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Old 12-31-2006, 04:02 AM   #1
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Smile Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Hey there,

Well it's 3:30 am, and I think I may need some help here. I met with my doctor to go over my MRI results that were taken about three weeks earlier, and was told that I have a ruptured C5/C6 disc. The ďSurgeryĒ word came up and took me by surprise. I am supposed to meet with the Ortho and Neurologist in two weeks, but I donít know where to start and what to ask. The surgery would have to be done through the front of the neck, not the back???? I am so very thankful my wife flew down to meet the doctors with me, as I think I turned as pale white as the bed sheets when I heard the news.

My problems started when I had a fall about a year ago, needless to say the china did not break. The pain started off as mild, running from my left shoulder blade right down to my foot. Eventually this progressed to near debilitating pain, and would usually flare up at the most inopportune of times, sometimes once a day, sometimes more. I had to be really careful back then when picking up my son Ė heís 11 months old today. I was told then that I most likely had a pinched nerve, and this would eventually clear up. Well, the flare-ups arenít as frequent, but they still happen.

Most nights I canít sleep for more than an hour straight, because of the pain in my shoulder and arm. Sometimes I wake up and my arm is asleep, like I laid on it all night. Eventually the feeling comes back, but it scares me. Iíve also lost the range of motion in my neck; turning or bending the wrong way usually results in immediate tingling or needle poking down my arm to my finger tips.

My wife also talked to the doctor about these head twitches that I have; sheís noticed them too now for quite some time. I guess the damaged side of the disc is right against a group of nerves.

The last go around with the doctors felt more like a blur, and Iíd like to be a little bit more focused this time around. From what I understand, part of the disk may heal but I'm always going to have these problems unless I have the surgery. It sounded something along the lines of a disection (sp?). I am going to ask for an MRI for my lower back as well, as I do have concerns that something is out of wack "back" there.

Any thoughts or advice you might be able to share would be much appreciated.

Thanks and have a great new year.

 
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Old 12-31-2006, 10:08 AM   #2
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

I think what you are referring to is a DISKECTOMY. That is where they take the whole disk out and either put in an artificial disk or add some type of bone and fuse the levels together. (more common). I am in fact having this in Jan. at C5-6 and C6-7. I have the numbness too, in my hands at night, especially. I have heard on here that the longer you have nerve damage, the harder it is to rectify it later. That may happen to me since I have had this for 5 yrs. You sound like you have alot of neurological symptoms, unfortunately, which may need surgery to alleviate the nerve impingement. If you do research....try Googling ACDF (anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion). By the way, going thru the back (posterior) is MUCH more serious that the front (anterior). I thought the same as you until I researched and found out that its much easier thru the front. The disks are much more accessible from the front.

 
Old 12-31-2006, 10:11 AM   #3
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

I think I spelled diskectomy wrong. It should be DISCECTOMY.

 
Old 12-31-2006, 11:25 AM   #4
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Thank you so much for your help. I am definitely going to be spending a lot of time researching this, and learning as much as I can. Are there any other treatments or injections that I could or should also look into first??? I am starting a new job in the new year, and really can't afford to be off for two long. How long does the recovery take after a discectomy?

I have not been on any pain medications or types of treatment for this since all this happened, but I would like more than anything else to get a good nights sleep.

I hope everything goes well for you in January, and again, thank you.

