Two week ACDF check-in with my surgeon

“You can take off your coat and your brace and leave them on the chair and step right over here,” said the X-ray tech at my surgeon’s office.

“Um, no,” I relied in absolute fear. Take my brace off? What was she thinking? What if my head fell off?

“Oh, it’s okay. You can leave it on until the last minute. Just step over by the X-ray machine,” said the tech.

I literally stood with fear dripping from every limb as I waited for her to finish the pictures. Then she walked me to my exam room and closed the door. I could not wait to see the x-rays. The last time I saw my neck was pre-surgery, when bone spurs and near bone-on-bone spacing was wrecking my life.

Another employee came in and pulled up my X-rays and set the room for the doctor. I could see the difference almost immediately.

My previous X-rays were at the top. I could see the difference even with the thumbnail size photo.

Surgeon’s Opinion

Of course, I’m not doctor, so I was anxious to hear his side of the story. He came in shortly thereafter and said he was really happy with the way things looked. He took a look at my incision, pulled off my steri-strips and trimmed up my stitches. He said said it looked great and didn’t require anymore dressings.

Don’t worry, it isn’t crooked. That’s how it’s supposed to look.

He turned his attention to my X-ray and showed me a few things about my new neck.

  • He said he was able to get all the disc matter from the herniated disc, but even if he hadn’t, he had created a a good amount of space in between C5/C6, which would certainly help. He used an 8mm cage, which was larger than we had initially discussed, but all went well.
  • My bone spurs are gone! He was able to remove them. He said it took a fair amount of work.
  • I’m only the second one to get this particular form of plate. The plate is low profile and small. Because I was only having one level done, this plate was ideal. It’s small enough not to take up extra space on the spine, limiting it’s impact on C4/5 and also C6/7. Additionally, if (probably more like when), I need additional levels completed in the future, he wouldn’t have to remove this original plate. There is enough room for him to add more plates above and below.
  • The plate is in place and looks great.
  • I’m experiencing some tingling in my hands. Both hands. It almost feels like a carpel tunnel situation. He said they could co-exist, meaning I could have carpel tunnel, but this wasn’t an issue until after surgery so I’m hoping there is no long-term effect and these tingles will clear up.
  • Sleeping is still a challenge. He said that it should get better in four weeks when I get my brace off when I’m at home. So, there’s something to look forward to.
  • My physical exam went well.
  • He told me to take it easy, but I’m able to drive again. So we’ll see how that goes.
  • I’m going back in four weeks for another follow-up.
With the original on the left and the new one on the right, you can see that there were just problems all around.

It was so reassuring to know that things are going well. I’m trying to breeze through this uneventfully. However, there are some things I can’t ignore. I have pain. I have really tight shoulder muscles. My throat hurts from everything moving during surgery. I’m EXHAUSTED.

Sometimes, just being in the brace is enough to amp up my anxiety. I dream it’s choking me or swallowing me. It’s so strange.

We are now two week post-op and things are definitely better. It’s going to take some time to fully heal, for sure, but I’m working my way there.