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Update on Three Level Cervical Fusion
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Update on Three Level Cervical Fusion

I just wanted to post that I am now 2 1/2 weeks out from my three level cervical fusion at C5-6, C6-7, and C7-T1.  The first week was very rough, but every day I continued to feel better and better.  I now have not numbness in my hands and arms and very little discomfort in my neck and shoulders.  I have been weaned off my soft collar and now only use it when traveling.  I believe that so far my surgery has been a success.  I saw the neurosurgeon yesterday.  He cautions me to continue to take it easy and I really have stepped back from my daily chores.  I am fortunate that my husband has been such a great help when he is home from the road.  I am also glad that my children are old enough to help with the daily household chores.  It is amazing how much they are willing to help now that they understand that I am not able to do as much as I used to.  I hope that this post may help some of those who are reluctant to seek help for their symptoms.  At this point, I would definitely do it all over again.  I am looking forward to continued success.  Best wishes to all who are still being treated and facing the decision of surgery or the choice to live with their pain.  Jo
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks for letting us know how the other side of the surgery goes. I may be in for a single level fusion in the near future. I see my neurosurgeon next week. I live alone every other week and my kids are here the opposite weeks. thank goodness they can help me out when they are here and they have been very helpful since i have been sick.
What is it like when you returned home. I know you had quite a extensive fusion not like mine will be but id like to know what to expect the first week. Did you require lots of pain medication, how was your mobility? how did you manage with showers etc. Sleeping?  I do have steps to get into my house and have a basement which i dont need to go down much except to let the dog up from his crate when im out.  I may move it upstairs until im able to do stairs after surgery.
Im trying to get the house ready now as it takes me forever to do anything around here and i want to be sure im ready when the time comes.
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Avatar_f_tn
My first week was very rough as I stated.  I had asked my neurosurgeon to get my insurance company to allow me to stay one night in the hospital.  I am so glad I did.  I was very sore and out of breath whenever needing to get up to go to the bathroom.  By the next day, my lungs were back up to par and it became easier to get around.  I was only able to sleep in a recliner for the first week as it was not comfortable to lay down.  I took my pain meds pretty much on schedule for the first week for pain, but by the second I only took them occasionally.  I am now only taking tylenol for pain since the pain meds put me to sleep since I am not one to take medication all the time.  If at all possible, you should have someone stay with you for at least the first few days if not a week.  I do not know how a single level is, but you will not want to be doing anything at all.  Making meals and letting out the dog will not be on your list of things you wish to do.  I pretty much only got up to the bathroom and that was about all I could muster.  I was able to shower by myself by the third day.  Your incision will be covered for the first week or so and afterwards just make sure it stays clean and does not look infected.  By the second week I started feeling better and I feel pretty good considering what I have had done.  I have willed myself to not be dependent on the collar, as I want to strengthen my muscles again.  I still have trouble swallowing, but that is getting better too.  I had a lot of trouble with things wanting to go down the wrong tube as they say and then I have to cough,  Definitely not something that you want to do.  It was very painful.  I am fortunate to have a neurosurgeon who I used to work for 15 years ago and I trust him and no he is a qualified surgeon.  He assures me it will not come apart, but also cautions me to let my body tell me what is good.  He says I should only do what is comfortable and stop anything that does not feel right.  I have two cousins who had cervical fusions as well. One a singe and one a double, but both of them were placed in a hard cervical collar and they were both told to wear them for a long time and they felt uncomfortable without the collar.  I was only started on a soft collar and I feel fine now without it.  I guess it depends on your neurosurgeon.  I guess if you are forced to go it alone, I would be sure to have soft food available and an alternative place to sleep if you are not comfortable in your bed.  I wish you the best of luck and will be glad to answer any other questions you  may have.  Jo
