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    Old 03-19-2016, 05:09 AM   #1
    derek527
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    Acdf

    I have an upcoming ACDF surgery on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016. I'm a bit nervous and reading about swallowing complications, voice issues, etc. is quite concerning, but like most facing this surgery, the prospect of not having it done just doesn't seem to be an option for me.

    I hurt my neck about 25 years ago by hitting something the wrong way. It was an arcade game with a punching platform. I've had issues with my neck ever since. For years, my symptoms were a variety of neck pains and a sort of dizziness or spacey sort of feeling. It wasn't constant, but would come and go for months at a time throughout the year. I went to a series of doctors two separate times, once around the time it just happened and about 4 years later. I ended up being told different things. One said I had degenerative disk disease, another said I had a slightly bulging disk, another arthritis and another said they found nothing at all. One even had me take a psych test, presuming it was all in my head. Of those that recognized I had a bulging disk, they said it wasn't bad enough to operate. I gave up on doctors after that and only recently decided to try again.

    After about 15 years I moved from TN to Austin, TX and my symptoms pretty much went away completely. I guess it was the heat or dryness, I'm still unsure. I ended up moving back to a different part of TN 3 years later and the issues returned, but not quite as severely ... until recently. About 3 years ago, I started having severe pain in my arm that felt like a pinched nerve. It went away eventually, perhaps after about 3-4 months. This winter, however, I started having similar issues but in the opposite arm. Severe pain, tingling, numbness, burning, weakness ... I guess the classic radiculopathy symptoms. I went into an orthopedic practice and they found I had 3 bulging discs in my neck, two of which were worse than the other. After a referral to a surgeon, I'm now scheduled for surgery. Hopefully I'll be one of those cases where nothing goes wrong and I'm back here years later telling everyone I don't regret anything and feel perfectly normal. I will be having 2 disks removed with fusion. I'm pretty nervous about what happens from here.

    Last edited by derek527; 03-19-2016 at 05:13 AM.

     
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    Old 03-19-2016, 08:44 AM   #2
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    Do what you can to find a way to calm yourself before the surgery. If you know any relaxation techniques, imploy them now. It actually makes the surgery go better if the patient is relaxed as they go into surgery. It is easier for the anesthesiologist to do the job as heartbeat and respiration are more even and stable, etc.

    The first week is usually difficult for most people. Keep in mind that the muscles, soft tissue and deep stitches all take six weeks to heal. You will want to carefully protect your neck to avoid hurting what the surgeon has done.

    During that time you will want to limit lifting to the weight of a gallon of milk. Avoid any repetitious movement and twisting of the neck. Drink lots of fluids. It is very important to eat plenty of protein as the body needs extra to grow new bone cells. Even if your appetite has diminished or your throat is sore, up your intake of protein-rich drinks...maybe stock up on some things like Ensure over the weekend so you are ready.

    While at the store also stock up on things that help to avoid constipation...high fiber fruits and vegetables, prunes, blueberries and their juices, etc. General anesthetic and pain medications tend to cause constipation so be prepared ahead of time.

    Be prepared to feel fatigue for quite awhile post surgery -- four to six months is not unusual.

    Good luck and keep a positive attitude!

     
    Old 03-20-2016, 04:12 AM   #3
    teddybearhugs
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    Re: Acdf

    Your story is quite similar to mine... in the respect of different Doctors having different opnions etc... I have problems with several discs in my neck, and C5/6 was the worst a few years ago... I had a discectomy and fusion... and was petrified before surgery, but I needn't have worried, I came round, feeling fine.. I did for a little while have a feeling like something was stuck in my throat, (it wasn't at all bad as such, just like a large soft kind of crumb really) but it cleared up on its own after a short while.
    My symptoms improved after surgery, and without it, I don't know what would have happened as my spinal cord was being compressed, they told me, surgery at that point was the only option, anyways.
    I am looking now at more at C3, as that disc was a problem then too, but not as bad, and now it has got worse.

    It is natural to feel concerned, but these Doctors do this kind of surgery all the time, and I can say hand on heart now, my surgery was nowhere near anything I had conjured up in my head beforehand.

    I have had quite a lot of surgery in the past 3 years on other parts of my body, and I do get nervous before ops. What I do, beforehand, is use relaxtion music and let my mind wander off to somewhere really nice... Just before my neck surgery, I had to have all of my teeth removed under a general anaesthetic (due to periodonatal gum disease). I had always had OCD about my teeth fearing losing just one, so losing them all, was the hardest thing I have ever faced... but I did it...

    I wish you all the very best x

     
    Old 03-24-2016, 06:30 PM   #4
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    It's March 24th, two days after my surgery. Unfortunately I was still a bit out of it when my doctor came in to check on me, so I didn't really get to ask any questions, but he said the procedure went great.

    I now understand what people mean about the swallowing problems. I was thinking people meant some have issues where the swallowing muscles don't work or something, but I'm now guessing people just mean it's very sore/painful to swallow. I'm definitely having issues swallowing, but not worried now that I understand it's just about pain/soreness.

    The one thing I am worried about, even though I've already been told to expect this, is that I still have the same radiculopathy symptoms ... pain in my shoulder, tingling, my thumb falls asleep, etc. in fact, it's a bit worse. I haven't been able to sleep in a bed yet because for some reason lying back makes my arm really hurt. I'm sleeping in a recliner, but I can't lean too far back without the pain. My first thought was "what if he didn't get the right disks!" I'm sure he did, but I was expecting some immediate relief and it hasn't been quite that yet.

