Your orthopaedic surgeon or neurosurgeon may recommend cervical spine surgery to relieve neck pain, numbness, tingling and weakness, restore nerve function and stop or prevent abnormal motion in your neck.
Your surgeon does this by removing a disc or a bone and fusing the vertebrae together with a bone graft either in front of or behind the spine. The bone graft may be one of two types: an autograft (bone taken from your body) or an allograft (donor bone from a bone bank). Sometimes metal plates and screws are also used to further stabilize the spine. These techniques are called instrumentation. When the vertebrae have been surgically stabilized, abnormal motion is stopped and function is restored to the spinal nerves. An alternative to spinal fusion is a cervical disc replacement using an artificial disc that enables neck motion and stabilizes the spine.
Cervical spine surgery may be indicated for a variety of spinal neck problems. Generally, surgery may be performed for degenerative disorders, trauma or instability. These conditions may produce pressure on the spinal cord or on the nerves coming from the spine. Once youre able to move normally, your doctor will assess your condition and release you from the hospital with prescriptions for pain and bowel management, as pain medications can cause constipation.
If you have trouble breathing or your blood pressure hasnt returned to normal, your doctor might recommend that you stay in the hospital overnight.
See your surgeon about two weeks after your surgery for a follow-up appointment. You should be able to do daily activities again in four to six weeks.
See your doctor right away if you notice any of the following:
high fever at or above 101F (38C)
bleeding or discharge from the surgery site
abnormal swelling or redness
pain that doesnt go away with medication
weakness that wasnt present before the surgery
intense pain or stiffness in your neck As with any operation, there are risks involved with cervical spine surgery. Possible complications include injury to your spinal cord, nerves, esophagus, carotid artery or vocal cords; non-healing of the bony fusion; failure to improve; instrumentation breakage and/or failure; infection; bone graft site pain. Any of these complications may lead to more surgery.
Other complications may include phlebitis in your legs, blood clots in the lungs or urinary problems. Rare complications include paralysis and possibly death. Your surgeon will discuss potential risks with you before asking you to sign a consent form. Learn Less