Deciding to have PCDF & ACDF surgeries. help!

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Hi All! New Here!

 Just to warn you this is a little lengthy (embarrassedJ so I truly appreciate whoever takes time from their busy day to read it.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with Thoracic Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, and Fibromyalgia - and in November 2015 diagnosed with Cervical Radiculopathy. As you see, I have dealt with chronic pain for a long time, and I am tired of it – it’s exhausting and limits my day to day activities.

Anyway based on my MRI results and my physical symptoms - the surgeon diagnosed me with Cervical Radiculopathy and *suggested* a Posterior Cervical Decompression (PCDF) as well as an Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion, ( ACDF).  No pressure … he told me to just think it over and referred me to Physical Therapy.

Since the diagnosis, I am doing a ton of research and educating myself about my condition and the surgery.

Last week I asked my physical therapist what she thought of the surgery and she said, “I had time to have the surgery later”. (I’m 63 and not clear about what “later” even means smile This week my primary care doctor said outright, that I do not want this surgery because it may not relieve the numbness and pain, and does nothing for the arthritis in my neck, and there will be issues with scar tissue and that my condition is not that bad – yet. He suggested I get a second opinion. I agreed to get a second opinion.

Cervical Radiculopathy Timeline

  January 2015 I developed a pinch nerve in the left side of my neck along with the slow progression of excruciating numbness and/or pain in my arm, fingers and thigh. In June 2015, my primary care doctor diagnosed me with pinch nerve and referred me to PT along with the suggestion that I get a back massage. I had tried PT before for my osteoarthritis and hated it. So, I decided to try yoga instead.

Through yoga, I relieved most of the thigh and neck pain and increased my range of motion. However, the numbness and pain in my fingers and in my arm became worse - along with the loss of grip strength. I informed my primary care Dr. in Oct of 2015, he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, who of course ordered an MRI.

As I said, based on the test results, the surgeon suggested surgery but wanted me to first try physical therapy, this time I went. I started twice weekly therapy sessions in November 2015 and so far it’s effective. After 6 weeks of passive exercises, my arm pain had diminished significantly and the numbness decreased to a ‘low buzz’.

Because I was progressing so well - the week of Christmas 2015 the therapist changed to more aggressive exercises (10 mins on the treadmill, resistance bands, etc) I felt ok while there. However, by the time I returned home after the session the pain in my neck and back was out of control. I had learned many PT pain intervention techniques and I tried them all but the pain escalated. Numbness increased significantly in my thumb. In addition to that I now not only have pain on the left side of my neck but also the right - along with a considerable decrease in my range of motion on both sides of my neck. My grip strength decreased almost immediately and I am dropping things again.  Thought it best to cancel my next appointment, ha-ha! Although I feel better, today I am still in pain - most movements makes it worse. At this point, I’m confused and not sure what to do next. My next PT appointment is on Jan 5th and I see the surgeon on Jan 19 to inform him of my decision.

My questions.

1.      Without ongoing physical therapy –(i.e. the rest of my life) will the symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy return? (Anyone have experience with this?)

2.      With degenerative disc disease, overtime, will my disc continue to lose height and stack on top of one another causing even more pain? (So far because of this I’ve lost 2” in height.)

3.      From the point of being diagnosed with Cervical Radiculopathy what is the longest time anyone has waited in deciding to have the surgery or not to have surgery?

4.      Why would waiting for the symptoms to get worse be beneficial to obtaining a positive outcome or to justify the surgery?

5.      Finally, why are some medical professionals against having this surgery? Has anyone experienced being discouraged from having the procedure and how did it influence your decision to have or not have the surgery?

 I thoroughly understand this is a major surgery with a very rough and long recovery period. To be honest at age 63 – I am more worried about recovering from the anesthesia and if my body can withstand the actual length of the surgery, and those factors are certainly not going to get better as I age.

I also understand that I need to rely on the medical professionals’ opinions however, I have been ‘burnt’ in the past with so-called medical opinions. That is why I am seeking experiences related to this from ‘normal’ folks ---I need a different perspective from people who have dealt with this process. 

Thanks so much for any feedback!

MRI Results

At C3-C4, mild diffuse disc bulge results in no significant canal or neuroforaminal compromise.

 At C4-C5, posterior disc osteophyte complex with left-sided uncovertebral arthrosis results in mild narrowing of the left neural foramen. The canal and right neural foramen are patent.

 At C5-C6, posterior disc osteophyte complex and facet and uncovertebral arthrosis results in mild to moderate canal and mild bilateral neural foraminal compromise.

 At C6-C7, posterior disc osteophyte complex and facet and uncovertebral arthrosis results in mild to moderate canal and mild bilateral neural foraminal narrowing.


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