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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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My NeuroSurgeon is recommending surgery due to cord compression and large spurs on both sides of spine. He has to remove the spurs and do a fusion going throught he front of my neck.
I have lots of pain in my neck, and the feeling that I cannot hold my head up. I am terrified of this surgery. I have 2 young children and am only 34.
Can anyone tell me what to expect?? How long is there a lot of pain after? Do you see results in the neck pain?
I also have a bit of swalliowing issues with a lump in my throat feeling, does anyone think that will get worse. The Dr said they move your trachea and all organs sounds very scary!!!!!!

Thanks for any info!!

I had a 2 level ACDF in Jan. I would say at a minimum, allow 6 weeks for recovery. My pain has lessoned considerably. It hasnt all gone away, but the quality of my life has vastly improved. I really think that getting rid of my bone spurs helped me alot. I didnt have much cord compression, though. Mostly I had degenerative disks and arthritis. The thing I believe helped me the most was going to P.T., starting at 6 weeks after surgery.
The pain for me wasnt that bad. It was much better than I expected. I didnt wear a collar. I started driving at about a month. The only lack of mobilization I have now is that its hard to look up for any length of time. That doesnt bother me, though. Head back is a bad postion. But that's about it. My levels were C 5- C7
No, you won't be bed bound, thank God. During the first few weeks, I was up and about, but made sure to take frequent lying down rests to take a load off my neck. I spent one night in the hospital and then the day I got home I started walking on my treadmill, slowly every single day. That was a big help. The surgeon actually put that in the discharge instructions. I did some computer stuff, watched TV, and tried to limit my going in the car (when someone else drove). I had the surgery here in Colo. during the winter, and people tend to drive poorly. I was really afraid of getting hit, especially so soon after the surgery. And I was also afraid of slipping on the ice (which is how I got in this position to begin with). When I drove the first time (might be about 3 weeks), it was hard because of cranking my neck to back out of spots. It got alot better as the weeks went on.
My husband was out of town for a week, on business, 4 days after my surgery and it went OK. I initially was going to hire a person to come and help me, but she fizzled out on me the day before my husband left. It turned out for the best because I really didnt feel like I needed anyone very much. I also have grown kids, so I didnt have small ones to look after.
My neighbor brought me the newpaper and mail because of the ice situation. LIke I said, it wasn't nearly as painful as I expected it to be. I was in much more pain PRIOR to surgery.Oh yea, I forgot to mention...I felt like I had a lump in my throat for about the first 2 months. I was paranoid it would never go away. It was swelling and it DID go away. It got on my nerves, but nothing too bad.
When I first learned I needed an ACDF, it was horrified at the thought, so I know how you feel. I ended up having two operations 1 year apart, to fuse C4/5/6/7.

My experience - the first 2 or 3 days I needed to not do much of anything but rest. You will have pain meds, and that helps a lot. My post-op pain was between the shoulder blades and had to do with the strain on ligaments & tendons, as the vertebrae were put back to their original spacing. There was not so very much pain at the actual incision. The hardest part was trying to find a position to sleep those first several nights. Things improved quickly after that, and by 10 to 14 days I was pretty mobile in the house, was going for walks and getting out, driving, etc. I stayed off work 6 weeks to give things a good chance to start healing.

I think it also depends on whether your surgeon uses a plate and screws to stabilize the vertebrae - you should ask and find out. Seems like people who don't get the plate have to use a collar and take it really easy for a couple of months. Some people who get the plate don't use a collar at all (I am in this category), but some people report having the plate and also using the collar. My surgeon felt like it's better to not use the collar because it weakens the neck muscles and things tighten up, and its just that much harder when you stop using the collar. But you'll read here about some Drs who feel it's better to use the collar.

The other issue in ACDF is what is used to replace the discs. The two most prevalent ways are donor bone (from a bone bank), or your own bone (from your hip). Again, you'll read about the pros and cons, but ask your Dr how it is going to be for you. Again, my experience was with the donor bone, which avoids the pain & recovery of the hip incision. I have fused just fine, but some people report better results if they use their own bone. There are a few different technologies that are evolving, like artificial discs, or cages with things to promote bone growth between the vertebrae, but only a few people here talk about this category.

Having done it twice, and experienced the fear both times, I can tell you that you can deal with this, and have good reason to expect improvements from having the surgery. My unbearable pain (I had both compression of the spinal cord, and the nerve branches) was all but gone when I woke up in recovery. I have some chronic pain now that I have to deal with, but it's nothing compared to the pain I had before the surgeries.

Good wishes!
The ACDF I had one year ago helped me tremendously. If you don't have a spouse or roommate you may need assistance with transporting the kids and some childcare during the recovery - but you won't be bed-bound. In fact I was most comfortable sitting in a reclining type chair and only in bed at night when I tried to sleep.

I would ABSOLUTELY do the surgery again. For me the post-surgical pain was minimal. The relief from the surgery made any post-surgery pain well worth it (which, again, was minimal for me). I've had lots of surgery and this was one of the least painful recoveries (while sometimes frustrating due to the neck brace - it was not frustrating due to pain).

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