19 answers

They Want to Fuse My Neck

I have had two neurosurgeons tell me I need to have an anterior discectomy. Has any one had this procedure done? Did it work for you? How long did it take to get back to day to day activities and would you do it again?
It is not an easy decsion so I want all the input I can get
Thanks

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I'd love to help anyone I can w/ any type of spinal problems, just email me!! Please do not have your spines fused, there's a better way and w/o metal plates and ect. Even if youv'e had one and still have problems or pain,or it just didn't work. I've had 6 levels done in Aug,07. I went fishing the day after my first and 3 days after my second!! I walked out the same day for both on my own two feet, this is not false hope. I truely understand what it means to live w/ this type of pain and all that it intails. I lived w/ this for almost 15 years, neuro surgens did not want to touch me untill I lost some bodily functions or became paralized and ect... I was told livw w/ pain,physcial therapy,take pain pills and so on. My spinal problems were from an automobile accident. I was affected from ware my spinal colum and brain stem attached down to c-5/c-6. I could go on all day and anwser yor questions or more but so email me and I'll do my best. IT IS NOT A BOTHER!!!

2 moms found this helpful

I would really look into this more. There is an institute in FL and I don't remember the name off the top of my head but you reallly need to do some research. To give you some background, my nephews mother was in a car accident back in the early to mid 1990's. She has had a few other since then and had so many issues w/ her neck. Doctors she saw said they couldn't do anyting for her. She lived on pain meds and dealt with it as best possible. it got so bad to the point she would have to hold her chin up w/ her fingertips because she couldn't do it w/out being in pain. She would walk around and not be able to turn her neck because of the pain she was in. She finally found this institute that took her in as a candidate for this special surgery, I don't think they had to fuse it but whatever they did do she said she feels 75-80% better than she ever has. I am sure she wouldn't mind giving you some details and the name of the place if you email her at ____@____.com tell her H. referred you to her. I had a bad disk in my lower back and after 4 years of being poked and dealing with the pain I opted for the surgery. Luckily for me I had an awesome surgeon, no problems since. butthe lower back is a lot different than the neck. Shoot Missy an email, i am sure she would love to fill you in about everything she has gone through and the success of the procedure. If you don't hear back from her, just in case her email isn't working, you can email ne at ____@____.com and I will give her a call for you.

PS I also sent this article to her as well. So hopefully she will respond.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi D.! I had this same exact surgery done in Sep 07. They fused together c5- c7 and took out the two disks. It was not so much a choice for me because the disks were herniated and pushing against my spinal cord. I was starting to lose the use of my arms and was in very bad pain. While thing are better with the use of my arm I still get some sharp pains right along my spine by my collar bone that sometimes shoots down into my shoulder blades. If it is starting to have a paralizing effect on and you've gone through physical therapy then I would recommend it but you should try tp first. There are some lasting effect for me and could be for you.

Hi, D., sorry to hear about your neck...you must be in chronic pain.

I just had a disectomy and fusion at the C6-7 level the end of January this year. I've had a bad neck for about ten years and rolled over in bed the first of December and went into an awful spasm that sent me to the ER.

Anyway, I had radiating nerve pain down my left arm and was in misery. I just wanted the pain to stop.

The surgery lasted about 1 1/2 hours and when I woke up in recovery, I immediately knew that pain was gone. What a relief.

My surgery was at 3:30 p.m. and I left the hospital the next morning around 8 a.m., they said as long as I could sit up and swallow.

Because it was done anteriorly, my voice was not right for about two weeks and swallowing was a little uncomfortable, but completely tolerable.

I was prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxants, so I slept a lot. My husband was supposed to stay at home with me for about a week, but he went back to work the day after I came home. I'm 53 and do not have any little kids.

I had to keep a neck brace on all the time in the house for the first two weeks, couldn't drive for at least a month. I have grandkids, but couldn't pick them up, in fact, couldn't lift anything over five pounds (about the weight of a gallon of milk.)

I would describe the neck and throat as a bit uncomfortable, but I was so happy to be out of severe pain that it didn't bother me at all. I was very surprised with the results, and yes, I would do it again if I had that pain and loss of function again.

I returned to work in six weeks. I'm a broadcast captioner which involves the use of my arms and shoulders quite a bit, but everything seems to be fine.

