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Surgery? I am terrified...
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Surgery? I am terrified...

Have been told I need a double level fusion at c4/5 and c6/7.  I am scheduled for next week.  I just don't know about this....everything I am reading seems to suggest that this operation is really not that successful.  Most still have pain, and a huge percentage of people have worse pain/symptoms than prior to their surgery.  While I do have pain right now, and it isn't pleasant, at least I KNOW what it is.  I feel like I am deciding between pain I am familiar with and pain that I am not familiar with....make sense?  Hell, I'd rather just keep the pain I have and not have anyone cut me open.  I am also a singer and actor- all this stuff about sore throats and laryginal troubles has be scared out of me socks.  I am amazed at all I have read- the largest percentage of stories are not of good outcomes.  Why then, is this considered a "minimally invasive procedure" and done so often?  I am just terrified.  I understand that with my level of disc issues (both herniated and causing symptoms), I risk permanent damange to the nerve.  However, it seems, with everything I've read that this is the outcome most of the time anyway.   Help.  Does ANYONE have some hopeful news about this surgery?
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi,

I had fusion at C4/5, C6/7 in December, 2006 due to degenerative disk disease and severe cervical spinal stenosis. The neurosurgeon replaced my disks with cadaver bones and reinforced my neck with a metal plate and screws.

Yes, it is scary surgery to contemplate, and I, too was terrified. But in my case, the surgery really wasn't as bad as I had imagined, partly because my surgeon was highly experienced and inspired complete trust. I spent just one night in the hospital and was released on the following day. I wore a “soft” neck brace for several weeks and couldn’t drive or lift more than 5 pounds for a while. After that, I gradually resumed normal activities. By March, I was able to mow my yard and do other things I hadn't been able to do for at least a year. But I wasn't yet fully recovered because my neck problems were extremely severe, prior to my surgery.

I luckily had no throat problems or hoarseness after surgery. I was up and walking around unassisted immediately after the surgery, even going out on the hospital lawn to smoke a cigarette – which is VERY bad to do when you’ve had fusion surgery because it can prevent or delay the fusion. The next day, when I got out of the hospital, I felt well enough to fry chicken for supper.

I did have intense post-op pain, mostly in my neck, shoulders, and back of the head, and indeed it was a different type of pain than I had before surgery. But my initial pain meds -- Morphine and later Percocet -- were pretty effective. I also experienced electric-shock type sensations shooting down my back on occasion, but was told this is common. Those sensations were strange but not painful.

Unlike some people, I am very happy with the results of my cervical fusion, even though I remain less than perfect. I still experience sporadic pain in my neck and shoulders, as well as pain and numbness in my right arm and hand. My arms are weak if lifted chest high or higher. Perhaps it’s due to permanent damage resulting from a 3-year delay between my diagnosis and my surgery, caused by lack of insurance.

I am now far more functional and my current symptoms are much less severe than prior to my neck surgery, at which time I was on the verge of paralysis (the doctor said that if I delayed surgery, I would be permanently confined to a wheelchair in a month or less.). My spinal cord was severely compressed at C4-C5, where my spinal canal narrowed to only 7 mm, which occluded (obstructed) the flow of my spinal fluid. I also had bone spurs, disk bulges, and compressed nerves at every level except C1-C2.

Before surgery, I suffered almost constant pain in my neck, shoulders, both arms, and hands, with intermittent severe pain in the rest of my body, all the way down to the soles of my feet. My arms often became completely numb from elbows to fingers, and my legs had numbness, tingling, pain, and stiffness. I suffered hand and leg cramps, muscle tics and twitches, arm weakness, and clumsiness. I could not coordinate my legs very well when walking and my right foot “dragged.” My knee reflexes were hugely exaggerated. I also developed incontinence.

Following my surgery -- on that same day -- most of my symptoms were much improved. I could walk better immediately and also had far better control of my hands. The muscle tics and twitches, numbness, stiffness, muscle cramps, and incontinence were vastly reduced and within a couple of months, almost all of those problems were gone. I continued to experience improvement in my fine motor skills for at least 18 months afterward. Two rounds of physical therapy helped.

