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I'm now 5 Days Post-Op of ACDF C5-C7

The surgery was much easier than I anticipated. Zero swallowing and voice issues. The minute I came to after surgery, I wanted to get up and walk around by the neurosurgeon said to wait until I was in recovery when he came to see me. He did tell me it was "bad" but he took care of it and I'm all set. Found out the next day that all the nerves were squished and compressed very bad in there and he was not expecting that, but he took care of it... so the surgery was maybe a little longer than anticipated. 

Ended up spending a night in the hospital when the surgery was at 8:15am. Refused all pain meds because the worst pain was more from the hospital bed then the surgery in itself. Also had zero sleep in hospital because nurses were checking on me every 2 and 3 hours and in between all that, I had to pee so much from all the IV fluids that I was calling them so I could get up. I'm still on no pain meds as of today.

Short of having a sore shoulder and upper back, I'm doing ok, and it's just sore. No excruciating pain. It feels like I just played one of my ice hockey games. Daily walks have helped tremendously. I was sent home with pills though just in case and also with a soft collar, which I was told was not required with the neurosurgeon's work (that must be some great work). I've been on mostly soft foods until yesterday, when I was craving pizza in the worst way, so got that with family who are staying to help me next couple of weeks and scarfed down 3 slices LOL.

 I've been told I can drive after 2 weeks and will be taking my first shower tomorrow and apparently can let the incision breathe so will remove the bandage. I have a bone growth stimulator which I start on Friday. The only bad part is sleeping in bed. While I am getting sleep, sleeping propped up is difficult whether it's the bed or the recliner. It just puts too much strain on the rest of the body. I've been using the neck brace to sleep and keep neck stable but last night I felt it made it worse and more stiff for sure, so I may try without it tonight.

I still have a 5-10lb restriction for 3 weeks and then a 20lb restriction at 4-6 weeks for 3 months. Turning my head has been ok so far, just a little slow so I don't make any quick reactions. Might be a little more stiff turning right than it is left. Lots of good strength in legs has returned too and a little extra strength in the arms and hands, but some has to be built up. Definitely seems to have solved the myeolopathy for now. Unfortunately, that C3-C4 area is still fairly shot. So I suspect I'll be in for another one fairly soon. Almost makes me wonder why a C3-C7 approach was not taken. I only had one doctor offer this, but every other surgeon said that wasn't needed and  C5-C7 ACDF was needed at the very least with likely an ADR at C3-C4. Thinking I'll be in for a new MRI soon coming up to see what needs to be done here. I really feel the next one will solve every single issue, I just hope insurance will approve it.

Anyway, wanted to share an update, since my story has been ongoing this year!



  • luckyman316 - Good for you on your progress.  Walking as you are able and within your surgeon's guidelines is most times very valuable.  I hope for your sake, if you need surgery at C3/C4, you qualify for an ADR.  Please don't get discouraged if you have some delayed soft tissue swelling at the surgery area.  If anything unusual happens, please don't delay contacting your surgeon's office. 
     As a veteran of three ACDFs, all three were different for me.  I'm now fused from C2 down into my thoracic area.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,720

    I am so glad you are doing so well in your recovery. Keep doing what you are doing and take care. 

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  • @stiffneck7 yeah, I hope it's an ADR as well. That would be very easy on me if such is the case. So far no swelling. When I do swell after having a procedure done, it's usually first 3-5 days then goes down very quickly for me. And when I do swell, it's very minimal. I was drinking ice water like crazy in the hospital just to be sure I can reduce swelling almost immediately LOL I'm probably going to push for an updated MRI before I do anything just to be sure nothing is missed. After all, the MRI he worked off of, din't sure the nerves so compressed before. Only thing I have right now is more upper body weakness. That made it extremely difficult to sit as a passenger in a car.

  • @luckyman316 - I remember having upper body weakness after all of my three ACDF surgeries.  I found it helpful to take some time most days to just rest my neck for an hour or so in my recliner.  Your body is adjusting/recovering from the surgery and the changes in your neck. 

    I made the mistake after my first ACDF to resume too much activity too early.  Every case is different.  As much as possible, listen to your body, nudge yourself sometime in activity, but don't rush it to fast. 