I think you're going to need some help that first week at least with the kids, plus someone to do the housework, and just rest as much as you can so you can heal.

Good luck with everything and please let me know how you make out.

Yes, I had the surgical procedure done on my C5, C5,C6 and C7 on 5/07. I was in the hosiptal for one day. I had to wear a neck brace for a little over a month. The recovery time wasn't bad I function pretty well besides sitting straight up for a long period of time and driving. Driving took the longest because the least jerking movement hurts. I stayed off of work for 3mons because my job requires sitting all day. I had 3mons of therapy prior to and 3mons after the surgery. Even though its been almost a year and I'm starting to feel pain again. I have been putting it off whether to go get another MRI. But yes, I guess I would do it again because the pain before the surgery was unberable and I was losing censation in my right hand and arm.

Hi D.,

Why do they want to remove two discs in your neck?

Just wanted to know.

D.

HI I have had my neck fused in September 2004. I was in a car accident in 2003 and was having great pain and numbness in my hand, I had a heirniated disk in my neck. I will tell you recovery does take some time, and there is things you can not do for a while. I will also tell you I still to this day have some severe pain in my neck which I was told does sometimes happen. There is times I turn my head and pain shoots down my back and I am in tears, I have been told they can not do much for me any longer my primary care manager is going to send me to an ortho surgeon now. My pain is occassional now but it is still very much there.. just learn all you can about the surgery..and I agree I would only use a neurosurgeon for this. I hope this helps some as I have had the disk fusion done. If you have any questions you can email me any time.
L.

I have no clue what an anterior discectomy is. I will assume by the title of your post they want to fuse 2 vertebrae together? Could you please share w/ us what this is and why you need it?
Have you asked them what can happen if you do not have the surgery? I will assume its for the best if 2 surgeons reccomended it. I would be nervous but if its going to help you somehow you might want to get it done. My dad had his ankle joint fused. He was back on his feet pretty quick.
Will it be a dangerous surgery, close to your spine and all?

D.,
I have not had my neck fused, but I did have L4-L5-S1 fused 2 years ago. I will not lie to you. It is a difficult recovery, but if you are in constant pain that is no longer aleviated by medication like I was, you should notice a huge improvement. My procedure did work and has eliminated the majority of my pain, but not all. I went back to work after 12 weeks, but this may be significantly different with the neck. For the first 3-4 months I wore a hard brace from hip to shoulder. You need to be prepared that this is likely the situation with you neck as well and you will be in a hard neck brace for a period of time. It is not comfortable, but you get used to it. I do not suggest doing this surgery in the height of summer, unless you tolerate heat really well. The brace will make you hot, even in the middle of winter. It truly took a year to get back to doing everything normally, but the fusion was complete after about 6 months and I had much more freedom then. If you are particularly active now, the limiatations throughout the first year will frustrate you, but will not be impossible to deal with. If you are not very active, you will feel like you are back to your normal life after 4-5 months. If you have not sought out a second opinion, I would definitely do so and make sure you stick to the neurosurgeons, not an orthopaedic. I hope this helps. Please feel free to ask me any additional questions. Good luck and God Bless!

K.

I had the same operation in March 2005, except that I had 2 disks removed and c5-c7 fused. Before the surgery, I had daily constant pain in my neck, left shoulder and upper back, and sometimes down to my left hand.

Before the surgery, I was really scared, but I knew that in order to make the pain go away I had to undergo this procedure. I had done a lot of alternate treatment, exercise, massage, manipulation, but nothing had anything more than immediate, but short lived, relief.

The surgery itself wasn't so bad, unexpectedly, though, the pain after surgery in both my shoulders was more than in my neck. I went back to work a week and a half after surgery, which worked out fine.

The hardest part of recovery for me was the not being able to lift more than a gallon of milk. And as a busy mom, the initial slowdown in activity will be hard at first. As you heal, you'll feel so much better.

I regained 40% of the normal motion of my neck. I also did physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that had more or less atrophied in the 15 years I'd had the problem.

I would be happy to exchange emails with you offline too, if you have more questions or just want a veteran to hold your hand!

H.