 
Old 12-31-2006, 01:16 PM   #5
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Frosticle: There are injections called STEROID EPIDURALS. Some people get alot of relief from them, if most of their pain is from disk problems. My trouble was that I had disk AND facet joint (joints in the neck) issues. Many times people with disk degeneration, which I have no idea if you have that or not....I do.....get the facet joint degeneration, too. You must just have a bulging or herniated disk without a ton of other complications. You might have a pinched nerve that the disk is pressing on. Definitely get an MRI because that is the best way to know the whole scoop.
My surgeon makes my surgery sound like a piece of cake. Maybe he should have it, too...then? LOL. I would venture to guess that at least half the people on this board had the ACDF surgery. I am sure people will reply to any question you ask about it. I will certainly keep the board posted after my surgery. (which I BETTER find out the date soon, cos I am going nuts, already). I have been waiting since Nov. (5 weeks to see the surgeons, then all this blizzard postponement. Alot of times when I see that person posted about the ACDF surgeon....I do a search on their previous posts to see what their deal is. That has been tremendously helpful. Keep one thing in mind (I CERTAINLY am trying to).....people tend to post on these boards when they are having difficulties, so the negativity can really seem overwhelming, as far as reading people's complications. Periodically someone posts their positive stories. (yea BOB!) Keep asking questions!

 
Old 12-31-2006, 01:18 PM   #6
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

I swear I am so senile. I never learn my lesson and proofread. I meant to say SURGERY, not SURGEON.

 
Old 12-31-2006, 01:56 PM   #7
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Thanks SKZ,

I was kind of left with the same impression from my doctor that this would be a fairly common procedure. So, it looks like I have a lot of reading to do now into the epidurals. Are they a walk in day type of procedure?

We just learned a few months ago that my mom has DDD in her lumbar area, stenosis, bulging disks, and other complications from osteo-arthristis. I'm still learning as to what all that means, but apparently it explains the chronic pain she'd had for the last 15 years, and she's only 55 years young. Her father also had chronic back problems, and 2 hip replacements. So, I think I am starting to see a trend here...... but it still doesn't account for my hair loss and I'm only 31 y.o. LOL

 
Old 12-31-2006, 03:09 PM   #8
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

All my stuff started when I was 45. I am now about to turn 51.
The steroid epidurals are real easy. I went to an outpatient surgical center. They gave me an I.V. and then I went into "conscious sedation" which means I have no memory of anything. I woke up and it felt like I was under general anesthesia without all the side effects. It was a piece of cake for me. Every injection I ever had was very easy and painless.

 
Old 12-31-2006, 09:29 PM   #9
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Going thru the front of the neck is more practical than going thru the back. If they go thru the back its a lot more complicated because then they have to cut thru major muscle, which makes it longer to heal, plus the process just to get to the disc is seemingly a lot more involved.

 
Old 01-01-2007, 12:02 PM   #10
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlDoves
Going thru the front of the neck is more practical than going thru the back.
If I am not mistaken, to do a discectomy, the only way is to go from the front, as the spinaal cord is in the way from the back... I believe all that is done from the back are surgeries to remove vertebral material, to give the spinal cord more room, if need be....

 
Old 01-02-2007, 01:55 PM   #11
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Hi there, (long reply

I am sorry to hear about your health issues (also to those who responded as well).

I too had ruptured discs at those same levels. I also had numbness in my hands and kept dropping things...

My first surgery was in 2001. They went in throught the front, used MY own hip bone, but NO metal plates or screws....I was in a hard collar for 3 months, PT for 2 months, and the recover was a loooonnnnggg one Couldnt' drive, go out much, didn't sleep much........

That being said, this was the head of Orthopaedic surgery at Georgetown Hospital in DC and the head Neurosurgoens were the one's who performed the surgery and I didn't think to get lots of other opinions.....

I was pain "less than before" for about 2 years then symptoms started. Mostly pain and lots of it...In my neck and right shoulder. It was awful and kept me from sleeping and doing daily activities....I didn't, however, have the numbness. So, by this time I had a different insurance company with different Dr.s and they just sent me to a Pain Mgmt. specialist who kept "dismissing" it as just a muscle spasm and only would give Percocet 5mg. No PT....No offer of epidurals....Nothing.....

I felt like I was going crazy and they kept saying....you had the surgery....you should be better!!! Well....We all know our bodies and our own pain!

