Life After ACDF Surgery: How Permanent Restrictions Affect Your Car/Truck Wreck Case


If your doctor has told you that you need an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery after a car accident, you're likely dealing with significant pain, nerve issues, and life disruptions. You might also be concerned about potential long-term consequences of this surgery and whether you can pursue compensation for your injuries. As a personal injury attorney, I understand your concerns, and I'm here to help answer your questions and outline what permanent restrictions after ACDF could mean for your case.

Key Permanent Restrictions Post-ACDF Surgery

  1. Swallowing and Neck Mobility:> After ACDF surgery, it's normal to experience short-term difficulty swallowing due to surgical swelling. However, long-term impacts are generally rare. A more critical permanent restriction relates to neck mobility. ACDF involves fusing two or more cervical vertebrae, leading to a permanent reduction in spinal flexibility. This often means a limited range of forward motion, which could significantly affect your ability to work, drive, or enjoy daily activities.

Legal Perspective: In a personal injury case, such changes could support compensation claims, especially if they impact your livelihood or quality of life. Reduced neck mobility could limit your ability to work in roles requiring full flexibility or impose challenges in performing daily activities, reinforcing the need for appropriate compensation.

  1. Heavy Lifting and Activity Restrictions: In the immediate weeks post-surgery, lifting is restricted to avoid damage to the healing bones and hardware. Once healed, you may return to normal activities, but heavy lifting—particularly exercises like squats or clean jerks that put direct strain on the neck—is generally discouraged. Patients in strenuous physical jobs might need to adjust their duties or consider alternative roles.

Legal Perspective:> If you can no longer perform the heavy lifting or demanding activities required in your job, you might qualify for compensation covering reduced earning capacity or the need for vocational retraining. Understanding these restrictions helps build a clearer case for future employment losses.

  1. Sports and Recreational Activities: Adults typically return to most recreational activities after ACDF, though contact sports or extreme sports like mountain biking could pose higher risks. Your neck will be slightly more susceptible to injury due to the fusion.

If sports or recreational activities play a significant role in your life, any limitations post-ACDF could contribute to a claim for "loss of enjoyment of life" damages. Documenting this impact is essential in seeking fair compensation.

  1. Technology use can place strain on the neck, especially if you're frequently looking down at screens. After ACDF, it's crucial to maintain good posture to prevent further issues.

If your job involves extensive computer use or tasks that require a bent neck, such limitations could affect your work performance and productivity. Employers may need to provide accommodations, or you may require vocational training.

  1. After ACDF, there's a 10-15% risk of needing additional neck surgery within 10-15 years, either due to adjacent segment degeneration or ongoing disc disease. This increased likelihood could require long-term planning for medical expenses.  When your neck is fused, it prevents that level of 2 discs from bending, therefore requiring the adjacent segments to have to bend excessively to make up the loss from the fused discs, causing significantly more increased stress on the adjoining discs, which leads to accelerated degeneration, which can lead to more surgery and fusion of a greater segment of your spine, and thus creates a perpetually increasing and worsening problem. 

This potential future need for surgery must be factored into any settlement to ensure that future medical expenses are covered. Your settlement should anticipate these costs as part of your long-term care plan.

What you Need to Know About the Insurance Company’s Evaluation Of Your Case:

You need to know that insurance companies do not just roll over and accept what your doctor says is true.  They will do EVERYTHING in their power to deflect, deny, and defend against you and your claims.  When your doctor says you need a surgery because of a trucking wreck or car wreck, your insurance company will look very hard at your x-ray/MRI reports to look for “Degenerative Disc Disease”.   I have another name for this condition… “Normal aging”.   If you are 54 years old, you don’t have the same spine you did when you were 25 years old.  This is normal to have mild degenerative changes.  What these type of companies ignore is the fact of law that is crystal clear, i.e., you can have normal aging conditions in your spine and if a person is negligent and rams their car into you, they are responsible for any worsening, aggravation/exacerbation of the underlying condition.   I call this rule of law the “Protect People Over the Age of 40” Rule.  If this were not the law, then all spine claims of injury would disappear after age 24 or so.   No sir… the law protects ALL OF US.  Even as we age.  So, be armed with knowledge and don’t let the adjusters talk down to you or belittle you because you have normal aging conditions.  This was NOT YOUR FAULT

Conclusion: Building a Case Post-ACDF Surgery

As a personal injury attorney, my role is to ensure that you receive fair compensation for all the impacts of your injury, including the long-term effects of ACDF surgery. Understanding these permanent restrictions will help shape your claim, guiding us in pursuing damages for reduced earning capacity, lifestyle limitations, and future medical needs.

If you have questions or concerns about ACDF surgery and how it might affect your injury claim, I'm here to help you navigate this challenging time and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

John Griffith
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Nashville Personal Injury Trial Attorney
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