Spine Cervical

I have a herniated disc in my neck. Why does my surgeon want to operate on more than one location in my neck? Isn't the sore disc just in one place?

A recent study presented the results of a surgical procedure that uses a bone graft from the outer edge of the lower leg (fibula) to fuse the bones in the neck. Nearly 150 patients had this procedure. Success was judged by whether the neck bones had grown together two years after surgery. 

When it comes to neck fusion surgery, do men and women have different results?

In general, gender doesn't seem to make a difference in how well patients do after neck fusion surgery.

After losing strength in her left arm and having pain that keeps her up at night, my wife had an MRI of her neck. The doctor says she has a herniation of the discs between C5 and C6 and wants to operate. Are there options other than surgery?

Doctors generally prefer to begin with nonsurgical treatment. As long as the injured disc is not squeezing the spinal cord, the pain is tolerable, and any numbness or weakness is not getting worse, surgery may be avoided. If any or all of these symptoms worsen, surgery may be suggested.

I had a discectomy and fusion at C5 and C6 two years ago. I did well for about two years. Now I'm having more pain and problems with my neck. My doctor just did some tests, and apparently there is a bulge in the disc at C6 and C7. What should I do?

When two bones in the spine are fused, the action of the joints above and below changes. This can lead to problems in the joints above or below the fused area. It could explain why you are having problems at the level just below the fused segments of C5 and C6. Your doctor may want you to work with a physical therapist to help ease pain, improve the quality of neck motion, and optimize your posture.

My doctor has mentioned attaching a metal plate and screws in my neck when I have my upcoming neck fusion surgery. He used the term "instrumentation" to describe the surgery. What is instrumentation?

Instrumentation refers to the special devices surgeons sometimes use when fusing bones together. Another term for these devices is hardware. Instrumentation is used to get the best possible results from the surgery.

I've heard that some of the devices implanted during neck surgery can break or malfunction. Are there any new types of implants out there with better results?

It's true that, in some cases, metal hardware has broken or been associated with other complications. Some of the devices available aren't as effective or stable as surgeons would like.

My surgeon says he's going to implant a piece of titanium in my neck when he operates. Is this usual?

The use of instrumentation, or hardware, is fairly common in neck and spine surgery. These devices are often made of titanium, which is a safe, strong metallic substance.

Implanting these devices can help hold the neck vertebrae in place after surgery, promoting optimal healing. In some cases, the bones would collapse back together or fuse in a contorted way without this extra help.

Does the success rate for neck fusion surgery change depending on whether two or three levels in the neck are operated on?

A recent study compared patients who had neck fusion of two or three levels. The surgical team took a section of bone from the outside edge of the patients' lower leg, the fibula bone. The graft was used to join the neck vertebrae.

I had a cervical fusion many years ago. I'm eighty-two years old now, and I don't want surgery again. How can I take care of the pain in my neck without having another operation?

Surgery is rarely the first choice of treatment for neck pain. It may be suggested if you develop muscle weakness, pressure on the spinal cord, or severe pain that doesn't go away. And knowing your desire to avoid another surgery, your doctor will likely suggest ways other than surgery to help you take care of your neck pain.

Sayonara Neck Surgery: Conservative Treatment May Suffice in Some Cases

In the right circumstances, neck surgery can provide relief of pain and other symptoms. Sometimes surgery may be the only option. This is often the case when a disc herniation in the neck puts pressure against the spinal cord, causing a condition called myelopathy. Myelopathy can lead to problems with the bowels and bladder. It can change the way a person walks and affect the ability to use the fingers and hands.

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