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    Old 08-15-2006, 04:24 PM   #1
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Posts: 5
    Angel_Wings HB User
    Neck Fusion Questions...

    I'm grateful to have found this forum.
    About 15 years ago, my daughter was in a car accident.
    She seemed to suffer no ill effects, however years later she began suffering with pain in her neck. After many years of pain, she has decided on the advice of her Dr. to have Neck Fusion surgery, cutting thru the front of her neck.

    My daughter is 35 years old with three children.

    I am very worried for her over this, especially after having read some of the troubles that others still have long after surgery.

    Please if anyone can... answer my questions.

    Will the surgery really help her?
    How risky is this?
    How long will her recovery be?
    What kind of help will she need?
    What is the best way I can support her?
    (I will be caring for the children)


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    Old 08-15-2006, 04:46 PM   #2
    Join Date: Aug 2006
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    Angel_Wings HB User
    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    One more question...

    I see there are many with sleep problems after surgery.

    What pillow/bedding is reccommended?

    Old 08-15-2006, 05:16 PM   #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date: Jan 2006
    Posts: 266
    ThoreauFan HB User
    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    Hi Angel,

    Your anxiety is normal - we've been there.

    Individual cases span quite a spectrum.

    An ACDF isn't comparable to, say, an appendectomy. The bulk of the long term issues you have read about on these boards is due to the nature of the underlying condition, not the surgery itself. Naturally, many people who return to their normal lives in a short period of time and have no long term issues do not participate here.

    Obviously, every surgery is serious. The anterior approach does go to great lengths to spare surrounding tissues from surgical trauma, though. An incision is made in the skin only, then the tissues are dissected and retracted to create a tunnel to the spine itself. This is where the real surgical work is performed. The surgery has an extremely high rate of success.

    However, it's difficult to discern exactly what your daughter is having treated.

    Many people have great suggestions about how to prepare for the surgery.

    I'm sure other people will offer wonderful input.

    I hope your daughter feels better soon!
    "Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for." George Bernard Shaw

    Last edited by ThoreauFan; 08-15-2006 at 05:39 PM.

    Old 08-15-2006, 06:11 PM   #4
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    Join Date: Jul 2006
    Location: LaSalle, Colorado, USA
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    bdh7 HB User
    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    Hello...I was asking the same questions a few weeks ago! I'm one week post op as of yesterday; I found a lot of help here. If you click on my user name it will give you an option to look up posts by me, which will give you a lot of very good information that was passed on to me by older(?) and wiser (!) veterans of this type of surgery. A few questions, though, to answer your questions more specifically: What exactly is your daughter's problem? A lot of people on this board suffered from spinal cord compression, versus compression of nerve roots which affect the nerves in the arms/hands. The surgery itself is the same basic procedure, but the prognosis and recovery times can be quite different. Also, how old are her children, and how self-sufficient are they? If they are toddlers or young elementary, she'll probably need quite a bit of help at home for several weeks (4-6?). My two youngest are nine and twelve, and are a big help to me carrying things around (moving my laptop from room to room!) and helping Papa run the house. I am on a 10 pound restriction for lifting, so if she has to lift an infant she will definitely need someone there. There were a lot of posts about sleeping/pillows, which you can find as mentioned above. I can't type more right now as my arms are still not working well, but will try to add more tomorrow unless others fill in the gaps for you. Take care! Donna

    Old 08-15-2006, 06:30 PM   #5
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    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    I just turned 40 this week, but was 39 back in may when I had my cervical fusion (ACDF) at C5-C7. I'll do my best to address your questions, but let me know of any further questions you have once you've read all our responses

