Cervical spine surgery is usually performed to treat nerve or spinal cord impingement, spinal instability or cervical radiculopathy. The procedure can alleviate pain or discomfort, providing relief to patients who choose to undergo the procedure.
Patients are placed under general anesthesia for all cervical spine surgeries. This is done for the safety of both the patient and Dr. Ahuja. After the surgery, Dr. Ahuja and his staff will guide you through the recovery process, ensuring the best possible results from the procedure.
What is cervical spine surgery?
Cervical spinal fusion is used when multiple levels of vertebrae and discs are unhealthy. Entire discs and vertebrae may be removed, and stabilizing cages are put in their place to alleviate pain or discomfort.
Are there side effects?
Negative side effects are relatively minimal in cervical spine surgeries. But with any procedure, there come a number of inherent risks. For this procedure in particular, patients may want to consider the following:
- A cervical fusion will limit some ability to look straight up or down by extending or flexing the neck.
- (Rotation of the head to the right or left is not affected by this surgery.)
- A bone stimulator may also need to be worn after surgery to assist with this bone regeneration.
- Patients may experience a sore throat or difficulty swallowing immediately after the procedure.
What is Neck Surgery Recovery Like?
With a fusion, a collar may need to be worn for 4-6 weeks. Many people notice an early improvement in their arm pain; however there may be persistent neck pain or headaches until the collar is completely discontinued.
How long does it take to heal?
The healing process is different for every patient. Generally speaking, postoperative pain is minimal, although perhaps uncomfortable. In most cases, patients heal within 3-6 months with professional supervision.
It is important for patients to talk to Dr. Ahuja or their physical therapist about correct posture and movements. Activity should be increased slowly every day, but patients should only do what they are comfortable with. Cervical spine surgery patients should be sure to attend their follow-up appointments and stick with their post-operative plans.
Anterior vs. Posterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion
Dr. Ahuja may choose to employ one or both cervical decompression methods in a patient’s treatment plan, especially in cases where multiple levels of vertebrae and discs are unhealthy.
In this procedure, entire discs and vertebrae may be removed, and stabilizing cages are employed. Dr. Ahuja will also place a place a secured plate on the spine for further stabilization. To help regrow bone around the cage, bone collected during the surgery is placed inside the cage, stimulating regrowth during recovery. A bone stimulator may need to be worn after surgery to assist with this process.
A posterior fusion is often done in conjunction with an anterior fusion in order to further stabilize the neck. In the posterior approach, compression on the spinal cord and nerves from the back is relieved by stabilizing the spine via secure rods. The bone removed during the surgery is ground up and used as a graft to help in the healing and fusion process.
Laminotomies and Foraminotomies
Whenever any work is done in the cervical spine, fusions are usually necessary to keep the spine stable. However, if the problem is small enough, a laminotomy or foraminotomy can be performed.
Laminotomy = A laminotomy removes a portion of the lamina, which relieves pressure on the spinal cord and reduces pain.
Foraminotomy = In a foraminotomy, the openings on the sides of the spine (the foramen) are made wider so the nerves are no longer pinched.