I'm looking at C1-C6 fusion

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CaryF
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 505
   Posted 4/3/2008 12:02 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi All,
 
I am finally considering a cervical fusion (waiting on insurance approval) due to degenerative disk disease.
 
I have been told my pain will be reduced by up to 80%.
What a wonderful gift - if true.
 
Does anyone have a similar experience or any advice to share with me? I'm told it's a 6 weeks recovery in neck brace.
 
All good input welcome.
 
Best, Cary

Toritoo
Regular Member


Date Joined Apr 2008
Total Posts : 184
   Posted 4/3/2008 3:23 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi, Gramps I'm with you on the whole fusion subject. If you can find another way, do it. As Gramps says if you have degenertive disc dicease it won't be long till your hearing the same thing again. I've had three and I was never the same after the first one. Mine was essential, I had osteomylitis of the spine which the Dr.s finally diagnosed after 6 months of agnozing pain and a 60 lb. weight loss and the eating of basically the bottom of my spine L4 and L5 a couple of discs by the discease. The Dr. asked me quite honestly how I survived the pain involved with the infection. Some time I'd like to talk more about this but not now. So anywhoo Gramps you seem like a very informed and helpful person and I'd appreciate and furthers thoughts on the pain pump. I've had mine for just over a year and am still trying to wean off the oral meds and fentnyl patches until it's just the pump. One of the things I wonder about is why can't they or can they put some other medications in the pump along with the pain med such as muscle relaxers, anti naseua and what ever else were already taking to counter attack the symptoms of the pain meds?
 
Thanks for the input Gramps,  sincerely toritoo
*please forgive my spelling errors, I'm not ignorant honest just lazy sometimes.

TexasJen
Veteran Member


Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 649
   Posted 4/3/2008 3:50 PM (GMT -7)   
I am fused from C5-C7 and have the plates and screws in there as well. That took 2 surgeries and I was in as bad, or worse shape than the original injuries from a car accident. All that happened when pain management was in its infancy, so once the surgeon cut off my pain meds, I was SOL. It took another year of misery to get off me rear end and fix myself. Can't say that any doctor would have recommended what I did, but it was either break myself permanently or fix myself. After 6 weeks with a personal trainer and nearly killing myself lifting weights in the gym, (WAY more than any physical therapist had me doing) the pain was gone and hasn't been back - in over 10 years. I was able to keep up with the weights for another 5 years or so - not because I had to, but because it was fun. :-)

It's a rare surgeon who honestly prepares his patients for the brutal reality of fusion surgery. Most will say, "Recovery is 2 to 3 months." Well, their definition of recovery is a whole lot different that the patient's definition. The docs just mean you can get up and down, go to the bathroom, take a walk and take a shower. That doesn't mean you won't still be in pain. The immediate post-op pain and muscle spasms are nearly uncontrollable. I don't care how many drugs they run through that IV, you're in for days of jaw-breaking pain. You won't be able to turn over in bed without 2 people moving your body for you, and you'll be screaming to be turned about every 20 minutes (which rarely happens). After that, it's weeks to months of merely mind-numbing pain, with peaks of jaw-breaking pain when you go to rehab. Your chances of getting any pain relief at all depend greatly on how much you put into the rehab. The surgery will stabilize that area of the spine that was worked on, but you have to build up your muscles to take the strain off the bones. If there is any way you can exercise in a pool - do it! Water takes a whole lot of gravity off your body, and it also takes away a whole lot of the pain. It comes back as soon as you get out, but at least for a while it's genuine relief.

Honestly, I wouldn't look for significant relief for 6 months to a year after surgery. That all depends on how fit you are going into surgery, and how dedicated you are to rehab afterward. As other people have already brought up, I hope you've had a long talk with your doctor about how quickly this degeneration is going. You won't have any neck mobility at all with your entire c-spine fused, so unless you're already stiff as a board, it won't make any difference. You've got a really tough decision to make, so please take the time for a 2nd opinion. Best of luck whatever you decide.
Living in the Republic of Texas minus a gallbladder, a couple of cervical discs, appendix, uterus, and 18" of colon; but still alive and living with my husband, 2 dogs, 1 cockatiel, 1 quaker parrot and 2 gold fish. 


Toritoo
Regular Member


Date Joined Apr 2008
Total Posts : 184
   Posted 4/3/2008 6:30 PM (GMT -7)   
toritoo again, just wanted to let you know that my surgery came with a 16 to 18 month recovery time. It took every day of that too. Yet still I was left with cp. I find it a little hinky that my recovery times seem to be just about the same amount of time you are allowed to look into a Malpractice suit. Coincidence? Who knows. Good luck to all,
toritoo

PAlady
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 4/3/2008 7:03 PM (GMT -7)   
Well, I just had a fusion of L4-S1, and my neurosurgeon - from a major university center - gave me an 80-90% chance of relieving the pain down my leg and in my feet. And that was in writing! Surgery did not help at all, and he's recently told me i'm one of 2 or 3 of his patients for whom the minimally invasive procedure didn't work. I don't believe it. I believe other people just drop out of site, but I've been forcing them to continue prescribing my pain meds (although just found out today when I got my latest Rx in the mail my percocet was cut in half! Another story...) Anyway, I would definitely suggest you have a second opinion. Trouble is, I had my first opinion from a local neurosurgeon who only gave me a 10-40% chance of success with a fusion. Guess who was right? Now I've not only got the pain down my buttock/leg/and symptoms in both feet, but muscles in my lower back that spasm every night when I go to bed - as well as if I just move the wrong way.

