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MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO ARE ANTICIPATING ACDF SURGERY...
I read a lot of these posts before my surgery a month ago and they scared me half to death! I had a C-5/6 6/7 ACDF four weeks ago.The surgery was a complete success and most of my numbness/tingling/arm pain is resolved. I am SO glad I had it done! My energy is still low and I am sore, but one would expect this after major surgery. I feel very fortunate that I had a problem that was fixable and that it was successful. Please do not let all the negative posts scare you. Most of the people who have had successful surgeries and good recoveries (like the majority of patients) are not still at home looking for support on sites such as these. We are out living again and getting on with things.

A COUPLE OF TIPS that I have discovered through my experience in the past month:

1) USE A RECLINER!!! It was nearly impossible to sleep in bed the first two weeks. I had heard/read this, so we bought a recliner. It was a godsend.

2) HEATPACK! The muscle spasms/pain in upper back and shoulders was the worst part for me. I got an "elastogel" neck wrap that can be heated in the microwave. It feels GREAT and is very helpful in relaxing those sore spots. I still use it.

3) SOFT FOODS and BENDYSTRAWS- for the first couple of weeks it is hard to swallow. You will also have limited range of motion in tipping your head back. Stock up on stuff like applesauce, pudding, mac and cheese, soup, etc. The bendy straws were also an essential.

Those are my best tips. Again, remember that most of us have great outcomes from this surgery! Keep a positive attitude and expect that things will go well-odds are that they will!
Blessings~
JLC

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I am so glad to come across your post. I am anticipating ACDF Surgery on 4/8/10. I do have a 2nd opinion just one week before. I am newly diagnosed and have only been dealing with the pain for a few months. The weakness in my arm was my biggest concern. What I want to know from you is how long did you live with the pain before you actually had surgery? I am contemplating postponing my surgery until the end of May only because I have had long-standing commitments and quite frankly I am terrified!
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Being terrified is quite normal, I suppose (ESPECIALLY if you read all the negative posts!)

If you believe the posts, about 98% of people have terrible problems and new issues after surgery. The statistics show that about 98% have POSITIVE outcomes. I think it is usually just the "squeaky wheels" that post on sites like this. Since I have learned I needed the surgery I have found out that many people I know have had relatives or friends that have had it. ALL have done well and have been positive about it. Believe the statistics, NOT the posts!

Do you have spinal cord compression and arm/hand nubness? If so, the sooner the better for the surgery. I was going to wait, but the MD and the surgeon told me that the longer you wait the more chance that the nervation will not heal after surgery (some of the numbness may be permanent). What does the surgeon say?

Every case is individual and different. I am glad you are having a second opinion. It is too bad you have to wait to get in. I reccommend calling relentlessly every day and asking if they have had any cancellations. Usually they get sick of talking to you and will squeeze you in sooner. I saw my regular MD for a second opinion (whom I have known and trusted for over a decade). He looked at the MRI and told me that he 100% agreed that I needed the surgery ASAP and that he had full confidence in the surgeon. This was the confidence I needed to proceed. The surgeon was a nice guy, but I did not know or trust or have any history with him.

In my case, I have been living with neck problems and disc degeneration (which started with a severe whiplash years ago) for many years. Last fall I started having numbness/weakness in my hands and feet. I was also starting to have pain in my arms. The surgeon said that once I started having the neurological symptoms that surgery was the only option and the sooner the better. My MD agreed, and here I am five weeks post surgery. Most of the numbness/weakness is gone and the pain in arms and feet are gone. Of course there is some residual soreness and post surgical stuff, but I am SO glad I had this done. It was the right decision for me and I am very grateful that this was a problem that was fixable.