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Avatar_f_tn
Quick Question for those who have gone through a cervical fusion before me.  I am about 3 weeks out from a three level fusion and have been feeling quite well as I stated.  But since Friday, I have had some burning pain between my shoulder blades.  Should I be worried?  Or is this a normal healing problem.  Perhaps I have been pushing the limit with not wearing my collar because I have felt so well.  I have not been doing a whole lot, but I am moving around a bit more than before.  Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you. Jo Ann
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Avatar_n_tn
I am now 13 weeks post-cervical fusion of 3 discs, including implantation of plates, screws, etc.  My neurosurgeon keeps telling me how severe my surgery was.  I was hospitalized for 5 days, spending the first night in intensive care (which is my doctor's normal procedure due to the seriousness of the surgery.)  My first week home is still a blurr.  I was not allowed to be left along.  I came home over the Memorial Day Weekend, so my husband and daughter were able to be with me.  Then my wonderful, retired parents spent the rest of the week with me until my husband and daughter got home.  I DID NOTHING, except sleep.  I was still on a lot of pain meds, so sleeping was actually the best thing for me.  I had to wear a neck BRACE for 24/7.  This was not a soft cervical collar, but a very stiff brace which allowed no movement of my neck or head.  I was able to take this off and apply a plastic one for my showers.  During the first week home, my family helped me apply the plastic collar and changed by dressing.  By the 2nd week, I was moving around more, but still very limited.  I was not allowed to even lift a gallon of milk.  Each week, I saw slow but gradual improvement.  After about 3 weeks, I was going out some, of course, someone else driving because I couldn't.  I had to wear the neck brace until just 3 weeks ago at which time I was switched to a soft collar.  I just saw my neurosurgeon yesterday and he has not completely released me, but I do not have to wear the soft collar unless my head "feels heavy" or I start having more pain.  The surgery was one of the more severe I have even undergone, but I am thankful I had it.  I was in such terrible pain from pinched nerves, etc., that I couldn't even work for 2 weeks prior to the surgery.  That pain is much better, in fact, mostly gone completely.  Yes...I do still have burning between my shoulder blades and an occasional shooting pain to my left shoulder.  My doctor told me this is completely normal.  He said it is due to my muscles healing.  The surgery caused a great deal of strain on the muscles of and surrounding the neck and they have a long way to go before they are completely healed.  I was worried that the burning was due to something going wrong with the fusion, the implant, etc.  I was very re-assured when he told me this is normal.  He gave me some simple exercises to try, including range of motion, and said I could go to physical therapy if I want.  I prefer to try the exercises on my own first.  I do have pain with certain activities, like reaching above, etc.  Again, he said this is all normal.  This surgery has really changed my life, however.  I was working as a hospice nurse and with the recommendation of my neurosurgeon, I have given that up and plan to work as an office nurse now.  My doctor recommended against any lifting over 20 lb and that for the rest of my life, I will need to "be smart" about my activities, etc.  I do NOT want to risk re-injuring my neck.  Also, he warned me that the disc above and below the correction site are the discs doing most of the work now, so I need to be careful that I don't injure them as well.  Would I have changed anything?  No.   I had no choice unless I wanted to live in pain for the rest of my life.  I was even told that physical therapy would not have helped in my case because my injury was so severe.  How did I injure my neck in the first place?  Who knows???  Probably from my years of working as a nurse.
I hope this info helps and I pray you heal as well as I have been healing.  Just remember, ask your doctor before you try any exercises or new activities.  Best of luck!!
