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Sschmitt
@sschmitt77

Posts: 7
Joined: Jul 16, 2016

What to expect with spine surgery?

Posted by @sschmitt77, Dec 17, 2016

I have recently been diagnosed with c3/c4 bulging and c5/c6 herniated with nerve impingment. I am to see a spine specialist soon. My doctor was trying to be positive and said surgery may not be necessary, but i know it will be. What am i to be expecting? Will they want to do surgery on all four discs or just the two that are herniated? What is sugery and recovery like? Its scary. I have had four surgerys in the past four years and this one, for me, is the scariest. Any comments will be appreciated. Thank you!

REPLY

I try to comprehend your apprehensions, @sschmitt77, and can imagine them from the experience of a friend, not my own experience. She had two cervical discs that degenerated severely and faced decisions about surgery to avoid life-long disability. She also found that there was no acceptable surgical solution available in the United States, because she would not accept fusion of vertebrae in her neck. While we were becoming friends as members of the church choir, she was spending most of her time tracking down the best treatment and the best place to have it done.

Her answers to those two questions: First, replace the discs with artificial discs — two of them (only one was allowed in the US, and that may still be the rule). Second, go to Germany for the surgical procedure and initial recovery — they have been performing multiple artificial disc emplacement for years, she told me.

So she and her husband went to Germany in mid-August for surgery in early September. Two weeks later, she was back home in Virginia, exercising her voice to return to lead the church choir by October. Within three months, she was again swinging a golf club, which she had given up months before because of the pain and the threat of paralysis. Today, eight years later, she is hale and hearty and — as she once had been — a genuine athlete in her late ’50s.

While she was in Germany, I cast around the country by social media in hopes of finding other beneficiaries of the German therapy with artificial discs. I wanted to learn what to expect and how to relate to someone in her circumstances. In short order, a woman from South Carolina emailed me to give me her story: Same challenge as my friend. Same decision to go to Germany. Same results. She had been a semi-professional ice hockey player before her cervical discs gave out. With two of them replaced, she had returned to the team and has been strong and physically active as an athlete ever since.

I hope there is something in these stories that is helpful to you in making your decisions on what course to take. I only add that the advice of a number of doctors — with a multitude of successful procedures to their credit — will be necessary in your search for the best way to proceed.

Thank you @predictable. Degenerative discs are a bit different than herniation. I am very happy for your friend that was able to receive such a life altering sugery. God is good. I hope she countiues to heal and thrive and be blessed with many years of pain free life.

@sschmitt77

Thank you @predictable. Degenerative discs are a bit different than herniation. I am very happy for your friend that was able to receive such a life altering sugery. God is good. I hope she countiues to heal and thrive and be blessed with many years of pain free life.

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You’re welcome, @sschmitt77. Just to clarify the point about degeneration of her discs, I used that term carelessly and not with technical precision, and you raised the point as an important distinction. I hope to see her tomorrow, and I’ll try to find time to obtain a precise diagnosis of her disc problems.

@sschmitt77 There are many terms used to describe spinal disc pathology and associated pain, such as “herniated disc,” “pinched nerve,” and “bulging disc,” and all are used differently and, at times, interchangeably. From your description, those are TWO involved areas, not 4. The impinged one means pressing on a nerve and it will likely be the one they want to repair surgically if conservative measures like physical therapy don’t help. Also, like other posters stated they can replace the disc with a donor bone. I had this surgery in 2010 on c5/c6, and like you the one above AND below were also herniated, but not to the point surgery was yet required. However, some folks do get two done at the same time here in the USA as my sister-in-law did right here in AR after a car accident. Hope this helps.

Thank you aprilarlady. I went to pt for 2 months 3 times a week and it didnt help. Im trying to get as much information as i can to alleviate some of the apprehension im feeling. I appreciate your comments. What procedure did they use to repair the discs? Did they go through the throat or right into the spine? What was recovery like?

