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Any good experiences with ACDF

libby724llibby724 Posts: 107
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I have been reading these posts for about a month now. I am scheduled for C4-7 ACDF in Janurary after about 8 years of problems. I am scared to death of this surgery. I have been reading so many horror stories are there any good results out there.

I am also worried about being out of work for long. I plan to go back in about 4 -6 weeks and maybe work at home (I thank goodness that I have that option) after 2 weeks. Does that sound doable. Also I don't like taking too much pain medication will there be that much pain after surgery that I will need strong medication? Any help would be truly appreciated I am 43 years old and have never had surgery (oh except I had my tonsils out when I was 4).



  • I had no idea what ACDF surgery was and when the doctor said the word spine I was absolutely terrified. But you have something that I didn't have. A whole bunch of people around here who will be glad to share their experiences. Just know that most who have had a successful outcome didn't stick around to help out people like you. I had my surgery on 10/08/08. I can honestly say the first week was the worst for me. I had to learn what I could and could not do but was up and about the day after surgery. I did and still do take some pain medication but any good doctor will not leave you in unbearable pain. I don't like taking pain medication either but I've learned with this surgery that they make you functional. The pain in the throat for me was gone after about 2 weeks and I have no problems with eating now. With any surgery comes a recovery time. I've heard of some patients that went back to work a week or two after this surgery and I've heard other stories that people don't feel completely well for a few months. I think I'm over the hump now. Here's how I have decided that my surgery was a success. I can move my neck. I am not in a wheelchair. And I can still do most of my daily activities and add a new one every day. That to me is success.
    I've been working from home since the day after my surgery and will be back at work full time on Monday. That would put me at about 6 weeks. I got my life back. And that is success.
    I wish you all the luck in the world and please feel free to ask any question that you come up with.
  • I only had a single level fusion (C5C6), but I have had a great outcome so far. The first 5-7 days were pretty bad and I took a lot of pain meds and slept a lot. Heat and ice and massage worked wonders for those post-op muscle spasms you are bound to have. I went back to work (limited duties) on the 13th day after my surgery. I'm gradually increasing the number of days I work and next week I will be up to four days (Monday will be my 1 month post-op date). I am down to 1-2 pain meds a day on the days I work and I don't take anything on the days I'm not working. I get tired easily, but other than that I'm nearly back to normal.

    My NS doesn't use cervical collars post op, and I think that has really helped to speed my recovery. Since I wasn't immobilized, I didn't suffer muscle atrophy and I have better ROM than I did before surgery. I've read about a lot of painful PT for people when their collars finally come off and I'm very glad that's not something I'll have to go through.

    Of course I only had a single level ACDF, so your recovery will probably be harder and more traumatic. The other thing is I didn't wait to have surgery. My neck pain and other neurologic symptoms started this last June and I was given the option of conservative therapy or surgery. I opted for surgery. My MRI showed spinal stenosis, bone spurs and narrowed neural foramen. I could have just treated the symptoms and be careful about not injuring myself further, but I didn't see the point of postponing the inevitable. Why suffer for years with pain that could be corrected right now. I had also talked to several people that regretted postponing their surgeries because their recoveries were harder and they ended up suffering permanent nerve damage. I, too, had never been under general anesthesia before so it was a little scary, but so far it's been worth it.

    Good Luck!!!
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  • Hello,

    I had ACDF 5-6-7 in July of 05. The surgery itself wasn't to bad or I didn't think so. I only took maybe 4 hydocodine after surgery then just tylenol. I was very sore but I didn't think it was painful.

    My throat was sore so lots of cold soft foods was good for a couple of days.

    V-neck shirts that are easy to get on and off. It is kind of hard to look down so buttons wouldn't be a good idea.

    Sleeping was a little uncomfortable to I sleep in the recliner for 3 weeks.

    Pretty much pain free until this point. The small bulge at 4-5 I have learned has herniated this week. I may be need surgery again. If so I will do it again. My pain isn't as bad as before though as this point. I still am not taking any meds.

    Before my first surgery I hurt real bad.

