Anyone had an Anterior Cervical Corpectomy and Discectomy with Fusion?

Posted by Hank @jesfactsmon, Feb 17 7:55am

My friend is going to be undergoing an Anterior Cervical Corpectomy and Discectomy with Fusion. She is very nervous about this and has been holding off for while as she has sought opinions from several doctors. Here is a recent message she sent me a few days ago when she first told me about it:
"I supposed to have this last year but kept pending it because I was scared oh well I am still sacred:)
Anyway, I did not get better with conservative/traditional treatment. I was diagnosed with Severe Cervical Spinal stenosis on 2018.
I went to 4 different specialist and surgeons (nerve and orthopedic surgeons) from different hospital and all urge me to have the surgery sooner than later to avoid serious conditions later (becoming a paraplegic) so here we are." Just wanted to start a discussion to see if anyone else has had this so I can tell her to join Mayo Connect and maybe get some answers. Specifically what was it like to have the surgery, how long to recover, kinds of complications, anything info that might be useful to someone facing this surgery. Thanks, Hank

Hello @jesfactsmon.

I'd like to invite @cocodab and @ed32 back as both have talked about undergoing a corpectomy on Connect in the past. I'd also like to invite @amywood20, @jmweissler and @jenniferhunter, who have all undergone an anterior cervical discectomy. You can also read some of their posts in the following discussion, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/curcumin-after-disc-fusion/.

@jesfactsmon, it sounds as though your friend is doing her due diligence before undergoing a major surgery. Do you know what your friend's biggest fear or concern is? The recovery, the surgery itself?

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I had a Corpectomy in 2010. I wish I can give you good news but I can not. It is a very difficult surgical. They go they through the front to repair and replace the Vertebrae and also support that area. Mime was C4 through C6
I had it done at the spine center at UCSF and a one of the head surgeons did the surgery.
They tell you of all the things that can go wrong 3%.
Personally I wonder if it’s more than that.
Once I came out of surgery I could not move my right arm.
It was dead. The surgeon had cut a nerve. It felt like I was carrying 30 pounds of cement. The pain was unbearable. The sent me home with large amounts of pain killers and actually didn’t want to see me. I just wanted help but was in so much pain pretty much sat in a recliner for a year. Got new doctors that care! Have finally excepted my new normal but live in pain and now also have neuropathy that is growing like mold. So what I found out is that Corpectomy is not a surgery that is vastly done most times when I mention it people don’t even know what it is. It is very invasive. So if there is some other way around it I would look into it.
This is my story. Hope you find a good good for Corpectomy.

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Sorry but I talk into the phone and it makes mistakes 😔

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@cocodab

Sorry but I talk into the phone and it makes mistakes 😔

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Thank-you for telling your story @cocodab I have passed along to my friend the info about joining Connect and I hope he does. She said she has spinal stenosis, did you have that? Did you get any feeling back in your arm? Was the surgery otherwise successful except for the accidental severing of the nerve? That is a horrible outcome but I am interested in how successful just the surgery itself was. With my friend it sounds like they are going to do two separate things, a corpectomy and a discectomy, unless those are two words describing two aspects of the same procedure. The whole thing does sound scary to me.

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It is now 2020. I can actually hind that my arm doesn’t work but it actually feels like it not attacked and it causes me so much pain because I always feel like I’m carrying it around. It’s also handy on my neck and my whole right side hurts including my neck and I have sciatica the whole thing is a mess. I wake up with headaches almost everyday. I sit around it abound 11am try get dressed then I lay down because I got so tired.
Everything is a effort! I don’t complain and pretty much have isolated myself.
If and when people see me and it’s for a short period of time I hide it. The feelings I got back is pins needles sharp pains stabbing pains numbness freezing etc…

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Spinal Stenosis with a flatten cord

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Because of a car accident in 2009.

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@cocodab

Because of a car accident in 2009.