Unfortunately, I also suffer from severe lumbar stenosis and I will soon have a multi-level lumbar fusion. This has caused increasingly worsening back and leg pain, especially when walking and standing. But it’s distinctly different – less widespread – than the pain I had before my neck surgery. The lumbar stenosis may have contributed to my near inability to walk prior to my neck fusion. Even so, the cervical fusion surgery immediately improved my walking ability and greatly reduced my leg pain.

All in all, I consider my cervical fusion surgery a success and hope my lumbar fusion is an equal success. Realistically, I don’t expect the surgery to rid me of all pain. But I’m hoping it will lessen my pain, allow me to function better, prevent paralysis, and let me resume some of the activities I can barely do anymore, such as grocery shopping and walking my dog.
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712802_tn?1274649085
I have not had the surgery, but have had a lot of pain in that area due to ddd, spinal stenosis, and severe arthritis. I also have fibromyalgia, low back pain, and other issues. My surgeon decided I was not a candidate for surgery because I have so many issues - he said he could operate and I might still have a lot of pain; no thanks! So, last week I had a spinal chord stimulator trial. I am still going through the trial and will have it removed on Thursday. After my trial is over I will have to wait three to four weeks (until I'm completely healed) before they can permanently implant the device. I not only got a lot of relief in my neck, back, etc. I also got relief from low back pain I was having. I have been amazed at the results. There are risks with this, too - but so far no problems. You might ask about this option? The company that made the neuro-stimulator being used on me is Medtronics. You might google them to get more info. Good luck.
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Avatar_f_tn
I can't tell you how helpful you both have been.  Thank you SO much.  Blessings to both of you.  
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Avatar_n_tn
Had the same surgery as your having. Like above, my pre surgery head trip was lots worse than what I really went through. Im right at a year out and feel pretty good, not perfect, but lots better than before the surgery. Most people who have success with the surgery dont hang out on the web talking about it...they get on with thier life,so alot of the bad you hear on these boards is blown out of proportion that way. Get it done, youll be glad you did
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Avatar_m_tn
WashCarl said it perfectly..pretty routine..I am a 57 year old active male..got my life back
you will too
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178107_tn?1315951230
I'm glad to hear some success stories. I also had to same surgery as your having, but I can't say that mine was successful. I've been in constant pain since my surgery two years ago.  And I must say that my pain is very real and not blown out of proportion what so ever, as are most of the other people here in the same shape.  

I did alot of research before I had surgery and the success rate was very high.  I had to wait amost three years to have my surgery due to workers comp. So it's better not to prolong it. The surgery itself is not that bad. Get plenty of rest and don't push yourself.
Good luck.
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645390_tn?1338558977
I am having the exact same surgery as you next week, Jan 26. Double fusion for the same discs as you. I too, am terrified. I wish you luck as well as myself.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks for all the input everyone- I appreciate the various points of view.  

I certainly realize that it is people looking for help that generally post on these sites, thus the larger percentage of negative results are discussed.  I get that.  I am also realistic that this back problem of mine is degenerative in nature, and will continue to cause some issues for me.  I guess I am at the place now where the idea of the surgery doesn't concern me as much as what type of surgery.  The whole idea of fusion is repulsive to me.  That just seems really extreme.  Did any of you look into the laser/endoscopic forms of this surgery and if so, what made you decide they were not right for you?  

