young, and had 2 level ACDF on C5-6 and C6-7 in June of 2004 (2 years +).

I am about 99% of what I was when I was in my 30's. I am able to do most everything I want and am pain free. I take no medication.

This surgery was the best thing I ever did, after suffering for 20 years with degenerating and worsening pain. I was in terrible pain the last 18 months before the surgery.

Last edited by dennisgb; 07-20-2006 at 01:52 PM.

 
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Old 07-20-2006, 03:06 PM   #3
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Re: ACDF success stories??

thanks dennisgb, that's what I was hoping to hear...

anything that you wish you had done differently pre/post surgery?

 
Old 07-21-2006, 06:38 AM   #4
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Remember - most people who are successes tend to leave the board - except Dennis of course who hangs in there for the rest of us. I didn't have a choice of no surgery because my cord was compressed, but I did opt for laminectomy instead of ACDF because of some of the same concerns that you have (I was 47 when I had surgery 11 months ago). That said, I'm better, not perfect, but getting there - neuro problems take ALOT longer to heal than other parts of the body.

Dont be afraid of surgery (that said, yes we all were terrified pre-surgery).

-Gloria

 
Old 07-21-2006, 07:19 AM   #5
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Hi bw67,

I had ADCF 2/05 C 5-6 levels and the surgery itself solved my initial problems...pain in my neck turning left and right (looking over my shoulder) and numbness and tingling on my left arm and hand. I did develop problems about 6 months after my surgery....pain and tightness in my upper back (thoracic area) and in my neck. I've been on a roller coaster trying to figure out what the problem was...have done PT, MT, and accupuncture of sorts, though with electrodes attached to the needles all with no help, all they did was increase my pain and put into a constant flare up. My pain was not adquately being treated so I sought out PM and have been put on stronger LA meds. BTW, I had MRI's, spect scans, EMG, X-rays done all to rule out failed fusion and damage on any other levels....all turned out fine.

Finally, yesterday I had a facet injection at the C-3-4 levels and I really think this may be the answer, it's rather soon to tell but I feel so much better at this point that I'm extremely hopeful. The Dr that did the injection esplained that other areas begin to compensate around the new fused areas, so it makes total sense to me.

The number one thing that I would have done differently and think would have helped immensly is to have PT after my surgery. My DR was really low key about it....he said go if you want or not. Well I was feeling so good after the surgery that I thought I didn't need it....wrong. I honestly think that this last year of pain and suffering would have not happened if i had gone for a month or two just to keep the stretches and mobility.

Would I have the surgery again...yes...but I would definatley do the PT and maybe even MT as well.

JeanneO

 
Old 07-21-2006, 07:29 AM   #6
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Quote:
Originally Posted by bw67
thanks dennisgb, that's what I was hoping to hear...

anything that you wish you had done differently pre/post surgery?
The only thing I wished I done before surgery is had it sooner. I was afraid like everybody, and thus put it off as long as I could. The insurance companies and doctors help you with that course, as they want to avoid paying for it.

I will say my doctors watched pretty close over the years at the degeneration, and tested my arm strength a number of times, to determine progression.

After surgery, I was a model patient. I put it in my head that I would do everything the doctors and physical therapists asked me to do. I didn't want to mess it up or have to do it over again. I quit smoking 8 weeks before the surgery, because my surgeon told me that smoking reduces the chance for a good fusion. I did and learned all of the excercises I was given at PT, and still do them every other day (2 years out). I believe that this is a large part of my success. Being diligent in doing excercises isn't my strong suit. I got into a routine, and it only takes about 15 minutes in the morning anyway. The excercises have strengthened my neck and shoulder muscles and that helps support the head and take stress off of the c-spine. The excercises also loosen up the joints and keep the spasms and knots to a minimum.
I also have been more aware of my posture, although that one is tough. Sometimes I find myself going back to the old ways.

It's really important to keep a positive attitude and give yourself credit for the small milestones during recovery. It can become very depressing, as this is a slow process. It takes up to a year for the fusion to complete, and the first 3 months of recovery are pretty tough. I started to feel better at about 6 months...then 8 months was when I felt normal again.

I still have some very minor residual effects, such as a tingle in the tip of my index finger that comes only in certain positions. It's not painful. I'm sure it is nerve damage that will not repair.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the outcome.

