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    Old 08-29-2008, 10:07 AM   #1
    koriedad
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    ACDF on Sept. 8

    Greetings!

    Newbie to the board, and to ACDF...

    Back in November of 2007, I began experiencing fairly severe neck pain. Tried everything for relief (chiro, massage, acupuncture, traction), but relief was only temporary. Finally had a cervical MRI done in January - results indicated that I had fairly severe degeneration of all the disks (from C1 to T1), but that C5-C6 and C6-C7 were the worst, and based on the pain I had, that made sense. Went the ESI route in both C5-C6 and C6-C7, but after three rounds, no relief. I was referred to a neurosurgeon, who suggested, after seeing the MRI scans, that I needed 3 level ACDF (C4-C7). Started doing research to see what this spinal fusion was all about, which brought about a fair amount of anxiety (scared!). Scheduled the ACDF for Sept. 8th, which is fast approaching...

    Any advice/comments/suggestions/positive reinforcement from the "veterans" on this board would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks in advance,
    Steve
    ---
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    Old 08-29-2008, 01:39 PM   #2
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Hey Steve -

    I may not be a veteran - but I am now 4 weeks post-op from my ACDF. I share your anxieties. I was so nervous. You will find a lot of help from this board. I dare say more than from the doctors. My ACDF was on level C3-C4 with the cadaver bone and titanium plate. So not as much as yours. I just had my first post-op appointment and I am doing pretty good. I still have weight restrictions and have been told to only do light household chores. (I am a stay at home mom so I don't have to worry about the going back to work) It seems that everyone's recovery is different - but same in that we all wish it would go by faster. Time is the one thing you can count on. You need those bones to fuse to get better. I had an x-ray today that looked like it was fusing nicely - but not completly done yet. Average is about 3 months. But that isn't a gaurentee. Again, everyone is different.

    My advice would mimic those that have gone on before. I found searching the board for recovery ideas to be very helpful. There is a list on here somewhere that was put together of all the things that would be a plus to have around the house following surgery. For example bendy straws - they were my best friend.

    One thing I can tell you is that I feel better today then I did prior to surgery. I still have up an down days. But everyday I get a little better.

    Ask away on these boards! You'll get info you need.. and the best is support and understanding. We are all dealing with some kind of spine problems and can relate to what you are going through.

    Teresa

     
    Old 09-01-2008, 04:27 PM   #3
    koriedad
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Thanks SO much, Teresa, for the kind words and advice - right now, a heaping helping of positive reinforcement is what I need most!

    I know I'm in the hands of a highly qualified neurosurgeon, so it's time to put my trust in him and think of my future pain-free existence!

    One week from today...

    Regards,
    Steve
    ---
    Soon to have three level ACDF (C4-C7) with cadaver bone and hardware

     
    Old 09-01-2008, 11:00 PM   #4
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Go for it!
    Your story sounds a lot like mine. I just had surgery on Aug 20 and I feel great! I have a great surgeon and he has a very good team of people to work with. After messing with alternatives of almost a year I am pain free. No medication at all and no numbness or pain since the surgery. Stay positive, this really works!

     
    Old 09-02-2008, 08:05 PM   #5
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    My biggest piece of advice is don't do "nothing" after the surgery. When I did my ACDF I literally sat around the house for 6 weeks and ended up very deconditioned. The day I went back to work at 7 weeks post op was awful...not from neck pain...but the walk from my car to the office door.

    This year I had a foraminotomy and at 5 days post-op I started on my treadmill at 1 mph for 5 minutes at a time - adding 1 minute a day. Overall I felt better during the recovery this time.
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    Old 09-11-2008, 09:46 AM   #6
    koriedad
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Three days post-op, and I'm feeling pretty darn good! The surgery went off without a hitch, except that it took about an hour longer than the neurosurgeon expected. Apparently, there was some difficulty accessing C4-C5 as he made his way up my cervical spine from C6-C7, but no issues, just extra time. He said lots of osteophytes (bone spurs) on both sides, which he removed...I was up walking the evening of the surgery, and have been walking increasingly each day for exercise while healing.

