Instability in the cervical spine (neck) or motion between vertebrae may require a cervical fusion to permanently join selected bones. The fusion of two or more bones will create stability in the vertebrae, alleviate pain and prevent future damage in a particular segment of the spine.
Conditions that may require a cervical fusion include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Chronic neck pain
- Spinal weakness or instability
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal deformities
- Bone fracture
- Vertebral misalignment
Before proposing cervical fusion, your doctor at South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine will use nonsurgical methods to help alleviate pain and improve healing conditions in the spine. After six weeks of conservative treatments, only about 10 percent of people with herniated disc issues have enough pain to consider spine surgery.
Your surgeon will help determine if cervical fusion is best for you. Once healed, a majority of patients experience pain relief in their back and neck and a return to normal, everyday activities.
What Is a Cervical Fusion?
This procedure is performed to join two or more vertebrae in the back or neck. Your surgeon will make an incision in either the front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck depending on the impacted vertebrae. Any remaining portions of the damaged disc between the vertebrae will be removed. A bone, or bone-like material, will be placed between the two vertebrae. Metal hardware such as plates or screw will be used to secure the vertebrae. Overtime, the vertebrae will heal and fuse into one, solid bone. The fusing of the two bones typically takes three to six months.
Results and Recovery
The typical recovery time following surgery lasts four to six weeks. Follow-up appointments will allow your surgeon to monitor the success of the fusion and answer any questions you may have about the healing process.
During the initial healing process, you may require the help of a cervical collar or brace to help limit mobility and stabilize healing vertebrae. As recovery progresses, physical therapy exercises will be used for several weeks to help your neck regain motion.
In a majority of patients, cervical fusion surgery is successful in relieving arm and neck pain in the case of fractures, deformities or instabilities of the spine.
Due to the fusing of two vertebrae, a segment of your spine is immobilized, which may place additional strain on the surrounding areas in the spine and change the range of motion in the neck. Patients should continue attending follow-up appointments with a doctor to monitor this condition.