Search This Blog


What is my diagnosis?
I had two herniated discs, C4-5 and C5-6 C5-6 was severely indenting the cord and narrowing the spinal canal.  At C5-6 there is also kyphotic deformity (reversal of the normal cervical lordosis).

How did I get here?
For as long as I can remember, I have had sore trapezius muscles and general stiffness in my upper neck.  I've never been in a car accident or had any other significant trauma.  None of my physicians have been able to pinpoint the cause except to say that it is not degenerative. 

How long was I having symptoms before deciding to have surgery?
I first starting having arm pain in approximately August of 2011.  It felt like I had pulled a tendon or ligament in my left arm and the arm was weak and sore.  After Christmas of that year, the symptoms worsened and I started having pain in my left shoulder.  In February of 2012, the shoulder and arm pain was severe, constant and preventing me from being able to sleep.  I first saw a doctor in February, did physical therapy religiously for two months and got some improvement, about 50%.  But was still having trouble using the arm (I am left-handed), cervical rotation was extremely limited and I needed pain medication every night in order to sleep.

What surgery did I have?
Anterior Cervical Fusion C4-C6 with allograft (donor bone, not harvested from myself) and plates.

Links to discussion of the procedure:
Spinal Instrumentation: Surgical Techniques, Daniel Kim

See also this publication from the manufacturer:

Plate screwed to the C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae

Spacer inserted after herniated discs removed

Why do I have to wear a neck brace for 6 weeks?
My doctor requires it because I had a multi-level fusion.  His opinion was that it provided an increased likelihood of fusion for those patients.  Physicians differ on whether they require it.  Note the below article on whether it is needed for single-level fusions:
Use of Cervical Collar after Single-Level Anterior Cervical Fusion with Plate: Is it Necessary?

What was the worst thing about the surgery?
The sore throat and nausea were worse than the pain which was honestly totally manageable with the correct medication.  The combination of medications I was prescribed immediately afterwards was far more than I needed.  I was worried about pain levels because this was my first surgery so I took everything they said but I did not need nearly as much as they said.  Since every person is different and I was so medicated, it was hard for me to manage this properly.  Percocet also made me vomit so I requested another medicine and an anti-nausea drug and once that happened, I felt much better.

What was the best thing about the surgery?
Immediately after I awoke, and confirmed I could move all four extremities :) and speak, the fact that the stabbing, burning and aching in my shoulder and arm were gone was an immense relief.  It has not returned and the only symptom I have remaining from before the surgery is very minimal sensation changes in my thumb which is steadily improving. 

What kind of movement of my neck do I have?
I am still wearing the collar (at 4 weeks) so I can't tell the full ROM.  I am able to rotate a little but I have not tested the limits of my range of motion as I am waiting until I am out of the collar and get some advice from the doctor/physical therapist.  After 6 weeks, he suggested weaning off the collar by not wearing it while sleeping or at home just sitting around.


Post a Comment

What 1 item helped you the most after surgery?

Your Host

My photo
I'm 43-years old, married mother of two boys. I work full-time but the daunting prospect of 6-ish weeks of recovery has led me here. How much TV can one person watch?

Total Pageviews

Medical Details If You Must

Two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion scheduled for May 29th. Herniated discs at C4-5 and C5-6 indenting the cord with significant kyphosis.

I am not a medical professional. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be nor is it medical advice. Nothing contained herein should be considered a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional.