Spinal fusion of C1-C6

Posted by kdj @kdj, Dec 16, 2020

I have been told I should consider a fusion of C1-C6. Would appreciate hearing from anyone that has had this surgery.
Also, looking to hear from anyone that had PRP therapy for cervical spine issues.

Hi @kdj I was recently (a year ago) fully fused from C2-T2 and I had an additional surgery to add rods to the back of my neck for stability. This was my fourth and fifth cervical surgeries. Overall, I am recovering well, although I did lose a significant amount of mobility in my neck which has taken some getting used to. That much fusion is a big surgery, and it has taken me about a year to recover. In addition, one of the side effects of this surgery has been daily chronic headaches. I am hoping to avoid having C1 fused as this would limit mobility even more.

Would you like to share more about why you need this surgery and how some of us might be able to help with your concerns or questions? I see this is your first post – so I want to welcome you to the forums!

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@faithgirl30

Hi @kdj I was recently (a year ago) fully fused from C2-T2 and I had an additional surgery to add rods to the back of my neck for stability. This was my fourth and fifth cervical surgeries. Overall, I am recovering well, although I did lose a significant amount of mobility in my neck which has taken some getting used to. That much fusion is a big surgery, and it has taken me about a year to recover. In addition, one of the side effects of this surgery has been daily chronic headaches. I am hoping to avoid having C1 fused as this would limit mobility even more.

Would you like to share more about why you need this surgery and how some of us might be able to help with your concerns or questions? I see this is your first post – so I want to welcome you to the forums!

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From most of all postings on here and other sites is that older folks don't do well with this extensive surgery.

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Hello @kdj and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I understand you have been advised you should consider a spinal fusion C1-C6.

Since you are looking for feedback from others who have already had a fusion, @ddister1 and @ken82 are two members who may be able to provide some of their experience in relation to your decision.

What is your biggest concern with having a fusion?

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My concern is how much it will limit my mobility, will I be left with any permanent side effects such as headaches, is it still possible to drive, what is the success rate etc. I have a Dr that wants to do PRP but I cannot find any studies that show that PRP works for cervical spine problems.

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@kdj I have written about my fusion several times … so please look back.. but I had a fusion 25 years ago. It was required because of a small accident that pushed L-5 out of the stack … so my fusion was of S-1, L-5, L-4… That same spine surgeon (Dr. James Odor in OKC) recommended to me to us a Cervical Traction device which I have used now for over 10 years.. A Physical Therapist taught me to use it ..to give those collapsing discs some room now and then.. The best advice is get a really good surgeon.. and be aware of the entire team necessary to do this fusion.. Check out the surgeon background and success stories.. I was 58 when I had the surgery but I have had no real proplems with it since… I am 83 now and I get around a lot better than any of my peers..

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@kdj Fusing C1 through C6 as a first spine surgery sounds really extreme to me and I would not trust an opinion like this unless it was confirmed by several different surgeons at different medical institutions. You will loose most of your ability to move. All that will be left to turn your head will be between C1 and the skull which will put a lot of strain there. C1 & C2 do most of the head turning with some help from C3 and C4. You don't want a surgery that was done to profit the practice. It needs to be what is appropriate for you and in your best interest. Your best unbiased opinion will be from a place where the surgeons do not get bonuses for doing surgeries. That is how Mayo works. Everyone is an employee and they collect the same pay if they do or do not perform surgeries. No surgeon should push or scare a patient into a big expensive surgery. This is an important decision, so choose wisely when you pick a surgeon. I walked away from a pushy surgeon who owned a surgery center with 10 other surgeons. What is the cause of your spine problems? Have you tried any physical therapy? I know that can't fix arthritis, but it may be able to keep the spinal column aligned better and reduce pain. I had 6 different surgical opinions. The fist 5 missed understanding what the issues were and how it related to my symptoms. The 6th and only correct opinion was at Mayo, and I had a great recovery from a C5/C6 fusion. I wouldn't wish for another spine surgery, but if that is needed, I will be at Mayo.

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@kdj Oh yes.. Get at least 2 different opinions .. from different clinics..and or hospitals.. and make sure there is some follow-up of a patient with a similar surgery.. Spine Surgeon, Neurologist, Orthopedic specialties.. even the technician supplying the hardware… I had lumbar surgery only.. my spine surgeon prescribed a cervical traction device to use 30 minutes each day to reduce the neck problems..

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Hi, I had c5-6-7 fused 20 years ago and have had no problems until the last year. My neck is a disaster of collapsed and herniated discs, arthritis, stenosis, mild instability etc. My hometown neurosurgeon wanted to do a complete cervical fusion plus t1-3, soon as he saw MRI. Since I was having arm pain and have shoulder arthritis I came to Mayo’s Spine Center in Sept to be sure of the source of the pain. I have never had such a complete and thorough work up by several different specialties and am now working with pain specialist on diagnostic injections to further identify pain source. My neurosurgeon at Mayo could have easily justified surgery based on imaging alone, but has done several additional tests and been very conservative, and tried to avoid surgery if possible.

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Hello @jean55 and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Thank you for sharing your history with your fusion and care at Mayo Clinic.

How are you doing now, 20 years later?

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@kdj as someone who is fused from C/2-T/2, I can share that I am still able to drive, although the turning radius of my head has decreased enough that shortly after surgery I purchased a car with increased safety features such as blinking lights in the mirrors that lets me know when there is a car in my blind spot. In addition, I have learned to turn at my waist to check the blind side for cars, rather than turning my head. So, while my mobility has decreased some, there are some ways to mitigate those losses.

I was told ahead of surgery that daily chronic headaches might be a side effect of that much fusion. And it turns out that the headaches did start shortly after surgery. I am currently being treated with Botox for the headaches, but also in my neck muscles, to help increase the side to side movement of my head.

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@faithgirl30

@kdj as someone who is fused from C/2-T/2, I can share that I am still able to drive, although the turning radius of my head has decreased enough that shortly after surgery I purchased a car with increased safety features such as blinking lights in the mirrors that lets me know when there is a car in my blind spot. In addition, I have learned to turn at my waist to check the blind side for cars, rather than turning my head. So, while my mobility has decreased some, there are some ways to mitigate those losses.

I was told ahead of surgery that daily chronic headaches might be a side effect of that much fusion. And it turns out that the headaches did start shortly after surgery. I am currently being treated with Botox for the headaches, but also in my neck muscles, to help increase the side to side movement of my head.

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Hi, Years ago, I had two level fusion in my cervical spine, now all my discs above there have collapsed and “autofused”, so I have limited neck turning also. I also bought a new car for the same reason you mention! It’s wonderful to have that and not worry about limited views to the side!

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I had Chairi decompression 20 years ago. Have been having pressure and pain in my head and neck constantly for the past 4 mths. Have been to 2 neurosurgeons who sent me to pain management and neurologists who said it was migraines. The one admitted me to make sure I didn't have hydrocephalus or increased ICP. Gave me the migraine protocol and pumped me full of meds for 48 hrs with no relief. I have 8/10 pain with head down movement or arm use or bend over action. I am dizzy nauseated lightheaded. I have poor concentration. Blurry vision when I look down. Weakness on right side. Tingling on both sides of body and lower part of face. Poor gag reflex. I cough on food and drink. Fullness in right ear and pain in. Right ear. Ringing in ears. Saw 3 rd neurosurgeon who said it is cervical instability and sent me for upright mri with flexion and extension and said I may need a cervical fusion. Anyone have this surgery?

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