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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Re: ACDF on Sept. 8
Aug 29, 2008
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 :)
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.
Re: ACDF on Sept. 8
Sep 11, 2008
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!

ACDF, C4-C7, with cadaver bone and hardware, 09/08/08
Re: ACDF on Sept. 8
Sep 13, 2008
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 "ass", 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!

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

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