D.: I feel your pain. I've had chronic back pain for more than 3 years, after the birth of my now 3 year old daughter via c-section. I don't know what happened, but ever since the birth, I have had horrible back pain. I have continuously been on heavy pain meds. Over the years, I've tried so many different procedures trying to figure out what was wrong and what would help. Finally, a year ago I had a fusion surgery on my back. My issues are with L4, L5 and S1. During the surgery, the neurosurgeon inserted a rod through my spine and three pins to support it. My doc told me that the surgery would be about 6 hours and that I would be in the hospital for 2 days. The surgery took more than 10 hours and I was in the hospital for 5 days. The 2 weeks following that are still a complete blur. When I immediately came out of surgery it took several hours to get my pain under control and I was in recovery for a long time. Then the next days were excrutiating. It was not at all like it was described. While my doc had told me in the beginning that the chances of this surgery curing me were not great and she only gave me about a 20% chance of improvement, I thought 20% better than I was would be great. My hope was that I would be able to join my family in outings and not have to take narcotic pain meds on a daily basis. I will say that the surgery gave me maybe a 5-10% improvement over the pain before. Too bad the pain was always a 10 on the 1-10 scale so its really only gone down to a 9 or so. The recovery period was difficult. Depending on how much pain medication you take currently, will tell you how you may come out of surgery - the more you take now, the harder it will be to manage pain directly after surgery. That was the worst pain I'd ever experienced in my life. I told my husband I would have rather given birth to 10 babies vaginally, every hour for 10 days than to experience that pain again! Also, there is always a good chance that the surgery could have to be performed a second time. They say it takes about a year to realize the full outcome of the surgery. I have now hit my one year mark and I still have to take just as much pain medication as I did before the surgery. While I feel as though I can do a FEW more things than I did before - I am not sure if that is more mental than anything. I feel like I went through all that pain (and a huge scar) and I NEED to feel I got something out of it, so I tend to push myself more than I did before - and I suffer the consequences later on. Sorry for rambling on. I don't want to discourage you from doing something you think you want to do. Be prepared to need help for a while. It may be a little different because yours is your neck, but I can't imagine that you'll be able to move too well, so you'll need help with your children. I actually had to put my kids in daycare for 2 months after my husband was home for 2 weeks with me. I was told I could not lift them up for 6 months and even then it would be better if I kept that to a minimum. I have not gone back for my one year evaluation because I'm afraid they will tell me I need the surgery a second time. I am not willing to do that and would rather just not know so I don't have to think about it. Had I known the pain of the procedure and the outcome - I probably wouldn't have done it. Hope this helps a little. Again, sorry to overload you with my info. If you need more info, please, please feel free to contact me.

I don't have personal experience with the surgery, but my mother had the same surgery performed several years ago. (They fused 3 vertebrae with cadaevor bone b/c she has arthritis in her hips.) She was 50 years old when it was done, but it took her 2 weeks fairly solid bed rest another 2 weeks at home, then she was back to work on light duty. I'd say it took her a good 8 weeks to feel back to her "old" self. But, prior to the surgery, she'd had a lot of numbness in her limbs as well as some pain. She has never regreted the surgery as it fixed all of her issues.

I hope that helps some. =) Good luck with your decision!

My first suggestion is to find out all you can about the procedure http://www.spine-health.com/Treatment/Back-Surgery/Surger...

I would then get a second opinion with a more holistic doctor. Surgery should always be the ultimately last resort. Try Pilates, or cranial sacral therapy plus acupuncture to take yourself out of any pain you may currently have.

~L.
www.accesspilates.com
www.notaboutfood.com

If you had 2 opions that are the same you should get it done. I had mine done over 5yrs ago I got to go back to workin 8wks. Your recovery depends on how fast your body heals. Everyone has there ownrate of healing. Useally they let you get back to you regular activities in 2-4wks when the pain in your in yout bsck decreases. Yes I would do it again. neurosurgion is the only one that I would let touch me do not go to a orthopedic doctor. Neurosergens are trained the nerves system as will as the ortho part of anything thing to do with the spinalcord. My discs where unstable and everytime I walked it pinched my nerve in my leg. Having surgery was better then the alternative, of letting it go and not being able to walk when it severed my siatic nerve. It was a long time before I had it done and I wish I have had it done earlier. I got to drive in 2wks. Don't rush you self in deciding what is the best for you. I know its hard to make the descision. Having your neck done should decrease recovery time because you don't have to use a walker to get aroung. You should be able to get back in to your routine. Remember that you will have a neck brace on for at least 2 wks. I'm also a retired nurse. Hope this helps. Good luck.