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you for your experience.  I have tried to rest the past day or so and have found this to help with a lot of my discomfort.  I guess I am just trying to rush things too much.  My neurosurgeon too, keeps saying how involved this surgery was and to be sure to only do thing to comfort.  I can lift only things weighing about a gallon of milk.  I am surprised of how different some surgeons are regarding the use of the hard cervical collar or soft.  I had expected to be in a hard collar for many months, but was only in a soft collar for two weeks and now only need to use it when I feel I need it.  I have not been using it because it makes it harder to swallow.  I still have quite a bit of swelling and hard time swallowing.  I am reassured by the surgeon that this will get better in time.  I am eager for things to move back into place so that swallowing will become easier and perhaps I will not have to cough so much.  Time will tell.  I am advised also not to do any overhead work or do too much until more healing has taken place.  I have the plating as well and the neurosurgeon keeps saying it will not fall apart in one breath and then in another he says it was a very serious surgery.  I am not advised as to what long term will bring, but I am sure life will be different from now on.  One good thing which has come from this experience is that my children aged 10, 12, and 14 now know how serious my problem is and have really stepped up to help with the household chores.  I hope you continue to well and thank you for your well wishes.  I am very happy with my decision to have the surgery as I am in less pain now than before and I have no numbness.  Thank you. Jo Ann
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Avatar_n_tn
I forgot that I also had trouble swallowing in the early stages of my healing.  I especially had trouble swallowing pills; they would get stuck.  That has passed and I now have no trouble swallowing at all. It sounds like you too are very positive about choosing to have the surgery.  Keep up that positive attitude.  Even when I am having severe burning between my shoulder blades, I am still thankful I had the surgery because I am so much better than before.  Glad to hear your children are helping out.  As I said, I was fortunate to have my daughter still living with us; she is 24.  She was a GREAT help.  It's a good learning experience for all.  Again, best to you and keep healing.  :-)  Linda
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you. :)
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Avatar_n_tn
I don't know if you will get to read this but I had a three level fusion with five disc implants and in the beginning I was so happy to be feeling better I was not as cautious as I should have been.  The surgery is very fragile - any tear in the tissue now can become a big problem later.  I know this because I am 4 years post op and for about the first eight months I felt great and then little by little the symptoms started to come back but I ignored them and they would come and go. I was in denial or just ignorant- well I just had another MRI and three of the discs are protruding and causing nerve compression and now the level below the fusion has disintegrated and is causin a whole new set of symptoms with my lower body.  My life is pure hell- there is nothing I can do and no position I can get in that doesn't trigger one or the other of my pain syndromes.  I'm pretty sure I'm looking at another surgery and this time I am going to be so careful.  But they also say that a second surgery has less of a chance of solving the problem than the first one does- so if I could say anything to you it would be- slow down- rest- do not lift anything or push or strain yourself in anyway.
  I would hate you to be where I am.
Katwa
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you Katwa.  I am trying to be careful.  I am discouraged with how much I can not do.  The kids are a help, but there is so much that I would love to do around the house to clean up.  After having tried to push it too much, I am now forcing myself to be "lazy" and let things go.  There are a few things I will do, but have tried to ignore what needs to be done and wait for someone else to do it.  My biggest problem is the discomfort between the shoulder blades.  If I sit, stand, or walk too much it is aggravated.  I will see the surgeon on the 24th and I will be sure to verify how I should be feeling and what I should and should not be doing.  Thanks for your input and I hope for the best in your recovery of symptoms.
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Avatar_f_tn
My appointment has been moved up to tomorrow due to an onset of pain in the neck, headache and arm numbness which woke me during the night.  I sincerely hope this does not mean trouble in the long run.  I was still having the burning between the shoulder blades, but otherwise I felt ok.  Since this happened Thursday night, I have now noted tingling in my arms as if they will go numb at any time and neck pain with occasional headaches.  How could something like this just suddenly appear?  I was feeling great! No Headaches, NO numbness and now this.  I will see the surgeon tomorrow and hopefully he can find some answers.  The nurse insisted that I see an Urgent Care if I should experience a repeat of Thursday evening.  What should I be concerned about?  Is this a sign that the surgery is not going to be a success?  God I hope all will be well.  Thanks for letting me sound this out to you all. Jo
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Avatar_n_tn
well hold on might not be- but here I am sitting in pbed, 4 years post op and I cannot do a thing I am inso much pain.  MRI shows multiple disc protrusions and some compressed nerves.  So I wait for Comp to approve more MRI's but I want to scream, I want to die- I cannopt just sit here and watch life go by.  I have lost all contact with family and friends - my world just keeps getting smaller and smaller- I never imagined myself like this.  I was so active interested in so many things, talked to anybody- had a lot of friends.  Now I find myself almost unable to move out of this bed and the depression is creeping in.  Yesterday I had such a weird sensation I thouhght I must be on the verge of death.  Everything was at a slant. I got up and went to go downstairs and the hallway looked slanted and i went into a panic attack i could not even remember what day it was or what month.  This is such a horrible night mare. good luck you are still in the early stages of healing right?  So chances are its just part of the healing process, but I can't stress how much you should be careful and let things go- I wish I had been.
