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.
When you've got back pain, one of the best questions you can ask is, "Why is it happening?" That can be the first step to helping the problem.
Common causes for back pain include:
Muscle and ligament injuries. These are the most common causes of back pain. Shoveling snow or helping a friend move her couch can sometimes overstretch the muscles or ligaments. You can wind up with strains or sprains. Most of these injuries heal in a few days to weeks.
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),
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
July 30, 2012
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
July 30, 2012
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