  • Libby, i also was scared beyond belief about my ACDF. My first surgery was for a ruptured disc at C67.I was back to work in 5 weeks and would have been sooner if I could talk. I had a complication with vocal cord paralysis that did resolve. i recently had another fusion and this one was even easier because they used an artificial plug and I came home without a collar. I feel pretty good and i am about 10 days post op. I plan to return to work at 4 weeks as long as my employer allows me light duty(no heavy lifting).
    I wish there was something I could tell you to ease your mind. I'm a huge worrier
    about everything,especially surgery.
    Good Luck, Bethy
  • I told you! There are lots of great people here with positive opinions about their surgeries. Please don't be afraid of this surgery. My doctor has done so many that he could probably do them in his sleep. I'm just glad that he doesn't. :))) My only regret is that I didn't find this forum until after my surgery so I spent an entire week filled with worry and dread. We will help you get through it all that's my personal promise to you.
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  • Hi there. You and I are just the same - I had a 3-lvl C4-7 w/hardware and had never stayed in a hospital, much less had surgery (oh, I'm 47). I was scared out of my mind also. Turns out, the anticipation was worse than the surgery and post-surgery. I had my surgery at 8:30 am on Oct. 21 and was home by 1pm the next day and was eating pork chops that night. My surgery was a huge success (although I'll see how fusing goes in a couple of months). Of course, I've had some pain, but I'm only taking muscle relaxants for the spasms and Hyrdocodone when needed (1 or 2 a day). I've had very few days that I've felt like I couldn't get out of my chair. The most difficult part for me has been not doing too much as I feel great. I had only minor throat issues, some muscle spasms at the back of my neck (my surgeon told me to expect that), but otherwise I'm just enjoying the time off.

    Also, as far as working from home, I do find it difficult to sit at my computer for too long, so keep that in mind.

    And make sure you have a recliner. I couldn't have lived without it!

    Take care of yourself and don't worry - you will do just fine and I hope you are surprised at how easily you'll move forward. Feel free to PM me any time.


    Are you going
  • I had C5-6 ACDF in 1997 with excellent results and a smooth post op course. I had a second ACDF with plating at C6-7 in July of this year. Got excellent pain relief, improved function, and the numbness is gone in my hand. I wore a soft collar at home - used a hard collar for riding and sleeping. Ask about the Aspen Vista collar - more comfortable than the regular Aspen collar. Post op I used 3 oxycodone tablets the first and second day then went to plain Tylenol. I had a little nausea and a big headache the first night but the nurses gave me medication at the hospital. After that I did fine. I do have a problem with vocal cord paralysis that still persists and I am being followed by an ENT doctor. I do not regret the surgery and am glad I don't have anymore pain/numbess. I was back at work on a limited basis (I have a desk job) after two weeks and I even worked a few hours before that at home. The hardest part for me (besides the vocal cord paralysis) was wearing the cervical collar all the time because it made my neck muscles sore. Best of luck to you.
  • Although I am still petrified I feel a lot better that I am not alone in this. I am hopeing as Cath said the anticipation is worse than the surgery, Thanks to all and I will keep reading everyones posts and picking up all the post surgery helpful hints I can get.

    I am glad I have a recliner I have a feeling it is going to be my best friend for a while!!
  • dont dwell on the horror stories as they are just info from people (maybe like me) with their experiences. even with all that i had to go through, i consider my surgery a sucessful one. as for the limited ROM, pain, etc..., they are things that i have adjusted my life to and i feel greatful every morning i wake up. i dont consider my surgery as a normal surgery that most have had and every day technical knowelge is growing for these kinds of surgeries. some people have had a micro type surgery and it seems to me that they recovery faster. spineys like me with spinal cord damage are greatful for very skilled ns and great hospital care. the good thing about my surgery is i only had 5 days to dwell on it and u have to wait to jan. i hope and pray your surgery and recovery goes very well.
  • Hello, I had c6-c7 ACDF back in the second week of June. I can honestly say that I am very happy about the results!

    I've been back to work since the first week of September, and I am back to doing everything I once did before my injury. It did take until mid-October before I didn't feel anything "weird" with my neck, you know, any stiffness.

    I cannot even tell that anything was once wrong, other then my scar. Now, I did have surgery within a year of having severe issues, so no real nerve damage set in.

    Best advice, do EVERYTHING you are told... I followed (all) my doctors instructions 100%, and today I am one of the people that is truly happy I went through with surgery.

    Can't wait for my next appointment with my NS in January... Hopefully I am all fused up!
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