Cervical Spinal Fusion
Cervical spinal fusion (arthrodesis) is
a surgery that joins selected bones in the neck (cervical spine ). There
are different methods of doing a cervical spinal fusion:
- Bone can be taken from elsewhere in your body
or obtained from a bone bank (a bone graft). The bone is used to make a bridge
vertebrae that are next to each other (adjacent). This
bone graft stimulates the growth of new bone. Man-made (artificial)
fusion materials may also be used.
- Metal implants can be
used to hold the vertebrae together until new bone grows between
- Metal plates can be screwed into the bone, joining adjacent
- An entire vertebra can be removed, and the spine then
spinal disc can be removed and the adjacent vertebrae
This procedure can be done through an incision on the front
(anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck.
What To Expect After Surgery
This surgery usually requires a short stay in the hospital. You may
need to wear a brace on your neck (cervical collar) during recovery.
Why It Is Done
Cervical spinal fusion may be done:
- After an injury, to stabilize the neck and
prevent a bone fracture from causing instability or damage to the
spinal cord , which may result in
- To treat conditions such as
misalignment of the vertebrae.
- As a follow-up procedure to treat
spinal stenosis, a
herniated disc, the effects of
rheumatoid arthritis, an infection, tumors, or spinal
How Well It Works
Often spinal fusion is needed to keep the spine stable after injury, infection, or a tumor.
When symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the arm suggest that a neck problem is causing a pinched nerve (radiculopathy), surgery may help you feel better faster. But it's not clear that surgery is any better than nonsurgical treatment in the long run. And research also suggests that a complex surgery that includes fusion is not better than a simpler surgery to take the pressure off the nerve.1
If you have neck pain alone, with no signs of a pinched nerve, neck surgery will not help.1
Although cervical spinal fusion stiffens part of the neck, this
does not reduce neck flexibility for most people.
Surgery and the use of anesthesia involve some risk. The risks
associated with this procedure vary depending on your age and overall health,
diagnosis, and type of procedure used. Risks include:
- Pain in a bone graft site (donor
- Failure of the fusion, breakage of metal implants (if used),
Blood clots in deep veins.
- Nerve or spinal
Risks of general anesthesia.
What To Think About
Because there are so many things to consider when spinal fusion is recommended, seek a second opinion before making a decision.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Carragee EJ, et al. (2008). Treatment of neck pain. Injections and surgical interventions: Results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine, 33(4S): S153–S169.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Current as of
||July 30, 2012