How old are you? What levels are you considering having replaced? What kind of symptoms are you having? My heart goes out to you and I wish you well in the days and weeks ahead.
Blessings on your journey!
JLC
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Thanks so much for responding so quickly! To answer some of your questions I am 33 and from what I understand there is only one level, C3-4, that is for sure to be replaced. There could be more. My symptoms started just a few months ago. I woke up one morning with a stiff neck and after a few days when it didn't relieve itself I went to the doctor. Two days after that is when the weakness in my right arm began. Immediately she sent me for x-rays, bone density scans and an MRI. The MRI showed mild bulging so she referred me to a Neurosurgeon. He did a CT Scan and that is where they confirmed a herniated disc @ C3-4. He said that levels 4-6 may need attention as well but wouldn't really know until he is in there. My pain is mostly at the end of the day especially if I've done a lot of activities. My brain is having a hard time accepting the situation! You have an instance to connect with your injury where as I just woke up one morning with a pain in my neck and now two months later I'm anticipating surgery! And I will be calling today to see if there is any way to get in sooner for that 2nd opinion! I try to be a compliant patient and do what they professionals tell me, but the anxiety I am creating while waiting isn't doing me any good!
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Wow. It seems so odd that you would just wake up one day with such a problem...especially at 33! It's great that you are getting a second opinion. A friend of mine (who is in her early 40's) had a two level ACDF about two years ago. Her problem came on suddenly after helping lift a patient in bed (we are in the medical field, obviously). Hers was directly related to that event. My surgeon said that my degenerating discs may or may not be related to my whiplash, but I think that was what started the whole problem. He also said that some people just have discs that degenerate more quickly for no apparent reason (degenerative disc disease). He said there was really no good way to tell what precipitated it, but that the important thing was to replace the discs before permanent neurological damage occured.

Another friend of mine at work had a disc problem in her lower back that came on suddenly. One surgeon reccommended immediate surgery and another reccommended "wait and see". In a few weeks her symptoms dissapated and the problem resolved itself, so this was the right decision for her. My case was a lot more cut and dry, and surgery was the only option.

I am glad you are getting a second opinion. Surgery is a a big deal, and not something to rush into , especially at 33 with no provious history of neck problems. Keep calling and bugging them to get you in more quickly. I would also reccommend asking your regular MD (if you have one).
Hang in there. Please let me know what you find out! I am rooting for you and will be interested to hear what you decide.
Jan
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I had ACDF surgery (fusion C5-6 & C6-7) 4 weeks ago and would just like to also post a few tips/suggestions from my experience (before I forget most of them again):

1. I completely and absolutely agree with the RECLINER suggestion.
I was unable to lie down for two straight weeks after surgery and the recliner was my lifesaver. Make sure to get a comfortable one (we chose comfort over style and I did not regret that for one minute). I don't think that a regular chair with a footstool or a couch would have done the job. After all we are talking a minimum of two weeks...

2. Also agree with the SOFT FOODS and BENDABLE STRAWS suggestion.
I found soups and puddings as well as ice cream were very helpful. I had to be careful with soups that were spicy or had tiny particles of vegetables in them (like in packaged or canned soups). These tended to get stuck in my throat and caused bad coughing spells. Bendable straws are important because the neck brace is in the way and one cannot/must not tilt one's head, especially not during these first weeks. In general I found that even after returning to more substantial foods it helped to chew very well and take small bites. Also: Keep a glass of water handy with every meal. You never know when something just won't go down easily and then the water helps tremendously.
The swallowing problems have gotten less but are still noticeable when trying to swallow large pills or dry food. So this obviously takes time and patience.

3. Keep a BACK SCRATCHER handy. I experienced badly itching areas underneath the neck brace and the back scratcher fork was the only tool that reached under there and helped alleviate the itch. I also found that an expandable metal one (i.e. a "pocket model") was more useful than the wooden ones because the wooden ones were too rigid and long to be useful most of the time...

4. When you can go back to sleeping in your bed again, try using a FIRM CONTOURED MEMORY FOAM PILLOW which will a) help to keep your head in a good position (not tilted), and b) help you to achieve a semi-comfortable position with the neck brace. Sleeping with that thing is not easy in the first place so after the first night where I could hardly sleep at all, I got a short-term prescription for Ambien which worked great to get me to sleep even with the brace...