Dennis

 
Old 07-21-2006, 07:35 AM   #7
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeanneO
The number one thing that I would have done differently and think would have helped immensly is to have PT after my surgery. My DR was really low key about it....he said go if you want or not. Well I was feeling so good after the surgery that I thought I didn't need it....wrong. I honestly think that this last year of pain and suffering would have not happened if i had gone for a month or two just to keep the stretches and mobility.
Jeanne,

As you will see in my post above, I had the PT after surgery, and continue to do the excercises to this day. I believe 100% that's why I have had such a good result.

You can go back to PT. Learn the excercises and do them at home. I will bet you will improve.

Dennis

 
Old 07-21-2006, 10:49 AM   #8
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Hi Dennis,

Unfortunately, I did try Pt and MT in the recent past but was a little too far gone at that point. But, I believe that since I got the injection yesterday that now I'll be able to handle the PT and MT and will probably have good results. I just needed to get the muscles to the point that they will respond in a positive way rather than go into "flare" mode and I think that the injection just might've done the trick

I was a bit angry at my Doc for not pushing the PT but if I would've used the brains that God gave me I would've just done it on my own and saved myself alot of pain.

I just hope at this point I can help someone else from making the same mistake as me!!!

JeanneO

 
Old 07-21-2006, 11:12 AM   #9
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Jeanne,

I have flare ups where the muscles spasm. Usually it's when I'm traveling and not able to do my excercises, because I can't carry my weights with me.

Most of the time I can get things to settle back down after a few days of excercise.

It's important to have a routine and stick to it. I can't emphasize that enough. Just going to PT for a few weeks won't help for the long run, you have to do it yourself. They are just training you how to take care of yourself.

If you go back to your doctor to get a referall, ask him to send you to someone that specializes in the neck. A general PT clinic doesn't nessesarily understand the excercises that will help you take stress off of the adjacent vertibrae.

Dennis

Last edited by dennisgb; 07-21-2006 at 11:13 AM.

 
Old 07-21-2006, 11:52 AM   #10
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Re: ACDF success stories??

thanks for all your comments guys-

since I made the post- one of the minimally invasive doctors called me from FLA this a.m. (I'm in Nashville). he feels that if I have the time and the $$$- he's in network, southwest has cheap flights- that it'd be worth my while to come down, have a discogram done and see if they can possibly help my pain WITHOUT fusion.

the mindset being if it works, then I've got a quicker recovery time, I've avoided the adjacent level theory, I've bought myself more time for options such as ADR to develop, and would STILL have the fusion option long term if it didn't.

any thoughts??

thanks

bw67

 
Old 07-21-2006, 01:19 PM   #11
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Re: ACDF success stories??

BW,

Why can't you have the discogram done in Nashville and sent down to him?

I had one done before my surgery. They do them all over the place.

It'd be cheaper.

Dennis

 
Old 07-21-2006, 02:44 PM   #12
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Re: ACDF success stories??

My story isn't much different than the others. I had herniations at C4-C7 with nerve or root bed compression. I had severe shoulder, arm and hand pain with numbness on both sides which did not respond to medications or therapy. I had my ACDF about 3 or so years ago and it was an instant success. I woke up completely pain free of the symptoms that I had previously. I continued to be pain free for quite some time until an unfortunate accident occured which resulted in broken screws etc..

If I had to have the surgery again I would do it in a heart beat. The pain that occured prior to the sugery was beyond belief and I can't for a minute imagine suffering in that way again. Historically speaking ACDF's are often very successful compared to other spine surgeries and quite safe. Just be sure you have a good qualified doctor and ask lots of questions in regards to post op proceedures, pain control and therapy.

To be honest the minimally evasive proceedures have not been out that long and from what I've read they are not that sucessful compared to the traditional ACDF's. I honestly wouldn't trust one because they do appear to be more on an experimental level at this time.

For what it's worth I didn't have a discogram, the MRI indicated there was enough damage to deem the ACDF so we went ahead with that instead. The entire process took about 4 to 5 months from the inital diagnosis (there was a misdiagnoses in between then and an uneccessary surgery of the shoulder because I only had shoulder and arm pain, no neck pain)

Good luck!
Barb

 
Old 07-21-2006, 08:36 PM   #13
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Re: ACDF success stories??