Michelle- I am so sorry you are scared, and I certainly understand.  Have you had pain for a long time?  How much research have you done?
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645390_tn?1338558977
Hi,
Well, as far as research goes, I had 3 opinions about it. I basically didn't have pain at the time, but the last few months, I have had tingling/numbness in arms and hands, and having balance issues. Got sent to a neurologist who thought MS was the culprit, due to many issues with my gait, reflexes, and other things. After MRI's they saw the 2 hernaited discs and I got sent to a neurosurgeon. He wanted to do surgery ASAP, due to my exam and cord compression. I was shocked, it was hard to take in all the information. That was about a month ago, and since then I can tell my hand is weakening, and I am now in really bad pain in my neck. They told me not to exercise, and basically the pain is affecting my life. Hard to work, drive, etc. I went to 2 more docs, a physical therapist and they all said I need surgery and the sooner the better. Even the PT told me there wasn't anything he could do for me at this point. So, that is what I am doing. Surgery next Monday, and yes, it sounds awful. They cut through the front part of my neck, take the 2 discs out, replace with cadavar bone, put plate and screws and let me fuse. I will wear a collar for 6 weeks. I am petrified. I am also on blood thinners, which is why I need to wait a week for surgery. Need to come of the coumadin. I am afraid after surgery for blood clots, and hate hospitals. I have accepted the fact this needs to be done though, and am trying to get a better attitude. Apparently I was born with a small spine, so the herniated discs are even doing more damage then they would have.
Thanks,
Michelle
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Avatar_f_tn
Sounds like you have been through the ringer.  I am so sorry.  You must be scared.  Looks like you've done all your research though, and have found a good answer for you.  Yep- that is the exact same surgery they are telling me I need.  I have had one ortho person and a neurosurgeon tell me I need this.  I am getting another opinion tomorrow and have looked into a couple of places that do these procedures without fusion and with laser.  I am not sure they are anoption for me, but feel like I need to at least investigate.  I don't have all the symptoms you have, thankfully- although the doctors did seem to think this was an urgent situation.  I saw the first doc at the end of last week and I am scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday.  Talk about not having time to catch up!!  I am still in shock.  I went to see the ortho guy because my neck hurt a little and ended up scheduled for a life altering surgery.  Sheesh!

One thing I was not told, which really is an issue with my doc, is ANYTHING related to recovery.  They make it sound like I'll be up and around in a couple of days.  NOTHING I have read suggests this recovery is that easy.  Sounds like you were given a 6 week time frame.  I've even read months- and often with a c-collar (something else I wasn't told).  So, even if I do the surgery eventually, I have to be better prepared by the docs.  Most people can't just alter their lives on the spur of the moment and I know I can't.  Right now I am caring for my mother who has cancer and is in treatment.  If I can even wait a month, it will be a significant help to me.  

I wish you the best with your surgery and outcome.  Get up and moving ASAP and clots won't be a factor!!

Blessings,
Jean

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645390_tn?1338558977
Hi Jean,
Yes, I was told the recovery can be rough. I was told I would most likely have a TERRIBLE sore throat, and have trouble talking, swallowing for a couple of weeks. (could be sooner, but could take that long).l The collar is to stay on 24 hours a day, with the exception of a quick shower starting @ day 5 after surgery. I am to get into the shower, than take the collar off, not bend my head, as soon as I am done, collar goes back on. I am not to drive, vaccuum, laundry, walk outside, pretty much do nothing for 6 weeks. I have 4 little boys, so will be quite taxing. My motherinlaw is coming for 2 weeks, so that should help. I was also told to sleep in a recliner.
Well, I am quite nervous, but praying all goes well.
Thanks for your good wishes,
Michelle
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Avatar_f_tn
wow.....I was not told ANYTHING like that.  Makes me wonder what kind of surgery I am having....lol.  In fact, I was told that there is likely to be no need for pain meds after surgery.  Just more cause for me to move slowly with this.  I am certainly not in a position to deal with that kind of recovery right now.  I wasn't even going to tell my family or anything, thinking it was such a small surgery that no one would notice!  Since my mom is so sick, I didn't want them to worry about me.  Sheesh....I really need to have a good talk with this surgeon.  Thank you for sharing your story.  If anyone else can tell me waht their recovery was like- at least I'll have some good information!  

Michelle- you take care!  And, keep me posted.  You have your hands full- I am glad to read that you'll have some help coming.  