I'm not trying to scare you, but I think it is something to give extremely serious consideration to, like others have said. And perhaps you have done that, and have reached the point of desperation that most of us who've had surgery have reached after years of pain. And you give anything a try. And who knows - the people who have had successful surgeries prrobably aren't posting here. Lucky them. But I would get a second opinion, and prepare to double or triple the recovery time they give you. They told me 4-6 weeks. Ha! I'm almost 7 months out and still healing.

Wishing you all the best -
PaLady

Lakeside
Regular Member


Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 138
   Posted 4/4/2008 6:38 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi everyone! My 2 cents: it's exactly 3 months to the date (Jan 11) since my recent PLIF fusion & I totally agree with others' fusion reactions. Texas Jen, you are sooo correct about the "recovery time" definition they give you. My doc was conservative & estimated, for me (I've had 2 priors) it would be 6-9 months, minimum.But how you describe the initial aftermath, when you are dealing w/ the immediate post-op pain & they are doing everything possible to reduce it & NOTHING is helping....jaw-breaking is totally accurate, as is mind-numbing, etc. Just almost impossible to describe, you just can't relieve it at first.
But it does get better, not much, but not as severe. At 3 months now, I can tolerate much more than I could in January. And I optimistically expect to continue to feel better as the months progress. But I know, &I'm not being defeatest or negative, that I will NEVER be pain-free or "normal" again. I can already feel the level above the implant struggling to accept its new burden & my back muscles are so weak & wimply yet, they sometimes just seem to fold & spasm all night, even w/ the Valium, etc.
*sigh* I've had "flares" this week in my hip-crest area where they took the bone marrow for my graft---I thought "Oh joy! Something ELSE now!" It reallly really really hutrts, but I almost had to laugh b/c now my "attention" is being diverted to THAT area, not around my hardware, which hurts too, but by comparrison now, not as much....hahahaha!
Sometimes I just want to "divorce" my head from my body---! I'd like to have my mind free to focus on other things & I do try. But like a puppy on a long leash, thinking it's free to run & starts to run only to be "yanked back"---well, that's the daily tug-of-war I have between my brain & my pain....!
So it goes! Gramps, thanks for your ,as usual, sage & wise comments. I take great comfort in knowing you,my spiney friends, are each dealing daily w/ your own pain and yet are surviving. Great dignity here on this site, lots of wisdom, lots of balm for my worn-out spirit.

CaryF, good luck in making your decision. I can't imagine how painful NECK pain is....only know the lumbar area....but you are my thoughts today as well. Remember: it's your body, you only get one & you need to LIVE with whatever results you get....and it's not your doctor who might be having the surgery....it would be you....! And you might have an excellent result, who knows? Good luck!

~Lake
Nov. 06-- Lammy @ L4, removal of spinal cystic tumor @ L4/5(benign)
Dec. 06--Re-operation for post-surgical spinal fluid leak.  2nd surgery complications includied sciatic nerve damage & radiculopathy in R leg/foot,  increased instability (grade 1 spondy, 17%), epidural scar tissue binding nerve roots, damaged facet joints & DDD @ L4/5.
Jan.  08--PLIF fusion/discetomy surgery with pedicle screw instrumentation @ L4/L5, another lammy (@ L/5 this time)  & bone marrow harvest from left iliac crest for packing bone around disc cages after discectomy @ L4/5. OW!!!


CaryF
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 505
   Posted 4/4/2008 11:12 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks all,

You've given me a lot to think about & I will definitely get a 2nd opinion. Yes, my neck has zero mobility now - so I understand the fusion will take away all movement, no difference. I am in such severe pain now that I can't even imagine a moment without it.

Yes, Dr. said "up to"80% reduction in pain - right now I'd take 1%.
This Dr. (& his father - also a neorsurgeon) is a long term friend of the family& I'd like to trust him - but I wil definitely get a 2nd opinion.

PAlady
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 4/4/2008 1:36 PM (GMT -7)   
Cary,
I just wanted to share that I've had cervical spine problems for well over 20 years, and never had surgery. In the early 90's the MRI of my neck showed lots of things like bulging disks, etc., and I had numbness and pain in my hands (that was later corrected by carpel tunnel surgery which was wonderfully successful). Anyway, I was in my mid-30's when it all started, and wouldn't have even dreamed of surgery. But it took lots and lots and lots of physical therapy, and tons of daily work on my part to get my neck to the point I could loosen it up and not have serious pain. Just tightness and aggravation. But for all these years I've had to very carefully watch my posture, need the right cervical pillow at night (one night without one and I'm back to my neck brace for several days). I don't think I would have needed lumbar spine surgery if I hadn't taken a bad fall, but that didn't mean I could do anything I wanted in regard to my spine. But it was managed, and I compensation for my lack of mobility in my neck by using my lower back (for example when driving). I still have very poor range of motion in my neck. I'm just wondering if you've tried everything else - and I repeat it takes constant vigilance on my part to "maintain" my neck, even now, but I've never had surgery on it and hope never to. A doc last year wanted to do another cervical MRI and I refused because I know they'll find lots of structural problems there, but I've no intention of letting them touch me. Would rather wear a neck brace without surgery - unless the pain really can be relieved in no other way.

I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I thought I'd toss it out there.

PaLady

CaryF
Veteran Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 505
   Posted 4/5/2008 8:32 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks PA LAdy,

I have a cousin whose done exactly what you are doing with your neck. Even though it takes lots of effort she as managed to avoid surgery and is quite happy with her result. I've been told by 1 neurosurgen mine is the worst degenerative disk deseased neck he's ever seen. Its half way fused on its own.

I get 2nd opinion in 12 weeks. I'll let you know.

Cary
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