In summary, I must say that I have been doing very well so far. The pain level immediately after surgery was very tolerable and more discomfort than true pain. I only needed regular pain killers/muscle relaxants for the first week, then was more or less pain-free and only took these once a day at nighttime for the second week, mainly to be able to sleep through the night.

I had and occasionally still have issues with slight numbness/tingling in my left arm and fingers but I had been dealing with my cervical disk problem off and on for 7 long years so that was expected. I find that keeping the affected arm straight and resting the elbow on a soft pillow (not a hard surface) seems to help considerably. The doctor told me to give it a few more weeks and that he was confident it would resolve. I am optimistic that he is right.

Good luck to anyone who will have this surgery. I can say that it wasn't nearly as bad as I had anticipated in several sleepless nights before... Just make sure you have a doctor you trust and who has done many of these surgeries before. It is major surgery after all...
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glad to hear, I love to hear positive as I am about to have the same acdf surgery and I have been scared by what all those people are saying maybe they are just not getting on with it
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Has anyone got an opinion regarding using an Orthopedic Spine surgeon vs a neuro spine surgeon for an ACDF c56,c67? Also, the Ortho uses an O-arm in surgery, has anyone heard of that and what the advantages are?
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My wife is 6 days out from ACDF. Her herniation occurred umprompted as well, we were sleeping in a hotel room, she woke up and felt something "pop" and there it was. And the MRI confirmed it.



She seems to be doing well so now, first three days were horrendous for her but she went from taking percocet every 6 hours for 3 weeks (from the incidence until yesterday) when she only took it once!



Anyway, we're trying to stay disciplined with her recovery.



We had a very good and highly recommended neurosurgeon. Several of our friends are MDs or nurses recommended him and one of them has had 3 fusions already and he just ran a marathon this past year.



I think the quality of the surgeon really matters. Hopefully our good fortune holds for the long run. I have a lot of anxiety about her recovery.
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Thank you for your post !! I am having a three level ACDF on 5/24/12 and most of the posts have been soooo negative and frightening!!! I have a positive attitude and a great PM and confidence in my surgeon. I know I will be ok!! I wonder if I will be able to lift more than 5lbs in the future and if I will be able to resume normal activities?? Wish me luck!!:)
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I too want to thank you for this post.  I am having two level ACDF (C5/c6 C6/C7) on June 5, and appreciate the positive review after reading so many problems and negative comments!  I have been very scared as I have never had any surgery, and this post has helped calm me down!
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Lday, I curious to know how you are now? I had3 level onJune 5th and each day passes improves.
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I find this discussion very helpful! I'm only 28 and am scheduled to have acdf for c4-c7 (my c3-c4 were fused at birth). I literally woke up after playing video games on kinect sports the night before. I work for 6 vascular surgeons and we just figured i pulled something. After a few days it got worse so i went to my doctor. mri showed bulging of c5 and c7. Over the course of one month I've tried pain needs, muscle relaxers, injections, pain patches, and physical therapy...nothing works. I can't get comfortable, can't sleep. My doctor refereed me to a nuero surgeon who is well known and had many years of experience. He does say i need it but is worried about my young age. My doctor has already pulled me off the schedule at work because i am unable to work comfortably with the pain (i am a vascular ultrasound tech, i scan with the arm that hurts and its hard for me to lift/move patients now) and have decided to have the surgery july 12th. I am terrified! How did you guys relax prior to surgery? I just can't seem to put my mind at ease.
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I am having ACDF surgery on August 13, 2012.  The posts are very helpful.  I usually do very well with surgery and recovery afterward but I have never had this type of surgery but after 24 years of on and off pain I am ready for it.  I am 47 and over the past several months the pain has been constant.  I guess I don't rebound like I used to when I was younger.  I did get a second opinion and was basically told by both doctors that there were therapies that would help but nothing would fix it permanently but the surgery.  I guess I will have time on my hands after, so I will post on how things are going.
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I am having a dual ACDF on my C4-5 & C5-6. It is a bit scary, but I think the risk far outweighs the pain and weakness. I can't wait to get this over with and get my life back!
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