Katwa
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Avatar_f_tn
Katwa, Please do not give up hope.  You still have many friends out there, but perhaps they do not know what they can do to help.  I hope that the answer to your pain is found soon.  I just got back from the neurosurgeon's office.  They are not getting too excited yet.  It is thought that there might be a combination of healing pain and some inflammation.  I am going to have a dose of medicine for a week and then return to the Dr.'s office in two weeks with an xray prior to the appointment.  So I guess I will not be anxious about my symptoms for now and continue to take it easy and see what happens.  I sincerely hope that your spirits improve.  There are more people in your life that care about you in some way that you don't even know.  From experience I know that death is not the answer for anything.  My nephew took his life and he thought he was all alone and in reality, they ended up closing the High School where he had Graduated from the year before because he has so many friends and Faculty who wished to attend the funeral.  He never knew how many peoples lives he affected by his presence.  Please talk things out and keep the faith.  Best wishes to you and please keep us informed on your progress. Jo Ann
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Avatar_n_tn
  You are satill in the early stages of pot-op so it very well could be swelling from the surgery. I don't know what kind of meds they are going to give you but probably some kind of heavy duty inflammatory drug- is it by injection or mouth.
  Just remember that you will be feeling less pain so don't let your body trick you into thinking you can do what you used to do.  Because I am sure that is how I got in my present condition. It is very discouragingto stay still and do nothing while you watch the laundry and the dustballs accumulate- but its not worth risking your life for.  I sound like a broken record but its the truth.
  No I'm hanging in there its just difficult because at the same time I'm trying to save my life I am constantly being faced with these obstacles placed before me by Workmans Comp.  We know what is wrong but we've known since April and still they drag it out refusing to even authorize to diagnostic test.  Back and forth to "emergency hearings"  which acually take 2 months to get scheduled all aI can do is waitl
katwa
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178107_tn?1315951230
I'm sorry your having so much pain, but I completely understand.  I was hurt at work 05/25/05.  I was told by an orthopedic doctor that I had a torn rotator cuff which was repaired on 02/13/06. Due to the numbness and neck pain I was sent to a nerosurgeon.  On 11/08/06 he did an ACDF (C5-C7) due to ruptured disks.  It has been over ten months and I'm in more pain than before surgery.  I've had every kind of test that could be thought of and my doctor says that everything looks great.  My neck and shoulder burns and aches all the time, I have terrible headaches everyday, not to mention being so depressed all I can do is sit around and cry.  I am still taking muscle relaxers and Demeral every 4 hours.  I still sleep in the recliner because I can't lay down for more that 30 min.

Last month my doctor sent me for an EMG because my pinky and ring finger were numb.  The test was normal but the doctor still thought that I had damaged my Ulnar nerve in my elbow when I fell on it.  He also said that it could be causing my shoulder pain.  I am now 4 weeks post-op from that surgery.  I have no feeling in my pinky or ring finger and my arm is numb up to my elbow.  I know that some of the feeling will probably come back, but my shoulder pain is no better and so far all I've got from the surgery is an incision about 9 inches long on my arm.
I haven't worked since before my fusion in Nov.  And now three surgerys later I'm worse than I was to begin with.  I just want to know what is causing this pain and will it ever go away.