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@sschmitt77 sorry to hear that didn’t help. They did “Anterior Cervical Discectomy with fusion and instrumentation” on me. You can look that up to read about it, but in our terms, yes, they went through the front and removed the bad disc and replaced it with a donor bone and secured it with a metal plate and screws. I did not have to wear a neck brace, though some do, and I think it would have helped me remember more how NOT to move my neck the ways they didn’t want me to for several weeks. No bending, lifting and all that. The recovery time pain was manageable with pain meds for a few weeks and then OTC’s. My only complaint has been they should have done both of mine that were bad instead of just the one as I have continued to have problems from the other. I think insurance dictated they just do the one then. Now six years later I am about to go back finally and see what stage I am at on these others. I have degenerative disc disease, stenosis and spondylosis diagnosed with the original herniated discs and now I am having wrist and hand pain and tingling in fingers and wondering if it is associated with the neck issues.

Aprilarlady, im very sorry that you are experiencing the pain all over again. I suffer with terrible muscle spasms in my neck, shoulder and now lower back, i assuming because everything is so sensitive and out of whack. I appreciate your response to the surgery portion. Im hoping to see a spine specialist soon and will have answers then. It sounds like you are experiencing a pinched nerve with the herniation. The mayo website is very informational and has a list of discs with possible effects on tge different limbs and and areas of the body. I hope you get answers soon and can get to feeling better. I understand the pain and frustration of not knowing and just having the pain related to the injury.

@sschmitt77 Thanks so much! It is ok. Used to daily chronic pain as have it in many joints, but the tingling thing has just been recent weeks. Just got a cortisone injection in my knee for a torn meniscus and my hip for torn cartilage/arthritis/tendonitis in the same day a week ago. They have calmed down some for now. May need surgery on them some day down the road. Have had many joint surgeries over the years and still have issues that continue. Prayers the spine specialist will help you sooner than later, and yes, Mayo and other websites have lots of useful info, thanks much and God Bless!

Has anyone had to deal with their cervical discs and possible replacement? Mine are c4-c7, 3 levels, bulging/degenerated, bone spurs, and faucets problems on all. I’d like to have the disk replaced rather than fused. I don’t know if they can do two level replacement and one level fusion, I’ve only spoken to one doctor that wants to fuse all of them and I don’t want to do that. I have a second appointment with the head of neurosurgery and our largest hospital who does replacement discs. Anyone have any experience with this and the cervical area?

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@jenapower

Has anyone had to deal with their cervical discs and possible replacement? Mine are c4-c7, 3 levels, bulging/degenerated, bone spurs, and faucets problems on all. I’d like to have the disk replaced rather than fused. I don’t know if they can do two level replacement and one level fusion, I’ve only spoken to one doctor that wants to fuse all of them and I don’t want to do that. I have a second appointment with the head of neurosurgery and our largest hospital who does replacement discs. Anyone have any experience with this and the cervical area?

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Hi @jenapower. For some partial (but hopefully worthwhile) answers to your quandaries, check out my message above in this discussion, dated December 17, 2016. Now, over six months later, my friend remains in top shape, good health, highly active, and happy as a lark that she had two artificial discs installed mid-cervical. She had the work done in Germany a few years ago (9, I think) and by now, American medicine should have caught up to that technology, which she was unable to find in this country. Let me know if you’re interested in more information on her adventure. Martin

Had cervical surgery two years ago. Have two spacers in neck and fused discs. No choice. My arms tingled. My hands were numb and practically useless. I could be walking along and suddenly fall. I have degenerated bones, scoliosis, bone spurs and all. After broken hip and elbow, it was operation or wheelchair. They went through the back. Had therapy. Have constant pain but it’s low and I really don’t notice it. Have not fallen since. It’s not perfect but when I consider the alternative it’s okay. I am an active 80 year old and able to function and care for myself. Check out your choices and pray. I take an Advil only when necessary.