    I had much apprehension going into this surgery, as I lead a fairly active life (type-A personality, software engineer in hi-tech, drummer in a power-trio original rock band, dirt-track sprint car/midget photographer, mountain biker, and dad to an active 16-year old daughter). Things seem to be going as predicted by my neurosurgeon - he said he was "very certain" he could relieve my pain and restore strength to my left arm. Too early to know if my strength is back, but the pain is gone. I have fairly steady pain in the back of my neck (just below where the back of my head and neck meet), which causes a low-grade headache, but this, too, was predicted by the Doc, as this is a direct result of the procedure, which requires the patients neck to be hyper-extended back to provide easier access to the vertebrae in the front of the neck.Plus, they strap on a 10-pound weight to your head for traction to open up the vertebrae for discectomy (removal of the funky, worn-out discs). That's why the back of my neck is sore. What's nice is, the original pain is gone!! That's a good thing.

    Let the healing begin! I'm on Norco for pain, and trying to keep myself pain free during the first part of my recovery. Aspen neck brace 24-7, except to shower, for at least the next 4 weeks, and probably longer - probably the hardest part of this recovery for me will be the rest and relaxation part, as I already feel I should be doing something instead of lying around and healing. But I must force myself to just kick back and take it easy for a while...

    Thanks again to the few who have responded with advice and positive reinforcement!

    Regards,
    Steve
    ---
    ACDF, C4-C7, with cadaver bone and hardware, 09/08/08

     
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    Old 09-11-2008, 01:14 PM   #7
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Steve - great news, glad to see you posting so soon after surgery!!

    I go in for my ACDF of c5/6 in just over a week -- Saturday, 9/20. Are you going to work at home much via laptop? Do you feel like you'd be up to doing so already?

    Any hints/thoughts/insights you may have as your recovery progresses would be much appreciated...

    Thanks for posting, and congrats,

    Jay Bee

     
    Old 09-11-2008, 07:32 PM   #8
    thj2u
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Patience - that is what I had to learn from my ACDF. I just hit the 6 week mark. I learned to slow way down. I am a very active mom of 6 and most of my pain is gone. I take a muscle relaxant if I hurt (did too much - which is way little compared to before the surgery).

    I was a good girl for the first 2 weeks.. the next 2 weeks I started feeling "guilty" for resting so much but I was reassured on these boards that it just takes time to heal properly. The past 2 weeks I have been pretty good at staying away from the things I shouldn't do. Just focusing on the things I can do.

    I am so happy your pain is better!

    Good Luck and - Rest and Relax... - yah easier said than done!

    Teresa

     
    Old 09-13-2008, 08:41 AM   #9
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Jay Bee,

    Yes, I plan on working from home initially, using the laptop my company gave me when I started. I initially asked for 5 weeks of leave of absence, as everyone is different when it comes to recovery from ACDF. My neurosurgeon filled out the return to work form, indicating a return in November, which I believe is a worst-case scenario. My first check-up will be telling - I go back on 09/24 (2-weeks after the surgery) for x-rays to see if fusion is occurring. I'm sure the good doc will let me know then when I can go back to work (working from home initially), but based on how I'm feeling now, 5-days post-op, I'm thinking I can start working from home SLOWLY during the third week and see how it goes.

    As I said before, I was very apprehensive going into this surgery, and really didn't "turn the corner" on being positive until about a week prior. The mental aspects are probably more important than the physical aspects going in to this. That, and the love and support I received from family and friends, played a HUGE role. The confidence level of my neurosurgeon was paramount - he just had an extremely confident air about him that made me feel like I was in the best of hands. His MA said he's known for having the touch of "a butterfly on a rose petal"! That's my kind of neurosurgeon!

    By far, the worst day was Monday, the day of the surgery, when I awoke from the procedure. Went into the OR at about 10:30am, and was in post-op recovery from 3:30 to 4:30pm, when I was moved to my semi-private room. The anesthesia made me very woozy, and while I was so happy to see my wife, I couldn't focus on anything, couldn't think clearly, and didn't have my bearings. That, combined with some pain from the procedure, had me asking for the offered pain medication immediately. At about 5pm, I was given a shot of morphine, which settled me down to the point where I could just close my eyes and rest, which was needed. At this point, my throat was very sore, my voice was a raspy mess (sounded like Tom Waits!), and it felt like my neck had been stretched beyond it's limits.

    But what a difference a bit of rest made! When I awoke at about midnight, my throat felt SO much better, I could focus on things, and the pain was minimal. Felt so good, that I got out of bed and made a few laps in the halls around my ward. I felt 100% better than when I initially awoke. By 8am the next morning (day after the surgery), I felt great - my wife said I looked real good for just having undergone major surgery. My throat felt much better, and I had NO PAIN in my neck where the degenerative discs had been causing the pain! By 9am, they removed my IV and oxygen tubes, which allowed me more mobility, and by 11am, the surgeons' MA came by to check me out. She said she was impressed with my quick recovery, and said she would be discharging me, with instructions. I WAS GOING HOME! That piece of news made me feel even better, and by 1:30pm on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the surgery, I was dressed and ready to get outta there! I walked with my wife to the car, and got home without incident.

