I had my first consult with a surgeon for my severe spinal stenosis c5-6. He said I need surgery ASAP (one-level ACDF) due to severe spinal cord compression with osteophyte, bad herniated disc, signal change, hoffmann's sign, etc. He seemed like a great surgeon - he is the head of the spine institute at a top hospital. The date they gave me is less than 2 weeks away! I told them that I have a 2nd opinion set up for next week and then I would make my decision. I was kind of shocked at the rapidity of it all, but my MRI pictures which he showed me are AWFUL looking.
The good news is that he thinks I can go back to playing tennis one day, etc. He says NO collar after surgery and 3 weeks to be back to work. He said I cannot wait until the artificial disc gets approval - that this is TOO urgent.
I will see what the other dr. says next week, but I am both feeling so shocked as well as relieved to get this done.
You are having one level done which is pretty common and often an easy proceedure compared to multiple levels. I was in the same situation as you in that my surgery was an urgent rush but I had 4 levels compressing my spinal cord. I had used donar bone and no brace. I did fine as do most individuals. Any surgery carries a risk regardless of what that proceedure is.
The first week is the toughest but if you keep up with your pain medications and be sure to use loads of ice the first through days you'll be just fine.
Personally I wouldn't use the new artificial disks at this point in time. There is not enough significant data over long term to prove they are effective or safe. Many individuals who had them done in their lumbar are now reporting problems with them. From what I understand is that the artificial replacement is permanent and can not be removed even if it does malfunction. I certainly wouldn't put myself at risk.
No matter how great your illness or pain, there's always someone else who may be worse off.