Anyone had an Anterior Cervical Corpectomy and Discectomy with Fusion?

Posted by Hank @jesfactsmon, Feb 17, 2020

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

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Spine Health group.

@amywood20

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.

Jump to this post

I’m almost at 12 weeks now….And I am starting to get a little concerned because I still haven’t gotten my normal ability to walk back… Did you ever have any problems walking ….and if you did, did they resolve themselves or are you still having any residual problems? I go to the doctor on Tuesday for an X-ray, etc…. but I’m just concerned that something must still be wrong since I can’t walk very well…..and I still have some swelling (bilaterally) in my legs and feet. Do you EVER feel like you’re back to ‘normal’???

REPLY

Anyone 70+ with arthritis and osteoporosis had this done and if so how is it going?

REPLY
@lfortin

Anyone 70+ with arthritis and osteoporosis had this done and if so how is it going?

Jump to this post

Hello @lfortin and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. You will notice that I have moved your post into an existing discussion on this same topic so you may connect with members such as @constancebabe @jenniferhunter and @amywood20.

As well, feel free to go back through the previous comments to see what you can learn while we wait for others to join.

Is this a procedure that you have been presented with as a recommendation for you personally or someone you care for?

REPLY
@amandajro

Hello @lfortin and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. You will notice that I have moved your post into an existing discussion on this same topic so you may connect with members such as @constancebabe @jenniferhunter and @amywood20.

As well, feel free to go back through the previous comments to see what you can learn while we wait for others to join.

Is this a procedure that you have been presented with as a recommendation for you personally or someone you care for?

Jump to this post

Personally

REPLY
@lfortin

Anyone 70+ with arthritis and osteoporosis had this done and if so how is it going?

Jump to this post

@lfortin I had a cervical fusion in my 50's, but I don't have osteoporosis. Bone quality is a factor if any hardware will be screwed into the bone because screws can become dislodged or loosen. I didn't want hardware because my body reacts to metals such as pierced earrings and I had to give that up. I had a single level fusion at C5/C6 with only a bone graft (no hardware) and stayed in a hard collar until it fused which was 3 months. I knew that going in and made that choice and that time went by faster than I thought since I focused on resting and healing. You might want to ask if you can have a procedure without hardware. A surgeon takes a risk when they allow a patient to make that choice because you have to be careful and compliant and just stay home instead of riding in a car that could be involved in an accident when you are not fused yet. Other factors that affect bone healing adversely are smoking which I mention for information, but I have never been a smoker. I do take bio-identical hormone replacement which does help to preserve bone density and I healed well and spinal fusion had begun at 3 months post op. With spinal discs that collapse, it puts pressure on the facet joints when they get closer together and causes arthritic changes. A bone spacer in a fusion restores normal height and takes pressure off the facet joint which will no longer move because that level is fused.

REPLY
@jenniferhunter

@lfortin I had a cervical fusion in my 50's, but I don't have osteoporosis. Bone quality is a factor if any hardware will be screwed into the bone because screws can become dislodged or loosen. I didn't want hardware because my body reacts to metals such as pierced earrings and I had to give that up. I had a single level fusion at C5/C6 with only a bone graft (no hardware) and stayed in a hard collar until it fused which was 3 months. I knew that going in and made that choice and that time went by faster than I thought since I focused on resting and healing. You might want to ask if you can have a procedure without hardware. A surgeon takes a risk when they allow a patient to make that choice because you have to be careful and compliant and just stay home instead of riding in a car that could be involved in an accident when you are not fused yet. Other factors that affect bone healing adversely are smoking which I mention for information, but I have never been a smoker. I do take bio-identical hormone replacement which does help to preserve bone density and I healed well and spinal fusion had begun at 3 months post op. With spinal discs that collapse, it puts pressure on the facet joints when they get closer together and causes arthritic changes. A bone spacer in a fusion restores normal height and takes pressure off the facet joint which will no longer move because that level is fused.

Jump to this post

Thank you. You are the second one who has mentioned not doing the metal hardware. I have the same problem.

REPLY
@constancebabe

Oh….Thank-You so much for messaging me about the practices on this site. I have never participated in a chat room or a forum before and I’m kind of dense I guess, not realizing people could misuse my FB name or email address. Yes… I will definitely check back here…update my condition…and try to find answers to my many questions for sure!!!
This forum has been a godsend to me… I have researched corpectomy‘s a lot before, but I never thought about looking for a forum/chat room to find out some information from people that have gone through the same thing. My sister-in-law asked me last night if I had done that? I never even thought of it. I am so so glad I did it because yours was the first site I went to and it’s been a tremendous help in trying to understand what’s going on with me…..in thinking about what questions I should have answered …and also giving me some bit of ‘peace’ in realizing that I’m not the only one out there going through this.
Again, Thank-You for letting me in on this site. I truly appreciate all of the kind and caring people that have written back to me in hopes of helping me figure this all out. I know this will help me next week when I go back for my 12 week check up, while I still have some concerns about my walking ability and my legs.
As my son continues to tell me… ‘Take it one day at a time, Mom’ …and that’s what I’m trying to do. ☺️❤️

Jump to this post

@constancebabe I was wondering how you are doing with walking and your recovery?