    Once home, it was all about getting comfortable for "the long haul" - I found that the best place was on one of our Lazy Boy recliners. With a few pillows, I was very comfortable there, and with the right amount of pain medication, I could sleep. Tuesday night, I tried setting up in bed a 30-degree angle (as recommended) prop-up, but I never really got comfortable there, so it was back to the recliner, where I could doze as necessary.

    If you are required to wear a hard neck brace (I was told the Aspen collar was the most comfortable, and requested it - glad I did, as it is very comfortable), get extra pads! The one part of wearing the collar is that it's always warm/hot around the neck. I was sweating in it, even though I wasn't particularly warm otherwise. Ultimately, it ends up smelling like "***", so having the spare pads to swap in (after hand washing/drying) makes a big difference.

    Don't be shy with the meds you're given - take them liberally but within the doses recommended. I'm not suggesting you over-do the meds, but keeping the pain down goes a long way toward keeping the mental side positive throughout the ordeal. It's as important as anything else you can do, so don't be shy with the meds!

    And obviously, the help you get from your significant other is paramount to your recovery. My wife has been AWESOME, and I'm certain I couldn't have gotten this far without her kind assistance! It's good to have someone watching over you as you attempt pretty much any movement - they can then "keep you honest" by praising you when you move slowly and correctly, and admonish you when you do things you shouldn't. It's definitely a life-style change that takes a bit of getting used to - I've always been proud of my independence, but that pride needs to take a back seat while recovering from this type of surgery.

    I walk every day - usually when my wife or daughter take the dogs for their walks. I've also been out to a restaurant already for dinner (last night), and held up very well. Bottom line: TAKE IT EASY! That's been my biggest challenge - doing a lot of nothing most of the time. I keep telling myself that I can make up for it later, but for now, I just need to be a "recliner potato" and let the healing do its thing.

    I must say that I'm amazed with the progress so far, and I'm encouraged that I'm in line for a full recovery so that I can get on with my active life style. Remember, your mileage may vary, but a positive outlook helps tremendously!

    Good luck with your procedure, Jay Bee - please keep us posted with your progress!

    Regards,
    Steve
    ---
    ACDF, C4-C7, with cadaver bone and hardware, 09/08/08

     
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    Old 09-22-2008, 06:32 PM   #10
    Jay Bee
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Hey Steve... how are things going for you now? I posted a little update on myself in a separate thread... had ACDF on 5/6 this Saturday 9/20 and doing quite well. Gunna be a struggle to pace myself.

    But, was curious how things have been going for you during week #2 after your procedure...??

    Hope things are going well,

    Jay Bee

     
    Old 09-23-2008, 03:52 PM   #11
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Hi Jay Bee,

    Was going to wait until tomorrow after my first post-op visit with the neurosurgeon to report status, but now that I've been prodded...

    It was two weeks post-op yesterday, and I'm doing well, and anxious to see the NS tomorrow. The pain and numbness I was experiencing as a result of degenerative disk disease no longer exists today, which is awesome. But that's not to say that I'm pain free - if measured by the ultimate purpose of the 3-level ACDF, it's a complete success! I have a lot of what I call "associative" aches and pains that I'm hoping the NS can 'splain to me. I imagine that most of the muscles in my neck were put through the ringer in order to perform discectomy. With that in mind, I can explain most of these pains, but just want some reassurance that they'll go away permanently!

    I must admit that I have a fair amount of pain-free mobility in my neck as it stands right now. I can't yet test the strength of my left arm until some proof of fusion is occurring, and even then, I'll have to slowly work up to it.

    In a perfect world, tomorrow's doc visit will be all positive - that x-rays will show that fusion has begun, and that I can start wearing the soft collar (which, BTW, I think is *less* comfortable and *more* restrictive than the Aspen!) so I can drive. Maybe work a couple days a week to start with, the rest of the time working from home. Gotta build up to the stress and BS levels of old!

    Still taking Norco for the misc. aches and pains in my neck, mostly to help me sleep, Without 'em, sleeping is next to impossible - just can't get comfortable, no matter how I position myself...

    My throat still feels "funny" - still a strange sensation where I swallow, like something is in there, restricting activity. I'm told this will go away over time, but it is somewhat bothersome.

