At ClinTech Center for Spine Health, we offer specialized treatments and procedures to offer the back relief you’re looking for. However, sometimes these practices simply do not offer the amount, or kind of relief some of our patients are looking for.
To address this, we are also trained spine surgeons, practiced in a variety of methods that aid those who require spinal surgery. After a full physical and spine health assessment and other treatment options have been considered, ClinTech might suggest spine surgery as a helpful next step forward. One of the surgery options we offer is cervical fusion. Today we’ll examine what this surgery is, why it’s performed, and how it can help.
Why Is Cervical Fusion Necessary?
Most chronic and intense neck pain is the result of changes or injuries that occur in the discs that make up the cervical spine and the joints between each of those vertebrae. For most patients, a surgical procedure is not necessary, but in cases where non-operative options have not made a difference in the pain level experienced, a spine surgeon might suggest a procedure like cervical fusion. To best mitigate and relieve the chronic neck and back pain experienced by the patient, the spine surgeon has to reduce pressure on the affected spinal nerves being impacted by the discs of the spine.
The cause of this chronic pain might be one of several sources. A herniated cervical disc is a common cause of neck pain. A herniated, or slipped, disc puts pressure on the nerves running through the spine. A herniated disc can be caused by injury, sudden movement, or even spontaneously. A herniated disc can cause weakness in the extremities and shooting pain in the neck and back.
The natural aging process can also cause chronic neck pain. As people age and the spine is subjected to natural wear and tear, some patients begin to grow tiny bony growths along their vertebrae. These bone spurs are called osteophytes and are a natural response to an inflamed and aging spine. These spurs act as a sort of natural fusion, but as they expand, they can narrow the vertebral openings in the spine, and place pressure on the nerve passageways that pinch the spinal cord. This can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the neck and other extremities.
What Does The Surgery Look Like?Discectomy
Like many surgeries, the cervical fusion process is made up of several steps. These operations often begin with a discectomy. This is the process by which the spine surgeon actually removes the disc that is putting pressure on the nerves in the spine. In the cervical spine, this removal of the disc is often performed at the front of the neck. The surgeon will make an incision next to the trachea, or windpipe. The muscles, arteries, and nerves are gently moved to the side, and the spine surgeon removes the disc, as well as any bone spurs left near the site. Precise incisions, extractions, and skill are needed to ensure that the spinal column is not damaged during this part of the procedure.
Anterior Fusion Procedures
After the discectomy, the spine surgeon may then perform an anterior cervical fusion. During this process, the surgeon fills the void left by the removed disc using a block of bone taken from the pelvis or another donor. By placing a new piece of bone in the spine, the nearby vertebrae begin to grow together or fuse. The spine surgeon may also conduct an anterior interbody fusion, that is more commonly performed in the neck. Rarely, a spine surgeon might consider a posterior fusion in the cervical spine.
The entire procedure is designed to stabilize the spine and prevent further pressure on the nerves or nerve passageways in the spinal column. This helps to ensure that patients no longer experience the chronic and severe pain they were subjected to prior to the surgery.