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Well your situation is certainly heart rending. I hope things improve for you. It's concerning to hear you are isolated. I hope you have someone helping you or listening to you or advocating for you. I got onto Connect due to my wife's neuropathy and the neuropathy forums are loaded with people who understand what it is and can sympathize. It doesn't mean she is any closer to a cure but it really helps for informational exchange as well as a compassionate ear. I hope you find help and solace in your situation somehow. And I know that people with a strong spiritual background get help that way also. Everyone needs something/someone to be a source of strength to lean on. My wife's faith in God has certainly helped her. Good luck to you.

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Thank you, you are very kind.

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I had ACDF C4-C6 on December 19th. I would say recovery is going pretty good, so much so that during my six week follow-up the surgeon's PA said I did not need to come back for another appointment unless I had an issue come up or physical therapy didn't help. Most of my symptoms involved the left arm/hand/shoulder. That's what I am going to PT for. I will say this surgery is not cookie-cutter in terms of the healing process. Everyone is different in how they heal, which is based on what needs to be done, how long the issue was there before surgery, age, health, physical activity level, smoker vs non-smoker, etc. Also, it seems that the surgeons have their own preference in terms of having to wear a collar/neck brace after surgery, bending restrictions, lifting restrictions, etc. Post op I only had to wear a soft collar when riding in a vehicle and that was just to protect the neck in the case of an accident. Some have to wear them nearly 24/7 for various amounts of time, which could be three months. My surgeon doesn't like patients wearing a collar/brace because the neck muscles weaken, but other surgeons require it. Like I said, it really varies. I had mine done by a spine specialist. Some go to an orthopedic doctor. It takes a long time for the nerves to heal after surgery, as they regenerate at a very slow rate. I'm not talking weeks, but months…even up to a year. Pain that isn't nerve-related goes away much faster though. I know your friend is scared but she really needs to get this taken care of. The longer she goes the higher the risk of the nerves not healing. I don't know if it's allowed to mention a Facebook group in these forums, but there is one for ACDF. I am in it and there is a lot to be learned there from others. Having said that, if she were to join that group it needs to be taken for what it is. Those with good outcomes don't stick around that much after healing, as they move on with their lives. Those that are struggling tend to post more, as they are seeking support from others. But like I said, I have found it helpful. It sounds like your friend's cervical spine is in worse shape than mine. I don't want her going into surgery and then being disappointed if she doesn't recover at the rate I am going at. I had very high expectations for how I thought I would feel immediately after surgery. Some wake up and the nerve pain is gone. I know a few like that. But, those tend to be the exceptions…which I didn't realize. When I woke up and had the same pain in the upper left shoulder blade and other areas, I was pretty frustrated. I had new pain that I did not have before surgery. So, she really needs to go into it without expectations since again, it is going to vary. One thing I did not know about before surgery was how the surgeon pins the arms down to help access the cervical spine. The arms get pulled and pinned tightly. That can cause quite a bit of post op pain. Also, when the cervical spine has discs replaced it causes the height to go back to where it should be. This stretches a lot of muscles connected to the neck. Again, this can cause pain, spasms, etc. I hope what I have mentioned is helpful. If she wants to join that Facebook group let me know and I will post the title of it.

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Thanks Amy, I will tell her about your post. I do hope she joins this group and the Facebook group. I think it will be instrumental for helping her clear her thoughts before going into the procedure to get her questions and fears addressed by people who have actually been through it. Thanks and hopefully she will pop up in this forum soon. So far I haven't gotten a reply back from her since telling her about it.

