What is Cervical Spine Surgery?
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.
What are the Reasons for Cervical Spine Surgery?
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.
Degenerative Disc Disease
In degenerative disease the discs or cushion pads between your vertebrae shrink, causing wearing of the disc, which may lead to herniation. You may also have arthritic areas in your spine. This degeneration can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness from the pressure on the spinal nerves.
Patients with a deformity in their cervical spine, such as hyperlordosis or swan neck deformity, may benefit from surgery to straighten and stabilize the spine. Upper neck disorders, also called craniocervical or craniovertebral junction abnormalities can affect the cervical spine.
Since the neck is so flexible it is vulnerable to injury. Some injuries can cause a fracture and or dislocation of the cervical vertebra. In a severe injury, the spinal cord may also be damaged. Patients with a fracture, especially with spinal cord damage, undergo surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and stabilize the spine.
What are the Potential Complications of Cervical Spine Surgery?
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.
How is Revision Surgery different?
Revision surgery often requires correcting a deformity. The type of revision depends on the type of problem. The procedure may include operating on both the front and back of the neck.
The incidence of complications from cervical spine revision surgery is higher than in first-time procedures. It is also more difficult to relieve pain and restore nerve function in revision surgery. Patients should also be aware that the chance of having long-term neck pain is increased with revision surgery.