  • Thanks for the comfort there @stiffneck7 Two of the other things that concern me are the 4-5lbs post-op (oh and I've been eating, A LOT, since no swallowing issues for me) and the adjacent segment issues as well. I almost regret not going C3-7 here but I know insurance may not approve it since the wording didn't say moderate or severe anywhere else. I'll have to remember to reduce activity. I found out the hard way that a bone growth stim and headphones do NOT mix well. Strongly suggest to avoid for anyone else reading this LOL

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  • Hey there @luckyman316 - so nice to see that your recovery is going so well !   I just wanted to ask ... you are the 2nd or 3rd person i've seen who had a 2 or 3 level acdf, but wish they did the whole 4 level at the same time.    Everything i've read has made it seem that a 4 level acdf is really bad , but are you thinking the recovery would not have been much worse for 4 leveals?  ?    I actually have a tentative 9/1 date for a 4 level acdf and i'm really trying to stay optimistic , but it is not easy.    Your story helps!   thanks

  • @dan_acdf I know 2 people with 4 level ACDF. It is a longer recovery but it also fixes all the issues at once should you have to need it (I still believe I should have needed it though there is still that possibility I'm looking at artificial disc instead since it wasn't listed as severe). That being said, the 2 people I know had a positive outcome and 6 months later they were back to their normal activities and then some stuff that they could no longer do before the operation and now can. Everyone is different.

  • I wanted to share some things that are now after 2 weeks post-op

    -I was concerned with weight loss because I lost 5lbs after the surgery almost immediately. 2 weeks later, 7lbs came back (I blame my huge appetite now LOL) and the muscle atrophy I had is slowly reversing and I'm seeing lots of muscle come back in arms and legs -- mostly legs, which is huge for me because that is where I lost more and got me mostly concerned. I'd like to gain more strength back in upper body and arms still, but it'll take time for sure.

    -My sleeping habits are actually better, or at least back to normal. Had a few nights where I was up past 12-1am like I used to be on weekdays and up and at em around 7-8am. Also not feeling tired during the day, AT ALL. Prior to surgery, I was taking tons of naps during the day and after work (I work from home) and now I feel as if I don't need them. My body was legit beat from trying to fight the pain and weakness from the neck. Might help that I'm keeping my mind occupied with other things for sure.

    - I'm walking about 20-30 minutes a day. This has REALLY helped

    - I had my 10 day post op visit. Am a little upset because it was just with a physician's assistant and the one with a lot of experience I was schedule to see, didn't show up via the zoom meeting and sent in another one who was much younger and didn't seem to know a lot about my case. But they did answer some questions and asked a lot themselves. I won't be seeing the surgeon himself until 6 week post-op, and even more concerned because the PA that I talked to didn't order a post-op x-ray yet and when I went to schedule the appointment, they said they did it but it's still not on any upcoming appointments on their patient portal for my profile (time to call them!)

    - At the moment I am feeling less depressed and actually want to do things within the house that I'm able to do. Prior to surgery, I was just a slug and everything in the home depressed me. Something definitely changed for the better here (thankfully)

    - I was told the 3 week 5lb restriction was a typo on their part and it was actually supposed to be 15lbs. Granted, this came from the physician's assistant that I was a little unsure of. But their instructions said 5-10lbs for 3 weeks then it gets lifted to 20lbs at week 4-6. So I'll be keeping it light and going sticking with 5-10lbs until after week 3, then week 4 I'll go up to 15lbs and then week 6 it'll be 20lbs until 3 month mark.

    - Lastly, they said I could attempt to drive after 2 weeks. While turning my head has not been an issue now (I'm not in a collar unless I need it for comfort), I still have the same discomfort driving especially at upper cervical. Doesn't matter if I'm a driver or passenger at this point, it's bad. So my attempt at driving leaves me feeling like I need to wait a few more weeks before going again or at least keep it very local for now .... and ask people for major help when needed now.

    Anyway, I'll share more at things progress or regress here. I'm still anticipating a 2nd surgery and want it done sooner rather than later.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,720


    Thank you so much for posting your update. It sounds like you are doing really well in your recovery. Time and patience and don't overdo. We all tend to do that when we feel better and then we have to pay for it later.

    Take care and keep us posted.

  • Wow luckyman316 sound like you are well on your way!     It's great to hear that the tiredness can actually go away - i've read that you actually get MORE tired , which is one of the many things that scare me about this surgery.   Also, i know what you mean about the PA thing  ... especially in the age of telemedicine, it is scary when you meet with your doctor in person but then have a follow up with someone who wasnt even at the last in-person visit.   Glad to see your recovery is going so well! 

  • @dan_acdf what was scarier to me was that a PA released me from the hospital and not the neurosurgeon. Thankfully it was a PA that was there during the surgery and knew what they were doing and explained a lot to me, but I really want to meet with the surgeon again and ask more questions. Yeah I'm even back to working remote today until the end of the year and feeling ok from that. Usually I was taking naps at 3 or 5pm in between some work and meetings but didn't even feel that need today. Hoping that trend continues. I do have to watch my diet though.... some of the food I ate last week because of my appetite wasn't the best, so I'll remember more veggies and stuff in the coming weeks.

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