    Will the surgery really help her?
    -This depends on what her current symptoms are and what the test results (i.e. MRI, CT scan, EMG, etc) are showing. In my case I had an MRI in 2003 that showed two significant disc herniations. My doctor recommended I try Epidural Steroid Injections (ESI) in the cervical spine. I did these via a Pain Management physician and they worked well at alleviating my symptoms (pain and numbness from the neck down my left hand into my thumb and forefinger). In December of 2005 the pain came back and was severe. I did another set of the ESI, however this time it only slighly aleviated my pain. I was at a point where the pain kind of ruled my day-to-day life (it became a quality of life issue). The MRI I had in April of 2006 showed that the two disc herniations previsously found were a little more significant than in 2003 and I also had bone spurring. Thus the ESI's didn't work as well (they can help alleviate symptoms due to disc protrustions or herniations but from what I was told they don't work as well once there is bone spurring which is impinging on the nerves). There are professional athletes that have had this done and plenty of people in the population who have also had it done. The week after my surgery I went out to the mailbox to get the mail and the mailman asked "fusion? what levels?", he had C4-C7 two years ago and was doing well. At a coffee place last week the cashier saw my scar and said "fusion? i recognize the scar" she had the surgery 5 years ago and feels great. And my friend's neighbor is in his 50's and had the surgery 10 years ago and has had a fantastic recovery. He later had a second surgery at a different level in the neck and still says he's glad he did both surgeries.

    How risky is this?
    -All surgery has risks and of course spinal surgery carries with it a bit more risk than other common surgeries such as an appendectomy or knee arthroscopy. I have had a great deal of surgery in my life and am fortunate to know that I react well to anesthesia and medications. Yes, the risks are scary and lead almost each of us to second thoughts - but by the time I had the surgery this past May I was unable to enjoy life. Working, spending time with friends/family, and even just simple home activities like TV watching were painful. I imagine with kids even more of your daughter's days could be painful and hard to get through. Thus, for me, the potential positive outcome of the surgery outweighed any risks.

    How long will her recovery be?
    -I was in the hosptial for 2 nights. From what I've seen here, and in meeting others who have had the surgery, 1-2 nights is the norm. As for the sore throat symptoms you hear of - I had a sore throat for about 4 days (similar to that which you get with a minor throat infection) and had a high pitched and scratchy voice for a week. I have had no swallowing problems and the surgery was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Since your daughter has kids at home, 2 nights in the hospital might give her a little more time to concentrate on herself before returning home. My doctor requires an aspen cervical collar be worn for 6 weeks following the surgery. I had the surgery on a Thursday, came home Saturday, and my husband went back to work on Monday (we have no kids - only cats). I didn't need him for simple self care but did only shower when he was home and found I would shower every other day in the beginning due to the strain and pain I had when out of the brace. I was out of work for 6 weeks (primarily due to the brace). I am currently about 12 weeks post op. I still have occasional pain but have gotten a non-narcotic pain medication from my doctor which makes each day easier (no medication related drowsiness, etc). For someone with young kids the recovery would be impacted by making sure to follow all restrictions and limitations (no picking up the kids, limiting lifting/carrying (strollers, etc).

    What kind of help will she need?
    -In taking care of herself, she would probably need little help. She may need time during the day to rest so having someone to care for the kids and/or arranging for daycare if they are not in school would be necessary. Also, cleaning. I reccomend that she temporarily hire someone who can do the cleaning until she feels ready to do so again. Cleaning even counters involves reaching, some bending, etc.

    What is the best way I can support her?
    -When she first has the surgery, by being able to run errands, allow her to rest when needed etc. As her recovery progresses making sure she takes care of herself and that she asks for and uses help when it's offered (if someone offers to take her child to soccer practice she shouldn't feel guilty and if she's sore she shouldn't feel guilty about missing a few of the kids activities).

    What pillow/bedding is reccomended?
    -Each person is different. I had a bed wedge that my mother in law had purchased years ago - so it kept me at a 45% angle in bed. I had a very thin pillow I used while in the brace (had to sleep semi-upright, tough to sleep in a cervical collar). In the last month I've been experimenting with various pillows and have two by my side of different density level (one quite spongy and one like a memory foam) so I can adjust as needed. During the day in my first 6 weeks home I found the recliner end of our sectional the most comfortable place to sit during the day.

