A common surgical option to treat cervical disc degeneration is cervical fusion surgery. In this, the surgeon removes the disc, inserts a spacer (implant) in the area between two or more vertebrae. The fusion of the spine will reduce its flexibility and range of motion and can relieve pain and symptoms arising from the degenerate disc. Cervical fusion is a common surgical option to treat damaged neck discs.
During the operation, the surgeon first removes the degenerated disc. Also known as discectomy, this technique relieves pressure on the roots of the nerves or spinal cord.
The surgeon will insert a spacer and permanently attach it to adjacent vertebrae on both sides, sometime with a cervical plate but usually without. This stabilization eliminates movement and often relieves your pain and other symptoms. However, it reduces its flexibility and range of movement. The other discs in the spine can compensate for the slight reduction in movement.
During cervical fusion
There are potential risks associated with the use of these devices, some of which include: disassembly, flexion and/or rupture of any or all components, the pressure of the device on the skin that can cause irritation and/or pain penetration, damage to the nerve tissue and scar formation.
However, this is one of the most common spinal operations performed and serious complications are very rare. Usually the procedure is performed through a minimally invasive (keyhole technique) as a day surgery procedure and the recovery is very quick.
It is important to discuss possible benefits and risks or other relevant information with your doctor.
Risks during cervical fusion
Many times, the surgeon accesses the spine during surgery in front of the neck. This approach is called anterior fusion or anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
After making a small incision, the surgeon moves soft tissues, such as muscle, to the sides and removes the disc and any bone spurs or soft tissue to relieve pressure on the compressed nerves. The surgeon then inserts a spacer to prevent adjacent vertebrae from collapsing on top of each other. The spacer can be synthetic or constructed with the bone removed from another area of the body. A plate and screws maybe used to hold the spacer in place and stabilize the area although the plate is rarely used nowadays.
If you are going to have a discectomy and anterior cervical fusion, you can be discharded on the same day as your operation. After being discharged, your doctor will probably recommend a recovery plan and postoperative exercise.