I know what you mean with workers comp.  It took them a year and a half to approve my fusion. My doctor says that could be the reason for some of my pain. He said that with it being put off that long it could have caused more damage.  But workers comp is only looking out for the company.

I was also perfectly healthy before this happened.  I am 45 and my husband and I waited late in life to have children.  We have a 7 year old and a 4 year old.  Now I am so messed up I can barely care for them.  I just don't want thier memories of childhood being thier mother all crippled up and not being able to do anything with them.  

Hang in there, I'm sure they will get things going for you soon.  Good luck.
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Avatar_n_tn
your situation sounds similar to mine  right hand going completely numb , painful all down right arm- last three fingers you could cut with a knife and I wouldn't feel it.  Yes the depression is very bad- its very isolating- pain is a strange phenomena- it consumes you.  I see people walking down the street and I think to myself "why are they laughing, there is nothing so funny to laugh like that". I used to laugh all the time.  Now I almost never do- once in a great while.  There is just nothing- I am so completely absorbed in fighting to get my life back- thats all I know.  yeah- they love to tell you you are doing fine.
  well 4 and 1/2 years after mysurgery and its been going down hill ever since the surgery I asked for an MRI. Guess what- all the same discs that were buldging out before the surgery are all bulging out again except now there is a new one.  At first my doc said- well the plates are in good place.
  well thats nice to know but what about the discs.  I dug up my original x-ray which showed C-7 thru T-1 to be perfect nothing wrong at all.  C-5 thru C-6 were my worst levels pre-surgery and they are now buldging out and have severe nerve compression bilaterally.  I said to him- And this is just fine??
He finally admitted it wasn't once I proved C- thru T-1 had been perfect and now they are a mess also with nerve root compression- now he got it hat I knew that his surgery was the only thing that happened between then and now.  He admitted that with a three level fusion since the mobility of all of those discs is now not present that the levels below have to bear a heavier workload and finally- finally wrote to comp and said it was most definitely related to the original assault and/or a direct result of the surgery to correct it.  I am in no better position than I was before the surgery in fact worse because now we are into a whole other level and Comp will fight this tooth and nail.  I don't care I will not give up. I research, I document everything that is said between my docs and me. I write letters to the doc before the appointment stating what my symptoms are and what my concerns are.  I make three copies one for the doc, one for the lawyer and one for me.  I will not let them just take away my life I was working at my job as an RN in a detox facility and a pt who shouldn't have even been admitted was- he should have been in jail.  He attacked me and said "I'm going to kill you you little *****" he broke my arm in two places, complately detached my thumb from my hand and broke my neck so severely that a bone was pressing on the spinal cord,. It was a full year before Comp even OK'd the MRI.  The longer nerves are compressed without be treated the less likely they are to ever be normal.  I have a dysfunctional bladder- Feel like I hav eto go urgently all the time even when I don't- Major irritation and disruptance in my life. So here I am four surgeries later and looking at another one.  I am basically dysfunctional,  I just lay in bed..  I can no longer even write my own name.  Everything I do aggravates one or the other pain symdromes.  
I'm probably hitting the word limit so I will end here but I have more to say to you bev. so I'll continue on in new post.
  Kathy
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178107_tn?1315951230
I'm so sorry for what your going thru.  But I understand exactly how frustrating it is.  One day your perfectly normal and the next day you can barely get out of bed.  And you would think that if an employee was injuried to that degree a company would do everything they could to get that person well.  But instead they just add to the torment your already going thru and try to get out of paying for your treatment.  I've already had three surgeries as a result of my injuries. I'm in more pain than I started out with and no one can tell me why.
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Avatar_m_tn
getting ready to have a neck fusion between c-5 , c-6 and c-7 on tuesday of next week. i am really scared because they say they stick a breathing tube down ur neck while ur still awake ?.and does anyone know how much of a loss of movement i will have in my neck area ?.terrified billy
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