Liked by amywood20

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@jesfactsmon Hi Hank. I am a Mayo cervical spine surgery patient with a single level ACDF at C5/C6. I had spinal cord compression and a great outcome from my Mayo surgery. That being said, I am also a member of the facebook ACDF group, but I prefer to participate here instead because I can provide more information here and personally it means a lot to me to share what I have learned through my experience to help someone else on that difficult journey. On the facebook group, they will delete posts that have any identifying information for the surgeon or the facility. That makes it hard to share medical literature that could be beneficial, and to be honest about my surgical outcome or even to share Mayo's or other general medical information because it can be construed as promoting Mayo or other facilities. The facebook group tends to be more about patients venting or expressing their fears and frustrations rather than detailed information and patients who have success tend to leave the group. I like to share detailed information that explains things because it helps reduce fears of procedures, and I can't share freely when the group moderators are overly concerned. Here on Connect I can share my Mayo story and also pass along information about spine surgery that are not related to Mayo. Not everyone can come to Mayo, and it helps that we can encourage others to seek the best treatment they can find. When someone is considering a major surgery, the skill of the surgeon, their team, and the facility are very important. Finding the best surgeons in the field and doing everything you can as a patient to increase your success will go a long way toward a great recovery. I came to Mayo after 2 years of consulting several surgeons and none would offer surgery and they missed understanding and connecting my symptoms to my spine injury. I was just getting worse, loosing muscle mass and coordination and loosing the ability to control my arms. During that time, I was also watching online presentations at spine surgery conferences for surgeons by surgeons, and reading medical research literature. When I got to Mayo, I knew that I was getting the right answers, and I had already found medical literature that explained why my case was different. If a surgeon isn't confident, you don't want them operating. I knew I was getting a confident surgeon with the right answers by the way he answered my questions, and I already understood my MRI images before I met him.

It sounds like your friend is getting consistent opinions. I believe a corpectomy removes the vetebral body (bone). A discectomy removes the disc (cartilage), and then the fusion is when the bones grow and heal together because a bone spacer is placed between them. When discs collapse, it can cause the jelly like inner nucleus to be squished out, and that causes inflammation. The body tries to stabilize it by remodeling the bone and growing bone spurs. For me, the disc and bone spurs went right into my spinal cord and compressed it which caused random pains all over my body. The uneven pressure on the end plates of the vertebrae also causes the bone remodeling, and given enough time, the spine can start to fuse itself with bone overgrowth, and that causes problems that affect spine alignment and compression on nerves that exit the spine between the vertebrae. It might be possible that excessive bone growth could make the problem inoperable if it goes on long enough. I have read posts by patients who are wheelchair bound and paralyzed by spine injuries who refused surgery. I know the fear of surgery is real and can be very disabling itself, but you have to weight that against the prognosis of what happens if there is no surgical intervention. Always ask the surgeons questions about what they think about when would permanent and irreversible nerve damage begin to happen, and when is the best time to think about surgery. There may be several different procedures that could address the problem, or different approaches, so always ask why they recommend as they do.

Yes, there are great outcomes out there and I am one of them. Here are some links with my story and some other patient stories about my surgeon, Jeremy Fogelson. I am 3 years post op and doing great. If I need spine surgery in the future, I will return to my surgeon at Mayo. Let me know if I can be of further assistance or answer any questions. For anxiety, counseling can help a lot. One of my greatest lessons in life was to overcome my surgical fears and deprogram them, so fear doesn't control me any more. I worked out my own ways to cope with the fear and learn from it. I've been tested by some other medical issues and fear can still creep in, but I will recocgnize it sooner and be able to get it under control. Those disabling fears usually come from a past experience that creates an automatic reaction because the original fear was not processed and understood. I was still thinking like a 6 year old, and I found a new way to think about my medical dilemma that wasn't so threatening. It is possible to overcome the fear, and in doing that to choose your best choice for your future instead of letting your fears make that choice for you.
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2019/01/09/using-the-art-of-medicine-to-overcome-fear-of-surgery/
Here are a few other links about Dr. Fogelson.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/fogelson-jeremy-l-m-d/bio-20055624
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2012/12/23/repaying-a-gift-scholarship-recipient-says-thanks-in-a-special-way/
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2017/07/26/spinal-surgery-saves-teen-swimmers-mobility/
http://www.startribune.com/in-second-term-minnesota-gov-markdayton-dealing-with-more-health-problems/361662931/
http://www.startribune.com/gov-mark-dayton-to-undergo-third-back-surgery/497015811/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/neurology-neurosurgery/news/specialized-expertise-for-spinal-deformity-surgery/mac-20469055

