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  • SushiCami
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Hello! Hoping you can help. I am 4 weeks post-op of multi-level Cervical Fusion (C2-C6), with plate and screws. I have some odd complications, including one NO OTHER DOCTOR HAS HEARD OF! When I swallow pills, they often slowly slide back up my throat and into my mouth. This “regurgitation” can happen immediately or 30 minutes after I’ve swallowed the pill. WHAT IS HAPPENING?! What can I do to help?

    Some background…

    Diagnosis: Cervical Spine Disc Degeneration; Cervical Spondylosis with Radiculopathy

    Before surgery, I was told by two spinal surgeons, independently, that my cervical spine looked 80 y old due to severe degeneration. I am 47 y old, female. After 2 yrs of alternative treatments, I had fusion surgery by a neurosurgeon who is well known for his strict procedure and exactness, leading to few to no issues after surgery. After surgery, I immediately felt intense muscle cramping in my shoulders. Four weeks later, the muscle cramping is worse and has spread to my neck, upper back, and upper arms (in addition to shoulders). The cramping is greatly limiting my neck movement (currently surgeon’s orders to only turn head to left and right) and everyday tasks – I cannot sit upright for more than 15 minutes without supporting my shoulders.

    If my initial problem typical occurs to older patients, why am I the only one having post-op issues?

    Donald Corenman, MD, DC
    Moderator
    Post count: 8465

    Unfortunately, you most likely have your Mom and Dad to thank for the condition of your neck (genetics).

    A 4 level ACDF requires a significant amount of retraction of the esophagus which is why I tried to limit my ACDF surgeries to 3 levels or under.

    The esophagus is a muscular tube, something like the belly of a snake. Imagine when a snake swallows its prey, you can see the bulge of its victim (the bolus of food) in the snake’s body. The reason the bulge moves down the snake is that the muscles in back of the bolus all relax and the muscles in front contract-propelling it down the gut.

    Your esophageal muscle was retracted and muscles don’t like that. You have temporarily lost your coordinated relaxation in front of the pill and contraction in the rear of the pill and it gets “hung up” in the esophagus. This should eventually clear over time but you can deal with it now by trying to swallow the pills with a thick liquid like yoghurt. If acceptable to your doc, some pills can be mashed up in food to swallow but some can’t.

    The muscle cramping is most likely from “stretching” the neck out when disc height was restored. This typically fades in 6-8 weeks, If it continues past then, consider a further workup.

    Dr. Corenman

    SushiCami
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Hello, Dr. Corenman!

    I wanted to update the forum, so my experiences may help others.

    I also wanted to thank you for your clear and ‘spot-on’ interpretation of my swallowing problems after cervical fusion surgery. It did take about 4 months before I could swallow pills without any problem. In the meantime, my body seemed to compensate by swallowing “differently” to push the pills down. In addition, I had a wonderful physical therapist who helped me strengthen the small muscles in my neck. I never regained my full ability to swallow as many pills as before, but I can swallow 2-3 at a time now, which is sufficient.

    [FYI: I have an additional question regarding my recovery that I’ll ask in a separate thread – Fusion Recovery with Fibromyalgia.]

    I know others have told you this many times, but here’s one more: Thank you for this website and your sacrificial willingness to help others. You have an amazing ministry here. I pray that God blesses you and your family.

    Sincerely, I thank You, Doctor.

    LeAnn

    Donald Corenman, MD, DC
    Moderator
    Post count: 8465

    Thank you.

    Dr. Corenman

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