@jenapower

Has anyone had to deal with their cervical discs and possible replacement? Mine are c4-c7, 3 levels, bulging/degenerated, bone spurs, and faucets problems on all. I’d like to have the disk replaced rather than fused. I don’t know if they can do two level replacement and one level fusion, I’ve only spoken to one doctor that wants to fuse all of them and I don’t want to do that. I have a second appointment with the head of neurosurgery and our largest hospital who does replacement discs. Anyone have any experience with this and the cervical area?

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Martin, Thank you, I actually did read that post and that’s what prompted me to write my own. I think my concern is that I have three levels not two. I do have a doctor that is head of neurosciences/neurosurgery at our largest hospital here that does do this type of surgery. I’ve been to him but we haven’t discussed disc replacement yet. He wanted a bunch of test done first. I just wanted to hear from people who have had it done with more than the approved two level, if it’s possible in the US, or if it has to be a combination of one fuse level and two replace levels. I really don’t know the answers. But I’d like to hear it from patients, not the doctors. Really don’t want to go to Germany unless I have to. Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it. Jennifer

Thank you Jo54, really appreciate your comments. Actually I’m in my early 60s and don’t want to wait till I’m 80. My mother had serious back problems, and her early to mid 80s she started to fall from the pain, the Drs insisted that she do the back surgery that she didn’t want to do for 20 years, and she passed away two months later. I’m very glad you’re OK, but I don’t want to wait that long to take care of this problem. I know that it gets harder and harder to recover from as we age. I really do not want my neck fused because I still am active and drive and want to exercise etc. My injuries I have were caused because of a horseback riding accident, and then a skiing accident. I have always been a very active person and I’d like to go back to being that way. Maybe not quite as active as I was when I did that which wasn’t very long ago. Cautiously active, Jennifer

Liked by grandmaR

@jenapower

Thank you Jo54, really appreciate your comments. Actually I’m in my early 60s and don’t want to wait till I’m 80. My mother had serious back problems, and her early to mid 80s she started to fall from the pain, the Drs insisted that she do the back surgery that she didn’t want to do for 20 years, and she passed away two months later. I’m very glad you’re OK, but I don’t want to wait that long to take care of this problem. I know that it gets harder and harder to recover from as we age. I really do not want my neck fused because I still am active and drive and want to exercise etc. My injuries I have were caused because of a horseback riding accident, and then a skiing accident. I have always been a very active person and I’d like to go back to being that way. Maybe not quite as active as I was when I did that which wasn’t very long ago. Cautiously active, Jennifer

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I have had two spine surgeries, neither of which was worth the effort. I had intense pain at about the #4 level, and just into the tail bone. I have a lot of Ankylosing Spondilitis, Stenosis, Amyloidos nodules, and several crushed disks. What should have been the top of the tail bone broke off in a fall at age 8. Anyway, the #4 spot and others were cleaned out a few years ago. However, in recovery, the nurse did not follow the doctor orders. I heard the surgeon not to give me any opiates or other pain meds. However, when I had pain, she gave me a shot of something (I suspect morphine). This was in Oregon. I woke up about 12 hours later just knowing I was in jail in Butte, Montana serving a life sentence for vagrancy. Found out later I had broken the restraints, as I had also done in another hospital in Phoenix, years earlier. I would tell you more about my AMY, but you would have to request it privately. Hang in there. It can get better, but it is not all up to the Docs. Most is up to you.

@jenapower

Thank you Jo54, really appreciate your comments. Actually I’m in my early 60s and don’t want to wait till I’m 80. My mother had serious back problems, and her early to mid 80s she started to fall from the pain, the Drs insisted that she do the back surgery that she didn’t want to do for 20 years, and she passed away two months later. I’m very glad you’re OK, but I don’t want to wait that long to take care of this problem. I know that it gets harder and harder to recover from as we age. I really do not want my neck fused because I still am active and drive and want to exercise etc. My injuries I have were caused because of a horseback riding accident, and then a skiing accident. I have always been a very active person and I’d like to go back to being that way. Maybe not quite as active as I was when I did that which wasn’t very long ago. Cautiously active, Jennifer

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To Oldkarl, How do you get it privately? From Marie

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