Liked by gldnrtrvrlvr

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@jenniferhunter

@jesfactsmon Hi Hank. I am a Mayo cervical spine surgery patient with a single level ACDF at C5/C6. I had spinal cord compression and a great outcome from my Mayo surgery. That being said, I am also a member of the facebook ACDF group, but I prefer to participate here instead because I can provide more information here and personally it means a lot to me to share what I have learned through my experience to help someone else on that difficult journey. On the facebook group, they will delete posts that have any identifying information for the surgeon or the facility. That makes it hard to share medical literature that could be beneficial, and to be honest about my surgical outcome or even to share Mayo's or other general medical information because it can be construed as promoting Mayo or other facilities. The facebook group tends to be more about patients venting or expressing their fears and frustrations rather than detailed information and patients who have success tend to leave the group. I like to share detailed information that explains things because it helps reduce fears of procedures, and I can't share freely when the group moderators are overly concerned. Here on Connect I can share my Mayo story and also pass along information about spine surgery that are not related to Mayo. Not everyone can come to Mayo, and it helps that we can encourage others to seek the best treatment they can find. When someone is considering a major surgery, the skill of the surgeon, their team, and the facility are very important. Finding the best surgeons in the field and doing everything you can as a patient to increase your success will go a long way toward a great recovery. I came to Mayo after 2 years of consulting several surgeons and none would offer surgery and they missed understanding and connecting my symptoms to my spine injury. I was just getting worse, loosing muscle mass and coordination and loosing the ability to control my arms. During that time, I was also watching online presentations at spine surgery conferences for surgeons by surgeons, and reading medical research literature. When I got to Mayo, I knew that I was getting the right answers, and I had already found medical literature that explained why my case was different. If a surgeon isn't confident, you don't want them operating. I knew I was getting a confident surgeon with the right answers by the way he answered my questions, and I already understood my MRI images before I met him.

It sounds like your friend is getting consistent opinions. I believe a corpectomy removes the vetebral body (bone). A discectomy removes the disc (cartilage), and then the fusion is when the bones grow and heal together because a bone spacer is placed between them. When discs collapse, it can cause the jelly like inner nucleus to be squished out, and that causes inflammation. The body tries to stabilize it by remodeling the bone and growing bone spurs. For me, the disc and bone spurs went right into my spinal cord and compressed it which caused random pains all over my body. The uneven pressure on the end plates of the vertebrae also causes the bone remodeling, and given enough time, the spine can start to fuse itself with bone overgrowth, and that causes problems that affect spine alignment and compression on nerves that exit the spine between the vertebrae. It might be possible that excessive bone growth could make the problem inoperable if it goes on long enough. I have read posts by patients who are wheelchair bound and paralyzed by spine injuries who refused surgery. I know the fear of surgery is real and can be very disabling itself, but you have to weight that against the prognosis of what happens if there is no surgical intervention. Always ask the surgeons questions about what they think about when would permanent and irreversible nerve damage begin to happen, and when is the best time to think about surgery. There may be several different procedures that could address the problem, or different approaches, so always ask why they recommend as they do.