Finally, after almost a year and a half!!! They ordered an MRI and saw that the fusion NEVER held and the bone just disappeared....It's called being "resorbed" back into your own bone...So, my vertebrae was collapsed and pinching nerves...Plus, from wearing the hard collar for so long before, I could not lessen my right shoulder pain for anything...It actually is "out of place" in a way and you can see that it moves totally different from the left. Almost pops out of place all the time.....I just wanted anyone to help with the pain....as you know...it's exhausting!!!

Well, the "friend" of my pain mgmt. Dr. recommened this particular Neurosurgeon to do another surgery. That was my "big" mistake as they were both awful...they treated me so badly and I was stuck.....


I don't know about you all, but I am a 38 year old woman who has strong opinions, can talk to anyone, always holds my ground....but when I get in front of a male "dr." sometimes...and when I am hurting SO badly....I somehow feel inferior.....like I have trouble speaking up.....like I feel at their mercy.....like I am some person begging for medicine....instead of begging to be in less pain (that's the way THEY see it).....

Anyway, this Dr. did the surgery in Dec. 2005. Went in from the front, used DONOR bone, and metal plates and screws. I had a hard collar for a week than soft for 2 weeks. He wouldn't even give me anything for pain the day I left the hospital...He says, "even I don't take a tylenol for a headache"..AHHHH...so. That was one of the worst Christmas' ever since I was in agony and even worse than before the surgery. I just knew that it didn't go right since I was in so much pain. It turns out the plates and screws were moving with every movement of my neck.

The first of the year (2006) I found my now, greatest Dr.s in the world They are at the VA. Spine Institute in Reston, Va. They are the most caring, understading, and professional Dr.s I have ever met. They have some of the newest techniques which are amazing.

They immediately did X-rays, an MRI, and other tests and found that the surgery failed and that the bone did not fuse again. Now, normally the only reason this would happen is because of smoking. This causes most non-fusions...But, I don't and have never smoked so they were perplexed. My new Dr. was very upset at my previous treatment and said that the surgeon made a lot of mistakes.

Since my new Dr. did not want to rush right into another surgery. I went to their Pain Mgmt. Dr. as part of their practice. He is a God send as well. Treats me so nicely and listens as well as helps me devise a "plan" that is just for me. What I want to accomplish in my every day. This includes not only pain medicine, but PT, and other modalities. That's what I love about them. Not just medicine, but they aren't afraid of it either.

Well, fast forward to November after trying everything they could to help without doing surgery. All the time giving me medicine to make me be as comfortable as possible. They finally said that another surgery would be my only choice at trying to repair all the damage.

This time, my Dr. went in from the FRONT and the BACK. No collar at allPT for 2 months to help with muscle strength. Normally, like everyone has said, they will only go in from the front. Easier and less painful. They went in and took out the bad metal and screws, took out what was less of the donor bone, shaved my own bone and then put in a cage filled with a sponge with BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protien). This is new since 2002. It mimics your own protien that grows bone. Then he put plates and screws on 3 levels to help support my neck. Then turned me over, cut through the back of my neck (3 inches long vertically) and put metal rods and screws on 2 levels for support as well.

He told me that the back one would "kick my butt" which it did. There was A LOT of pain involved in that incision site and it's going to take time for that to heal and get back to normal.

I feel very blessed because it is now Jan. 2nd and I have less pain than in the last 3 years!!!! It's amazing. My scars are healing quickly and the best part is the horrible shoulder pain is gone. The Dr. said that he actually made me a few cm. taller That has seemed to help get my muscles to where they were originally.

Sorry for such a long message but wanted to share my experience and would be glad to answer and questions the "newbies" to surgery have.

Please keep in mind that every "body" is different but a positive (or God filled) attitude goes a LONG way to a recovery.

Planning for your surgery and recovery at home is crucial. Getting friends and/or family to help out is a MUST. Lots of good movies to watch, books to read, IPOD to listen to. People to help out with meals for you (soups at first with a sore throat usually) but maybe food for your family since it helps YOU feel better knowing they are fed. I have a wonderful church family that is a blessing and always there to help so use that if you can.

Making your "healing place" in your home a sanctuary is so helpful.

