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Possible to have 4 cervical vertebrae fused?

Hey guys, first time on the forums. I'm asking this for my girlfriend, who just got back from her Dr's office. They are telling her that she could need up to 4 of her vertebrae fused. She has 2 from birth. They want to do the ones above and below as well. Obviously she's scared. Has anyone on here gone through something similar? Any information or help would be amazing thanks!


  • Hi....
    I have a triple level spinal fusion on discs c3-4, 4-5, 5-6. I also have fusion on my lower spine but that's besides the point.
    But to kind of answer your question, I know they can at least do a triple level fusion. However I can honestly say I am in much more pain now since I first had the surgery in 2013.

    Hope this helps you and her, good luck!
  • drkimjddrkimj MarylandPosts: 15
    I had a 4-level ACDF on 1/10/17.  The neurosurgeon took out the discs from C3-4 through C6-7 and put in interbody cages (no plates, just small plastic cages with two screws each) plus donor bone "paste" for the fusion.  It's very early in my recovery, but I feel healthier and better than I have since I developed peripheral neuro symptoms in September and this whole journey began.  At my 2-week surgical follow up this week, the surgeon said I can return to most activities already, including most cardio and even lifting light weights (I did CrossFit before).  
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  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,509

    4 vertebrae is 3 levels of discs.  I have a 3 level fusion from C4-C5-C6-C7, it isn't so bad physically, at least for me.


    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • Thanks for the help guys!! I'll have her give me exactly which bones they want to fuse. She made an appointment this morning for a ct scan for the surgeons. Is there any more information I could give you guys? I'm completely new at this sorry if I'm leaving a lot out.
  • Hi everyone, I am the girlfriend with the neck problems. I found out almost 2 years ago that my C5 and C6 are congenitally fused. I was experiencing a lot of pain, so my doctor finally ordered an x-ray. I saw a specialist shortly after, started physical therapy, and had a cortisone injection. I then moved half way across the country. I have finally found a specialist where I live now, and she wanted updated imaging. We went over my MRI yesterday and she was concerned. I have a pretty bad herniated disc at C4-C5, and another herniated disc at C6-C7, the discs above and below my fusion. I have some pretty bad swelling of my spinal cord, stenosis, osteophytes, nerve impingement, and degenerative disc disease. My C5-C6 vertebrae (the ones that are fused) are also quite a bit narrower in size than my other vertebrae. After looking at my MRI, she said she would not even look at doing another injection and that I needed to talk to a surgeon. There's a potential they will fuse C4-C5 and C6-C7. I have a CT scan scheduled for next Friday and after that I will meet with my surgeon. I'm almost 26 years old, and I'm nervous about the impact this will have on my life. I am also nervous about the surgery itself and the recovery afterwards. Any personal experiences you can share or any advice or suggestions are much appreciated.
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  • drkimjddrkimj MarylandPosts: 15
    It sounds like you would end up with three levels fused (C4-5 through C6-7).  What you described sounds a lot like why I had surgery.  I'm newly 46 and had degenerative disc disease, herniations, osteophytes, and most concerningly areas of severe stenosis pressing on both my spinal cord and nerve roots.  I also had kyphosis (my c-spine was bowing slightly towards the back of my neck rather than curved towards my throat as it should be).  Pretty much all congenital for me too.

    After the 1st of 4 surgeons showed me my MRI, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed surgery, since there was no way to correct my poor misshapen spinal cord and compressed nerve roots other than physically removing the multiple sources of compression.

    I was terrified before the surgery about a host of issues including the surgery itself and the impact on my life.  I'm a good bit older than you but by no means old LOL.  I have an 8 year old daughter, a successful career, and an active lifestyle (see previous comment about CrossFit).  I think being on the younger side is an asset as it makes easier to recover from surgery in general.  I had no major complications (e.g., I was worried about swallowing, particularly with my 4 levels, but I ate soft food 3 hrs after I was out of the OR and bacon for breakfast the next morning!), was off pain meds completely by day 5, and the few other issues like muscle spasms have been easily managed with a heating pad.  I had not noticed that my range of motion pretty much sucked before the surgery, and at 17 days post-op I can move my neck much like pre-surgery both side-to-side and down (moving my head up hurts and I likely will lose some of that motion permanently).

    I hope that sharing these specifics of my experience is helpful to you.  As many others have pointed out, and for good reason, there are many more stories here of people having problems and understandably needing support as compared to stories of good outcomes.  

    I wish you well as you get this figured out!  I know how scary this all is, and I'm elated to be on the other side and doing well.

  • Just to keep everyone posted, she has her consult with her surgeon on Monday. She's starting to freak out some. How are you feeling drkimj? Do any of you have any horror stories with your scars?
  • drkimjddrkimj MarylandPosts: 15
    How did her surgical consult go?

    Thanks for asking about me.  I'm feeling better every day, and this week I finally feel mentally sharper which I attribute to the anesthetic leaving my system (I read it takes 6-8 weeks to be fully metabolized).

    I had a 3-inch incision which starts on the front of my neck and extends to the right side.  One of the many things I was freaking out about pre-surgery was the size and prominence of my scar.  I'm the type of woman who loves fashion, likes to dress up, and does not leave the house without makeup.  I do those things for me, and was less concerned with what others may think and more worried about looking at myself in the mirror.

    I consulted with a plastic surgeon before my surgery to see if he could close, and he said instead it made more sense for me to see him afterwards to have him remove the steri-strips and discuss wound care.  

    Turns out I'm allergic to (among many other things) either the steri-strips or the adhesive, since when he removed them I had a very angry and very red rash around my wound that I can still see vestiges of (I'm 6 weeks post-op as of tomorrow).  Wound looks great however, just a thin red line, and my neurosurgeon did a great job placing the incision in the one line/wrinkle I have on my neck (it would make no sense to focus on hair and makeup without also being meticulous about sunscreen and skin care, and I've been told many times I look much younger than my age even though that was the first time I ever saw a plastic surgeon!).

    Plastic surgeon said massaging the incision sideways along the length is the best thing anyone can do to minimize the scar.  He said it doesn't really matter what you use...vitamin E, Mederma, facial cream, whatever, just massaging frequently will prevent keloids and adhesions and help the healing process.  And sunscreen of course.

    Hope that her surgical consult went well and that there is a good plan starting to form!  Also hope this info is useful...

  • My surgeon wants to replace the C4-C5 and the C6-C7 discs. I am almost 26 years old. He thinks that because of my age, that I already have a natural congenital fusion, and the fact that my C3-C4 disc is starting to look a little bad on my MRI, that fusing my vertebrae would not be a good route to go and that I'd eventually be back for another surgery for my 3-4 disc. He says that there would be very little recovery time, no neck brace, and I wouldn't lose any mobility in my neck by doing this.
    I'm looking at an April or May surgery date, possibly sooner if they can get it approved through my insurance without them putting up too much of a fight. He'd like to not wait too long with the C4-C5 pressing on my spinal cord and the symptoms and problems I'm already experiencing. I have loss of strength in my right tricep, some balance issues, a lot of numbness down my right arm, and my handwriting is starting to get worse. He says my spinal cord is not injured yet, but it will happen if we don't do anything about it.
    Has anyone had any experiences with disc replacement surgery?
  • Also, thank you for the feedback about the scars. I would have two scars on the front of my neck. He says small incisions but I still hate the thought of it being incredibly noticeable.
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