I have a friend that has had the procedure done, she says that she would tell you to have the operation. She was back to normal after about 8 weeks (she has 2 discs done). She says that she would do it again if necessary. She recommends that once you have the proceudre to do upper body strength training. Hope this info helps.

Hi ,

I had this done in 1992 2 times 2 weeks a part the first one did not take.. The bone that they took off my hip hurt worst then the neck did, second time not alot of pain. You will heal faster if youstart taking vitamins now I learn that from a Dr. and it works take 3 a day of a muliti vitamin . I am now though having problems not on my neck but my shoulders and arms pain that I cant use my arm and hurts to lift anything glade my son is 5 alway had to pick him up and hold him, bothers me more on cold and rainie days other then that I am fine.. It uselly takes 6 week to heal but I recover fast do not like to be tied down. Hope this helps. E. in Silver Spring Maryland.

my brother had it done at 34 years old after 10 years of living in cronic pain. he was terrified as well. he said if he knew then that he would feel this good he would have done it years ago.

Hello D.,
I haven't had this procedure done. However, I myself need a bi-level spinal fusion of the L4-L5, L5-S1. I also have a broken coccyx (Tailbone). I've been to 6 physicians because I wanted many opinions. I would suggest seeing an Orthopedic physician and perhaps one more Neuro just to be sure this is the ONLY option for you. Being a nurse, I'd need to know your background and MRI report to give you any medical advice. But if you are indeed going to have this procedure done, I've heard that recover requires physical therapy 3x a week. Also, the recovery period could be upwards to 6 months (For a FULL and COMPLETE recovery) (Not saying you won't recover and be back to full activities much much sooner-let me add).
You're correct by saying this isn't an easy decision to make. But my advice would be to see an Ortho and perhaps another Neuro. If you'd like some recommendations on Neuro's or Ortho's I'd love to give you some insight. Let me know where you live by sending me a private message.
Hope this helped a little. Recovering from any surgery stinks and you have 4 little ones to care for!! We need to get you better quick but safely! Perhaps the procedure will be completed and you'll be back to normal in 8 weeks! How great would that be! Have they mentioned what the recover was going to be like? How long would it take? How long for physical therapy, etc??
I'm sorry you're going through this, it's really a pain to be in pain!
H.~

Whoohoo!! In the past year and a half, I have had two levels in my neck and two levels in my lower back fused. The precedures do work to a degree, but I personally still experience residual pain and nerve tingling in my arm and my leg. Once you've had it done, you get to wear a lovely "collar" to keep your neck immobilized for 6-7 weeks. I had mine done in July on an emergency basis and I would not recommend having this done in the summer. I also am left with a slightly smaller "turning radius" and there are lots of interesting crunchy sounds quite frequently. I don't know what your symptoms are and whether or not you are at the point where you are experiencing numbness and/or severe pain. I will say that I am happy that I had my neck done. The pain I was experiencing was debilitating and even keeping me up at night in spite of various narcotic based meds the doctors gave me. I would get a second opinion and ask about physical therapy before commiting to the surgery. You will have to sign a paper that says you understand that this procedure is not a guaranteed cure...blah blah blah.

You will also need someone who can take care of you and your children. You will be very restricted in your movements. You will be allowed to climb the stairs one set per day. You will be allowed to ride home from the hospital and then to your first post-op appt with no rides in between unless it is an emergency. Your neck will be very fragile. Someone who really likes you will have to help you bathe. You won't be allowed to raise your arms over your head. So you won't be able to wash your own hair for a few weeks, and the hospital will probably send you home with the brace they put on you immediately following your surgery. You should wear their brace in the shower. You will wake up with it on and you won't be able to turn your head. Your throat will be fairly sore for about 2 weeks, and then it will feel smaller for a while after that since it will still be a little swollen.

Now that I've scared you, I'd like to say good luck. It's actually not that bad, but the recovery takes some time and you have to be really careful. Most of your household chores will have to be done by someone else. I live with my parents because I had to have these fusions done while my husband moved to Ft Huachuca and then deployed to Baghdad. It just requires a lot of planning and preparation before you go in.

Again, good luck. If you want to talk, let me know.

R. M ____@____.com

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