I also asked for Ambien to help with my sleep and this made a WORLD of difference. I didn't do this my other surgeries and this time, getting good, solid sleep was AMAZING!!!!It not only helps your mood but body.

I also have been on Cymbalta for 2 years and even though I've never been diagnosed with depression and they gave it to me for the nerve pain. I am staying on it since living with chronic pain can definitely affect your mood and this helps me stay happy and positive. I find this medicine to not make you too sleepy, hungry, or have many negative side effects. But you need to find what works for you but I believe that an antideppresant is good for all CPers to help us stay "mentally healthy" as well.

I also recommend getting up and walking, even for a few minutes as soon as you can each day after your surgery. This helps you not have sore muscles elsewhere.


Ok, I've gone on enough.

Please make sure that they have done EVERYTHING they can do before they go to surgery. There are lots of cases where it just takes time to heal and can get much better with other treatments...epidural shots, or other methods. You never want to be with a Dr. who is afraid of medicine or that it's all they want to do. Find someone who cares about YOU and what you want for your life and level of activity. Don't ever be rushed into surgery.\!

We all have to be realistic about the level of pain and what we can "deal" with. Like Shoreline says, 50% reduction is AMAZING when it comes to chronic pain and problems with our spines.....

I will pray for everyone's upcoming surgeries and those that are living with pain.

Blessings,
Ingy

 
Old 01-02-2007, 08:25 PM   #12
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Many of us here have had the surgery through the front (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) of various levels. You should be able to find a wealth of information on the procedure or similar procedures (cervical discectomy without fusion),
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Old 01-03-2007, 02:28 PM   #13
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

I had 2 level ACDF with plate/screws on 11/30/2006 in Gainesville, FL. Was in Aspen collar for 3 weeks 24/7 and now have to wear a bone stimulator for several months. I have found on these boards that different doctors have different ideas. There are several good spine sites on the internet. I read and read and the doctor recommended one that I had already been reading. Sometimes reading and knowing too much is not good but I am a need to know type. It did help in knowing what to expect. I also found a terrific brochure from a group in of all places Melbourne Australia that gave a step by step following for post surgery. I still am referring to it to verify that I am in the right stage of recovery. According to my research about 250,000 ACDFs are done in the US each year. My neuro told me he does 4 to 5 per week. That is one thing I did research alot neuro vs ortho. Neuro wins hands down for surgery on my spine or any area adjacent. Alot of the outcome/recovery time for this surgery depends on attitude and mental/anxiety state. It is very important to pretty much do absolutely nothing for a number of weeks so that your bone will fuse. Walking is highly recommended but lifting anything more than 5 miles is highly discouraged. Hope this helps. My understanding is that the longer surgery is put off the more nerve damage that can occur.

 
Old 01-03-2007, 02:30 PM   #14
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

On lifting I meant 5 pounds. Where did 5 miles come from? I'd like to see any of us lift 5 miles even a year after surgery..... lol.

 
Old 01-03-2007, 03:44 PM   #15
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Re: Newbie Here... Looking for Advice, Have a Ruptured C6

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melindafm
That is one thing I did research alot neuro vs ortho. Neuro wins hands down for surgery on my spine or any area adjacent.
We've had this discussion about neuro vs ortho a number of times on this site.

It is more about experience and ability than the type of surgeon.

My 2 level ACDF was done on 06/31/04 by an orthopedic spine specialist, and I have had a complete recovery with absolutely no pain. I do things I haven't been able to do for many years. The surgeon who did my surgery also teaches at the Mayo Clinic and a major university in my state. He has written numerous articles and published works on techniques on ACDF surgery. He has been part of significant studies for improvements in this surgery including the use of bone growth hormones in ACDF surgery which I was part of.

This is not about the ability to deal with the nerves only. Most of the problems that are rectified by ACDF are mechanical. Orthopedic spine surgeons are just as qualified as nerosurgeons, in some cases more so.

You might want to do a search here on the subject.

Dennis

 
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