It’s been a little over six weeks since I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery. Two herniated discs between vertebrae C5-C7 were removed, bone spurs removed, artificial cages seeded with my own bone tissue inserted in the disc space, and the three vertebrae held together with screws and plates.
The good news is that the numbness and tingling in my fingers are almost completely gone. In addition, the shooting pain down my arms is also a thing of the past. This demonstrates that the pinched nerves were released. The symptoms from the compression of my spinal cord (stenosis), including hand clumsiness, are also gone. Muscle pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders is much reduced but is still present – that will take some time to get better. I still take some muscle relaxants but have been able to reduce the dose over time and hope to stop taking those soon.
Due to the stress of the surgery put onto the esophagus, it was difficult to swallow food. But that has improved to the point of hardly being an issue. The vocal chords were also impacted and I easily lost my voice for the first few weeks but my voice is back to normal now.
A six week follow-up with the neurosurgeon was today. It began with an x-ray of my neck – the first image I’ve seen of the handiwork since the procedure (see pic). It was very interesting to see the screws going into the bone and wondering if those things were actually inside my neck! The good news was that there is early evidence that the bone is fusing and hardware remains in place where it should be.
The scar still looks rather gruesome and garners comments on a regular basis. But I can see a slow reduction in swelling and the original incision shows up as a thin, dark line (see pic). Like with other surgeries, the scar tissue is sensitive to the touch and based on advice from previous surgeon, I try to gently desensitize it by touching it on a regular basis.
I was cleared to for physical therapy and will begin that tomorrow. The purpose of the PT will be to strengthen the neck and arm muscles which have atrophied from the pinched nerves and lack of use over time. I was also cleared to engage in regular activities and lift objects within tolerance. The next follow-up appointment won’t be for six months at which time a CT scan will be done to check the bone fusion.
It’s been a difficult recovery given the nature of the procedure. The surgery set off a flare of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms which are starting to subside. It’s been a wild ride but just this past week I could finally say that I was glad for having the surgery.