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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

So, as you may know from my previous post, I have been suffering for 4 days after reinjuring my neck 6 months after ACDF C5-6. I had an MRI with and without contrast today and flexion x-rays. I brought home a copy of all the films to bring with me to the neurosurgeon next week. In the meantime, I am trying to look at the films myself trying to see if I can tell what the problem is. The reports will not be ready for 24-48 hours.

Let me preface this by saying that when I needed the ACDF C5-6 in April, you could clearly see the spinal cord being compressed on the MRI films. I don't see spinal cord compression on these films. What I do see is a big black mess near C5-6 (maybe scar tissue?). The other discs look fairly ok to me. I do see some abnormal shaped disks on the cross-section views. The X-rays show the plate and screws seem to be solidly in place and I can see fusion.

My question is, do people only need surgery when their spinal cord is compressed? Could I have a herniated disk needing surgery that is NOT compressing the spinal cord? I know it is so hard to interpret your own scans, but I am in so much pain and it seems like FOREVER to wait for the results. Any thoughts? What should I look for on the films? I actually am worried that I am in so much pain and the tests will be normal - what the heck would I do then?

Thanks so much,
Lisa :(
Hi Lisa
I know what it is like to face another ACDF after just having one - I've had two, a year apart.

I've also had MRIs after the plate was installed - that black mess you see by your previous ACDF may be due to the metal plate and screws - those interfere with the images. There are things that can be done to get better images of that area (like CT with contrast, for me). I think the scar tissue can be an issue too - like you said.

My neurosurgeon based his decision to recommend surgery or not based on a combination of the MRI images, and the symptoms I was having (pain for sure, but also tingling, numbness, weakness, atrophy, etc). Your best bet will be similar advice from your Dr. It does seem that a lot of us here that have had spinal cord compression (I had that, and also impingement on the nerve branches) have also had surgery, but it probably depends on your specific circumstances.

Hang in there - don't get discouraged (easy to say and hard to do, I know) - we just have to hang tight and work through these issues, and stay as positive as possible

Best Luck

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