Jean
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Avatar_m_tn
my recovery was not bad..57 yr male..hitting golf balls 6 weeks post op...collar is optional, no real studies pro or con..mostly it protects the neck but little effect on healing.
Every one has different pain tolerance, you will be fine..life will be a lot better.  good luck
Richard
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178107_tn?1315951230
My doctor told me about the samething as your doctor.  I stayed in the hospital over night with not very much pain.  The worst thing was being able to swallow.  I really had a hard time swallowing pills. It lasts a couple of months and gradually got better.  I never wore a collar at all.  The only thing with me is that the pain gradually got worse and has never got better.  Good luck to you and Michelle.
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Avatar_f_tn
My pain tolerance is great- my husband calls me a freak...lol.  I guess it is just a matter of being properly prepared.  With my being a caregiver for my mother right now, if I can wait even a couple of months, this whole this will be so much easier.  

Has anyone had or looked into Lasic/Endo procedures?

Jean
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178107_tn?1315951230
I have only looked into artifical disk, but I soon found that they don't do multi level or if you have DDD.  
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410475_tn?1262945967
I had a fusion a year ago and although it was my lower back , and it took months to heal and for me to get on with life, my pain is gone and I feel much better. I can't tell you what to do but for me it saved my life and it was a good thing I did it, I got mylife back. good luck to you your in my prayers.
CAT
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Avatar_f_tn
Well- I got another opinion today, and I am happy I did.  Went to an ortho surgeon who said that yes, I may need surgery, but felt it best to try some more conservative therapy first.  Has anyone had foraminal injections before?
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178107_tn?1315951230
I'm so happy for you. Not only will this buy you some more time, but if after trying a more  conservative therapy you still need surgery you will know that you tried everything else first. I wish you the best of luck.
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645390_tn?1338558977
Sounds good, I am a firm believer of trying everything 1st, if it is a possibility that is can help. What type of treatment is he/she thinking of?
Michelle
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Avatar_f_tn
Yeah- it means EVERYTHING to me that I do surgery only as a last resort.  I am going to try some injection therapy, PT and mild decompression and see if that doesn't help.  If not, surgery will be needed, but only on C6/7- so a one level fusion which could open up a disc replacement option- although since it is really DDD that is giving me issues, probably not.

Michelle, how are you doing?
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645390_tn?1338558977
Sounds good Jean, I hope it will work out positive for you. Thanks for asking, I am a mess and on my 3rd day of a migraine. I think I will feel "better" after the surgery and at least it will be over. The anticipation is hard. Today I have a full day of pre-op testing at the hospital, maybe they can give me something for this awful migraine?!
Have a good day,
Michelle
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi Michelle,

Just wanting you to know I am putting good energy out there for your procedure on Monday.  Best wishes to you.  Keep me posted on how you are progressing.  

Namaste',
Jean
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Avatar_f_tn
I thought I read a post where someone went into detail about (teaching?) hospital financial assistance programs....I live in Jacksonville, FL, have no medical insurance but after 3+ years of 24/7 pain, I would trade a kidney for the surgery. I am also going to need in-home care as I am alone.  I am 55 with S1-L5 ruptures.
The posts have had terrific information and encouragement and I thank everyone for sharing.  Does anyone remember seeing this or know what program I need to look for (other than clinical trials)?
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Avatar_f_tn
HI ALL
I am reading what you all have said i hope i dont have that happin to .
  I have had tingling/numbness in arm and hand. as well . I had C5-6 fused. With a plate and screws done on June 29 . yes you do have   TERRIBLE sore throat, and have trouble talking, swallowing for a couple of days ice pops help with that  . And  The collar is to stay on 24 hours a day, with the exception of a quick shower . I am to get into the shower, than take the collar off, not bend my head, as soon as I am done, collar goes back on. I am not to drive, vaccuum, laundry, pretty much do nothing for 6 weeks. i can  walk outside alittle ,but slow .one thing i can tell you it is nice to have someone help you out . with the house work and cooking .  right now my neack and shoulders are little sore , i am bord , and sleepy . but thair is just one thing is that my eye site is just a little blurry  . I did not have that befor the surgery . I am going to see the DR on Friday and i going to see what he says on that . has aneyone had that happin to tham

lene
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