     
    Old 03-25-2016, 08:20 PM   #5
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    March 25th, still having a lot of arm pain. My doctor called in a prescription for gabapentin, some sort of nerve pain medicine. I'll be taking that tonight. I'm hoping this gets better.

    Last edited by derek527; 03-25-2016 at 08:21 PM.

     
    Old 03-25-2016, 10:16 PM   #6
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    I have only had lumbar spine surgeries, not cervical, so I am not sure whether symptoms from radiculopathy resolve any sooner...but I can certainly assure you that you are very early in recovery and that nerves recover very, very slowly. Occasionally people wake up from surgery and their nerve pain is gone...but I think it happens less often than people are led to believe! If a nerve has been badly compressed there may be some degree of damage that will linger on. You just have to wait and see as there is no crystal ball to predict what will happen.

    There are a couple reasons why you may be feeling more pain or some pain in a different location. We tend to think of spine surgery being a very delicate operation, but, in reality, it can be a bit violent. Sometimes a nerve is tugged on to free it up. Nerves are easily irritated and do not respond well to being touched, let alone tugged on. Also, you no doubt have some inflammation going on that may be pressing into a nerve...as that goes down, the pain will lessen or go away. If not, the surgeon can give you a short course of an oral steroid.

     
    Old 03-26-2016, 04:18 AM   #7
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    Thank you very much for the encouragement. It's definitely comforting to know its not abnormal at this stage.

    As far as steroids, I actually am on a steroid pack now. I think I have another few days of it (my wife has been helping me keep track of when to take stuff).

     
    Old 03-26-2016, 09:26 AM   #8
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    Be sure to drink lots of fluids and take short, frequent walks throughout the day. Very helpful to have someone keeping track of which meds to take when. Stay positive. Progress may be slow, but you will heal eventually.

     
    Old 03-29-2016, 06:50 AM   #9
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    I thought I'd post another update. It's day 7 after surgery. Things have improved with my sleeping. I was finally able to sleep in the bed last night without significant discomfort. I slept in the bed the night before, but I woke up from arm pain every few hours. Still getting numbness off and on throughout the day, my neck always seems unrelaxed and tense and still have a bit of swallowing discomfort (though it seems to get a little better every day). It does feel like someone has their hand around my neck at all times though. Also, I'm very tired all the time.

     
    Old 03-30-2016, 07:31 AM   #10
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    Being really tired seems to be a universal complaint after spine surgery and it takes many months to get stamina back. I think most people would tell you that it takes a good eight weeks to start feeling a bit better...longer is not uncommon.

     
    Old 03-30-2016, 08:07 AM   #11
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    I didn't set out to use this thread as a recovery journal, but it kind of turned into that and I thought it might help to continue for anyone going through this in the future. It's odd how we are comforted by knowing that others are suffering in the same way we are. It's not like it improves your situation, but I guess it makes us feel less alone through it all.

    A few new things I didn't mention yet ... I noticed my neck has a sizable area above the main incision site, even extending to my lower chin, that is significantly numb. I hadn't really noticed it before as that area in general feels different, but I really noticed it when running my fingers across the area yesterday. I hope the nerves repair a bit in that area.

    Also, I discovered what a sneeze feels like while recovering from ACDF. I've sneezed exactly 3 times in the past two days and I know the exact count because of how incredibly painful it's been each time. Each time it happens, it makes me afraid I've really messed something up inside.

    Today marks one complete week since my surgery. Still having arm numbness off and on. It's actually worse today than yesterday or the day before. Swallowing seems much better this morning. I ate a PB&J on toast and didn't even notice my throat. The swallowing symptoms seem to come and go though. I've noticed some days it seems better and then later or the next day it might be a bit worse.

     
    Old 03-31-2016, 06:52 AM   #12
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    Sometimes it helps to hold a pillow when you feel a sneeze coming on. Hold it against the chest like you are hugging it.

     
    Old 03-31-2016, 07:45 PM   #13
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    Day 9: Last night was painful (arm pain/numbness) and I ended up back in the recliner for part of the night. I was reading some "what to expect afterwards" sites looking for reassurance that the continued pain/numbness is expected, but mostly reading that many experience immediate relief. I hope I didn't go through this for nothing. Swallowing marginally better today, but still some discomfort. I have to take small bites to make sure it doesn't hurt as much going down. On the arm pain, I don't mind it taking awhile to get better, but I wish I'd have enough improvement day over day to be encouraged that this is going to be the outcome.

     
    Old 03-31-2016, 09:56 PM   #14
    teteri66
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    Re: Acdf

    I'm not sure how it is with a cervical fusion, but with a lumbar fusion progress is not measured day by day. Possibly week by week, but you drive yourself crazy if you are looking for change every day. Again, it all depends on how long nerves were compressed, how much they were tugged on during surgery, etc. healing occurs from the spine outward, so the final area to heal would be a fingertip or the farthest area of symptoms.

     
    Old 04-06-2016, 04:12 AM   #15
    derek527
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    Re: Acdf

    Day 15: I've been sleeping much better the last few nights and the swallowing issue seemed significantly better the last two days. I still feel a lump in my throat, but the incision sight is still visibly swollen so I'm guessing it might be that. I do wake up quite stiff every day.

    Unfortunately my arm hasn't seemed to improve. The tip of my thumb is numb, I still have tingling throughout (though not all day), and I still get occasional sharp pains in my bicep. Although I've had neck problems for over 20 years, my radiculopathy symptoms only started a few months ago, so I wouldn't think the nerves would have been compressed long enough for there to be permanent damage. At least, I hope not.

     
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