Yes, there are great outcomes out there and I am one of them. Here are some links with my story and some other patient stories about my surgeon, Jeremy Fogelson. I am 3 years post op and doing great. If I need spine surgery in the future, I will return to my surgeon at Mayo. Let me know if I can be of further assistance or answer any questions. For anxiety, counseling can help a lot. One of my greatest lessons in life was to overcome my surgical fears and deprogram them, so fear doesn't control me any more. I worked out my own ways to cope with the fear and learn from it. I've been tested by some other medical issues and fear can still creep in, but I will recocgnize it sooner and be able to get it under control. Those disabling fears usually come from a past experience that creates an automatic reaction because the original fear was not processed and understood. I was still thinking like a 6 year old, and I found a new way to think about my medical dilemma that wasn't so threatening. It is possible to overcome the fear, and in doing that to choose your best choice for your future instead of letting your fears make that choice for you.
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2019/01/09/using-the-art-of-medicine-to-overcome-fear-of-surgery/
Here are a few other links about Dr. Fogelson.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/fogelson-jeremy-l-m-d/bio-20055624
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2012/12/23/repaying-a-gift-scholarship-recipient-says-thanks-in-a-special-way/
https://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2017/07/26/spinal-surgery-saves-teen-swimmers-mobility/
http://www.startribune.com/in-second-term-minnesota-gov-markdayton-dealing-with-more-health-problems/361662931/
http://www.startribune.com/gov-mark-dayton-to-undergo-third-back-surgery/497015811/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/neurology-neurosurgery/news/specialized-expertise-for-spinal-deformity-surgery/mac-20469055

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Jennifer, I like the information in your post. My friend said she has begun reading this thread but she obviously has not posted anything herself yet. I like what you said about overcoming the fear. I also agree with you about the importance of finding the right doctor/team. it made me think of that TV commercial where the patient and his wife meet the surgeon who has just been "reinstated" and tells them that he is nervous about the operation too but says "we'll figure it out" just as the guy is about to be wheeled into the OR. Definitely hilarious, but not so much when it's real. I saw you posting over at the neuropathy websites, so one of your outcomes was PN apparently? Now that is frustrating! I see my wife every day suffering with that and can hardly believe how helpless I feel. She just suffers and suffers!

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@jesfactsmon

Jennifer, I like the information in your post. My friend said she has begun reading this thread but she obviously has not posted anything herself yet. I like what you said about overcoming the fear. I also agree with you about the importance of finding the right doctor/team. it made me think of that TV commercial where the patient and his wife meet the surgeon who has just been "reinstated" and tells them that he is nervous about the operation too but says "we'll figure it out" just as the guy is about to be wheeled into the OR. Definitely hilarious, but not so much when it's real. I saw you posting over at the neuropathy websites, so one of your outcomes was PN apparently? Now that is frustrating! I see my wife every day suffering with that and can hardly believe how helpless I feel. She just suffers and suffers!

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@jesfactsmon Yes, I know that commercial about the "re-instated surgeon". We all should keep that in the back of our minds and expect the best from our doctors. I did search the state medical boards that license physicians to make sure that any doctor that I wanted to see was licenced and has not had disciplinary action against them and I recommend that patients do that. Doctors need to earn your trust with their expertise. Having blind faith as a patient doesn't help you, so ask questions. There are also online success & complication rates for medicare patients for specific procedures for surgeons and the institutions where they practice, so you can compare them. That doesn't really tell you how it relates to your case, and Medicare patients might have a lot of other health issues that can add to the complication rates. Insurance companies also keep track of success rates, and you can ask them for the information. I have physical issues that cause nerve compression with tight tissue and work on that in physical therapy. I have thoracic outlet syndrome which is nerve and vessel compression in my neck and shoulder. I also have been a caregiver to my elderly parents and have learned a lot advocating for them and the moderators like to call on me for input about a lot of topics. Sometimes, I find medical literature and post that. In my PT, I do a lot of myofascial release and I started the discussion on that. It can help neuropathy if there is a physical cause, and it helps break up surgical scar tissue. I'm sure this has helped me in my recovery from spine surgery. You might like to look up TED talks about fear. I hope that I will be a presenter there one day and tell my story about how I overcame the biggest fear in my life. Thanks for your comments.

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