REPLY
@jenniferhunter

@constancebabe I was wondering how you are doing with walking and your recovery?

Jump to this post

Sorry….I just am reading this now. I have been doing physical therapy for about two months and my legs are some days better and some days not. I think it has something to do with how tired I am, And how physical I’ve been during the day. I still am perplexed at what is going on and my surgeon thinks I’m doing well and when we hit a year then maybe we can look at something else If my symptoms still continue. I just purchased a recumbent bike/elliptical stepper to work on at home because it’s the same as the one I was using at physical therapy and I think the movement is good for me. I do notice that when I sit, it’s worse than when I’m moving ….so I try to move a lot during the day…. but you can’t be moving 100% of the time. There are days I get very concerned and by night time I’m somewhat depressed because it’s been a year since I’ve had trouble walking (even though my surgery wasn’t until March.) I will keep up with my exercises for the next couple of months and see how that goes otherwise I will seek a second opinion.
Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to know how I’m progressing. I appreciate that. Sincerely, Connie

REPLY
@constancebabe

Sorry….I just am reading this now. I have been doing physical therapy for about two months and my legs are some days better and some days not. I think it has something to do with how tired I am, And how physical I’ve been during the day. I still am perplexed at what is going on and my surgeon thinks I’m doing well and when we hit a year then maybe we can look at something else If my symptoms still continue. I just purchased a recumbent bike/elliptical stepper to work on at home because it’s the same as the one I was using at physical therapy and I think the movement is good for me. I do notice that when I sit, it’s worse than when I’m moving ….so I try to move a lot during the day…. but you can’t be moving 100% of the time. There are days I get very concerned and by night time I’m somewhat depressed because it’s been a year since I’ve had trouble walking (even though my surgery wasn’t until March.) I will keep up with my exercises for the next couple of months and see how that goes otherwise I will seek a second opinion.
Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to know how I’m progressing. I appreciate that. Sincerely, Connie

Jump to this post

@constancebabe Hi Connie. It's good to hear from you! It sounds like you are doing the right things to keep up with exercise and movement. I was wondering what is the biggest issue with walking.. is it weakness or balance or a tightness like something is restricted and won't move even though your body is asking it to move? How is your posture when you try to walk? Are you standing up straight or bent over a walker or a cane? Where are your eyes looking? That may sound like a weird question, but that has a lot to do with balance. How about stairs? Are you able to walk around the block?

I have been working on walking too, but for a different reason. I had a bad ankle fracture in the spring of 2020 which required surgery and metal plates to fix, and that recovery was long and difficult. I had problems with the hardware causing pain, breathing issues with excess phlegm and chronic hives. I chose to have the hardware removed which helped all of that, so I'm in the recovery phase again now and going to PT. I lost muscle tone being in a cast last year, and that leg is still smaller and weaker and just building back strength so I can land on the ball of my foot to resist my body weight when walking down stairs is a challenge. When I tire out because the muscles are weak, I start compensating. Some muscles get too tight which affects the other side of the leg because muscles work in opposition to each other. That puts extra pressure on ligaments and tendons so they take turns hurting too.

What does help me a lot with core strength and walking is horseback riding. Even though I had ankle surgery last month, I am doing well enough to ride my horse at a walk for a couple hours. Just balancing my feet with weight in the stirrups is helpful to me. You may have noticed my profile photo has a horse. That is my older horse who is retired now, and I bought a new younger horse earlier this year. Just a walking motion on a horse gets me to compensate for that movement with my back and hips even though I'm not putting weight on my feet, and it requires balance. That is great physical therapy and horses are used for this purpose for therapeutic riding. If you are not comfortable on a horse, don't worry, they will lead the horse and you won't have to try to control it so you can focus on your balance and counter movement and it is fun too! There are places all over the country that do this for both adults and kids. You may want to check out our discussion on horse therapy.

I think you said you were near Madison, WI. I was looking up equine therapy places and this one may be near you.
https://three-gaits.org/
I would also highly recommend myofascial release or MFR therapy. That addresses tightness in the fascia which is the cobweb type stuff that connects everything in your body together. The fascia develops restrictions from injuries and surgical scar tissue, and working with a good therapist who also does MFR helps gets the body aligned and moving again. This link is a search for MFR therapists in WI and there are some that are probably in your area.
https://www.mfrtherapists.com/app/list.asp?state=WI&country=US
Here are the discussions on MFR therapy. See the first pages for details and links to information, and the Horse therapy discussion.
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/myofascial-release-therapy-mfr-for-treating-compression-and-pain/
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/equine-therapy-is-horses-helping-people-how-do-horses-help/
I can tell you from my own experience that a relationship with the right horse can be very healing emotionally and physically, and it gets me outside where I can appreciate the natural beauty around me, and I am a partner with my horse and we are always fine tuning that bond in ways to promote a safe experience. Therapy horses are selected to be calm and someone will be leading that horse from the ground so you don't have to worry if you don't have experience and knowledge about horses. Riding my older horse helped me rehab from my spine surgery and it builds great core strength and my posture is good because of this because I always sit up with good posture on the horse so it exercises my back properly.

If you have questions about any of this, just ask! Do you think you would like to try either MFR or horse therapy?

REPLY
Please sign in or register to post a reply.
  Request Appointment