    Earlier today, for the fist time since the surgery, the tips of the index and middle fingers on my left hand were tingly and slightly numb. Kinda scary, honestly. Fortunately, it didn't last long, but it made my list of things to tell the NS tomorrow.

    And, boy, HOWDY, don't I know about that struggle to keep from doing stuff while healing! I'm ready to jump outta my skin! Deep breaths, Steve...

    More after the doc visit tomorrow,
    -Steve

    Last edited by HBMod07; 09-24-2008 at 06:45 AM. Reason: It is not necessary to quote a message you are directly responding to. Thank you

     
    Old 09-29-2008, 04:58 AM   #12
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Heya...

    No update from you, so was wondering how your visit with neuro guy went, and how you were doing nearly 10 days after your surgery... Drop us a line....

     
    Old 09-30-2008, 11:35 AM   #13
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Greetings,

    Latest update, three weeks and one day since 3-level ACDF:

    Progress continues, and each day it gets better! First post-op visit to my neurosurgeon was last Wednesday (09/24) - he was impressed with my progress, and was confident that fusion was occurring (he took an x-ray just to be sure). He suggested that I could wear a soft collar in order to drive, but suggested I keep the hard collar on at all times otherwise until the next post-op visit in four weeks (10/22). He also released me to go back to work (he asked me if that was what I wanted to do). The incision is now completely healed, and the scar is surprisingly minimal, and will ultimately fade over time.

    I've been off pain meds since last Tuesday (09/23), and the pain and numbness caused by the degenerated discs is GONE! Miscellaneous procedure-related pains persist, however (muscle pains on the neck, front and back, from hyperextension and traction during the surgery), and the NS suggested that these should subside dramatically soon. I did have a brief amount of tingling/numbness in the left index and middle finger tips the day before my first post-op visit, but it lasted only a few minutes early in the morning when it was cold - not sure if it's related, but I communicated this to the NS. I have some numbness just under my chin to about half-way down to my Adam's Apple, but this is due to nerves being severed at the incision point, and can take several months to go away. My throat is still kind of "funny", in that I can't muster up a good holler (friends and family are grateful for this!), and swallowing is still a little "off" (hard to explain, but something still feels strange when I swallow). The NS indicated this is very normal, and that once all the swelling goes down and scar tissue dissipates, things should get back to normal.

    Amazingly, while not pushing it, the range of motion in my neck is no worse than it was pre-op with pain - in other words, I've got the same ROM I had prior to the surgery, but without pain. That alone makes this procedure a success, but I'll wait to claim full victory until I can move without limitations from the neck brace, and the NS says I can try it out in earnest. I also have not been able to test the strength in my left arm to see if it has come back due to a 10-pound weight limitation until at least 10/22.

    I returned to work yesterday, three weeks to the day of the procedure, and it was good to get back at it! I'm a software QA engineer, so no major lifting or physical stress involved in my job - just working behind a keyboard/monitor all day (the very thing that caused my degenerative disc disease - over 31 years of doing that!). I was good to go until about 2pm, when I felt fatigued enough to go home and finish the day in the comfort of my trusty recliner. Working in the office two days this week, with the remainder of the week working from home.

    The only real issue at this point is my inability to get comfortable enough to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time, due to the hard collar. Can't wait to lose the hard collar, as it's beginning to get old...The NS prescribed Ambien to help me sleep, but it doesn't do much for me. Interestingly, the Norco pain meds actually helped me sleep better, but being strung out on opiates is not my idea of a good time, and even in the short time I was taking them, the withdrawal symptoms were felt upon discontinuing their use. ***REMOVED***

    Bottom line: all things considered, progress is good, if not great, considering this was major surgery. No more pain and numbness from the degenerated discs (pain was on the left side of my neck, radiating down to my left shoulder and upper arm, and numbness was on the front of my left shoulder), ROM as good as it was pre-op, and I'm getting back to doing normal things around the house (gently, as I'm still "fusing"!).

    Regards,
    Steve
    ---
    ACDF, C4-C7, with cadaver bone and hardware, 09/08/08

    Last edited by Mod08; 09-30-2008 at 07:55 PM. Reason: inappropriate

     
    Old 09-30-2008, 11:41 AM   #14
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    Re: ACDF on Sept. 8

    Glad to see you are doing so well. Just remember to listen to your body (sounds like you did on the day you went home early). Also, there may be days that you find you need one dose of pain medication and that's okay. Sometimes when I would get home from work I just needed one to help ease the pain that had kind of built up during the day.
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