Dennis-

I asked about having the test done here in TN and the results sent to the doctor in FL. They said they prefer to do the test themselves so they can interpret the results directly rather than relying on an outside parties' opinion.

It's not a big deal for me, as I can fly down there for roughly $100 or so on Southwest right now. I also have family that live 10 minutes from the doctor's practice so I've got a free place to stay too.

I've already got a list of questions going- I'm going to call them back Monday and get some more clarification before making a final decision.

Even if I go down there, have the test and they determine they really can't help me, then worst case I'm out a couple hundred $$$, I got to visit family and maybe even got to squeeze in a couple hours at the beach...

I'll keep you "posted". Thanks again to all who have posted here. It really is comforting to have this outlet...

BW

 
Old 07-21-2006, 10:26 PM   #14
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Re: ACDF success stories??

I had the same level ACDF (C5-C7) on 5/18/06 so I am just about 9 weeks post-op . When I woke up in the recovery room the radiating pain down my left arm was gone . The week before my surgery I was thankful I was in pain - it made it much easier to handle having the surgery. I know that sounds funny but if I had been symptom free I might have had more fear.

I have more range of motion (left - right) than I thought I would at this point. I avoided driving for 6 weeks and just this week feel more comfortable driving.

By biggest mistake was just sitting at home for 6 weeks post-op and only leaving the house 3 times (2 doctors visits and 1 visit to a friend). I told my surgeon this week that I only wish I had made my husband walk me to the end of the block and back each evening when he got home. I returned to work at 6 weeks post-op and the walk from my parking space to the front door of the building was the most I had done in 6 weeks. Thus I worked about 4 hours a day the first week, would be exhausted and go home. The second week 6 hours a day and now I'm back to relatively full time.

My doctor did prescribe a cervical collar to wear 24 hours a day for the first 6 weeks (except for showering). That was tough to get comfortable in and I didn't sleep too well during the 6 weeks . Don't be afraid to let your doctor know any problems or symptoms you are still having after the surgery. My doctor was able to provide me prescriptions that aided the sleeping a bit. The doctor can only help you if he/she knows what it is you are experiencing.

In fact I saw my doctor at 4 weeks post op and was supposed to again see him at 3 months. But, I may be changing jobs so I wanted him to assess where I was at 9 weeks. I was afraid that the neck fatigue like pain I was having was too much and that I wasn't recovering well . I found that each day when I got home I needed the pain medication. I saw him yesterday and he said that in fact I was doing fine, was able to prescribe a non-narcotic medication so I could take it at work, and simply explained that now that C5-C7 are fused my neck muscles have to function differently and all I'm doing every day is training them to do their new job.

So at 9 weeks can I really say I am a success? Not yet, but I can say that the recovery process has been relatively smooth and has gone by much more quickly than I thought it would . I had far less throat discomfort and far less neck pain than I had imagined. I too was very worried about the ACDF since it is so permanent and changes you physically. But thus far I can tell that I don't have the same symptoms I had pre-op. Rarely do I get remnants of the nerve pain and radiating and the doctor this week said that's normal when I told him it is when I overdo it or feel I've overused the muscles. The muscles get tense and affect the nerves.

If there's anything else I can share with you let me know. I am so glad I found this board and am glad to share my experience if it makes you any more at ease going into this.

Karin
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Fusions: L5-S1 (87), L4-S1 (93), C5-C7 ('06), L3-S1 ('10)
C5-C7 foraminotomy 08

Last edited by SpineAZ; 07-21-2006 at 10:29 PM.

 
Old 07-23-2006, 05:18 PM   #15
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Re: ACDF success stories??

I had ACDF surgery on may 3,2006. I had severely compressed spinal cord resulting in numbness throughout my body, mounting pain level, and balance issues. After almost three months I am virtually pain free from the surgery, my left arm numbness is receding, and my constant limp has dissapeared. Success? Hell yes! I feel the most important part of my recovery was a dedicated walking program along with physical therapy. starting a week after surgery I would take a couple of pain pills every evening, let them do there thing, and then a nice slow flat walk around the neighborhood with my sweetheart. It can be a real nice time in your life to be healing up and looking to the future. I still do the walks, but now I am also going through physical therapy, which I feel is important to build up all of the muscles I let go prior to surgery.

 
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