    Here's the one thing I wish I had done in my recovery I didn't do - avoid getting deconditioned. For 6 weeks I left the house 4 times. Once for breakfast with my father in law and husband, twice for doctor's appointments, and once for a friend's BBQ. What I didn't realize is that I was getting physically deconditioned. What I should have done is either have my husband walk with me to the end of the block and back, and eventually be walking around the block OR using the treadmill I have I should have had my husband supervise me walking 1 MPH or less for 5-10 minutes a day. I returned to work part-time at 6 weeks and the walk from my parking place to the front door of the building exhausted me.

    Please let me know if there's anything else I can answer for you.

    C5-C7 ACDF 5/18/06
    Rt thumb fusion '13. R&L thumb arthroplasty '12 ; RT TKR & Bilat CTS' 11. Fusions: L5-S1('87), L4-S1('93), C5-C7('06), L3-S1('10), C4-C5('13). C5-C7 foraminotomy '08

    Old 08-15-2006, 10:18 PM   #6
    Join Date: Aug 2006
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    anova HB User
    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    I really like what the others have posted here regarding some of your questions:
    Will the surgery really help her?
    How risky is this?

    I just started week 3 of recovery for an acdf c5-c6, herniated and compressing nerve roots with numbness as the predominant symptom in both hands and all fingers. Parts of arms and shoulder as well. I never had too much pain leading up to the past three months of my numbness/lack of coordination...which was the factor for me to seek surgery.
    How long will her recovery be?
    8 weeks is what I was follows:
    Weeks 1-2: someone with me at all times, aspen brace on 24/7. Shower at day 5 and thereafter.
    Week 3 wean off brace starting at night (I did last night for the first time).
    Week 6: X ray, follow up.
    After week 8: back to work, start lifting gradually more than 2 lbs.
    The entire time: walk as much as I can is what I was told to do.

    What kind of help will she need?
    weeks 1-2 someone should be with her at all times.
    I am on an 8 week 2 lb lifting restriction slowly increasing thereafter. It's almost unrealistic but I'm trying to do exactly what the dr says.

    What is the best way I can support her?
    (I will be caring for the children)

    I think this is the right idea. It also depends what her issues are now and what restricts her. If someonething is bothering her now, she will need help with it during recovery, at a minimum (e.g. lifting a skillet/cooking, etc).

    Sleeping question
    I slept in a recliner for the first two weeks. Also have to wear an aspen brace the first two weeks, 24/7. It's not that bad and it is worse when you are male and don't shave for 5 days. Drove me nutz.

    My limited advice/experience:
    * Get as many opinions as possible. Then, make sure that the best surgeon possible is doing the surgery.
    * People scared me about the ability to swallow and talk after surgery. I had zero problems with that and I attribute it to my surgeon (and the fact that I had only one disk fused-2 hr operation).
    * Pain froim the surgery: I was on pain killers for the first 10 days (Percocet and Vicodin, in that order). I was at the hospital overnight, and never took the full dose of pain medication after a few days of leaving the hospital. Muscle relaxers, I have been taking. Flexoril at first then they switched me to something else.
    * I'm 33, with a 22 month old son, and a great wife, and did not want to do this, but I didn't really see it as something I could opt to not do. In less than 3 months, I went from "normal" everyday busy life to not being able to feel anything with my hands, to an operating table. I hope your daughter does well and does not think her youthful age is a reason to not get surgery. I wish her the best.

    Old 08-17-2006, 05:25 PM   #7
    Join Date: Aug 2006
    Posts: 5
    Angel_Wings HB User
    Re: Neck Fusion Questions...

    Hello Everyone,
    I want to thank you all for your responses to my post.
    You have done much to ease my worries.

    While it can be difficult and scary to read about this procedure, especialy when one encounters posts from those who may be still suffering, I find it helpful and informative to continue reading and focus on the positive.

    You have all given me a better outlook and hope for my daughter's future.

    I'm going to print these posts and pass them on to her.

    For all those who are indeed still suffering, I am sorry for your pain and am sending up a prayer of hope for you. I sincerely hope you find the Dr, the procedure that will bring you relief.


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