Have you been experiencing constant, chronic pain in your neck or back? This pain may be an indication of a sprain, strain, or other soft tissue injury in your spine. Many times, minor injuries usually go away with rest and other conservative measures. However, if the problem is structural, surgery may be necessary to improve your condition. Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that can help with your neck or back pain.
Are you a candidate for spinal and cervical fusion surgery? Here is a look at this procedure’s purpose, how it is done, and its risks.
Purpose of Spinal and Cervical Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion surgery is done to connect two or more vertebrae in your backbone permanently. In particular, a cervical fusion is for the neck or cervical spine. Here are some of the reasons your doctor may recommend this procedure.
Your spine has five distinct regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccyx. The cervical spine is at the topmost, where the skull meets the spinal column. It allows you to rotate your head and move your neck. However, injuries, degeneration, and infection may cause spinal deformities, resulting in chronic pain and immobility. Fusion surgery can help improve these conditions and minimize the risk of further complications.
Spinal instability is the loss of motion stiffness in the spine that results in displacement from their anatomical position when force is applied. The instability may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the cause of this problem. Severe cases may need spinal fusion to relieve symptoms, including chronic pain, limited range of motion, and sometimes, arm pain. You may experience pain and muscle spasms even within the cervical spine’s normal range of motion.
Although more common in the lower back, herniated discs may also occur on the cervical spine. When a disc ruptures and its contents come out, it can cause nerve compression. This may occur due to disc degeneration, poor body posture, excess weight, or traumatic injuries from a fall or heavy blow to the neck. If symptoms such as pain and weakness persist for more than six weeks despite conservative measures, surgery may be necessary to relieve them. Spinal fusion, in particular, prevents the recurrence of compression.
How Is the Surgery Performed?
During a spinal fusion, you will be under general anesthesia and will be unconscious for its duration. There are several techniques on how to perform this procedure, and your doctor will determine which is most appropriate for your condition.
Whatever technique they opt to use will generally involve incisions, bone graft preparation, and fusion. Incisions are done to provide access to the cervical spine. To reach your cervical spine, your orthopedic surgeon may create an incision on your back directly over the affected area or over your throat to access the front.
Then, the bone grafts will be prepared. These may come from your own body, typically from your pelvis, or from a bone bank. Sometimes, synthetic substances may be used to speed up the fusion of the vertebrae.
Finally, to fuse the bones, your doctor will place the bone graft between the vertebrae. They will then use metal plates, screws, or rods to hold them in place while the bone graft heals.
You will stay in the hospital a few days after the surgery. Postoperative pain is normal, and your doctor will recommend medications to control the pain. They will also give you instructions about your recovery and rehabilitation.
Risks of Spinal and Cervical Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion is generally a safe procedure, but like all surgeries, it has some risks. Your doctor will thoroughly explain to you the possible complications that may arise from a spinal fusion. These include the following:
- Poor wound healing
- Bleeding and blood clots
- Nerve or blood vessel injuries
- Pain where the bone graft was taken
It is essential to understand the risks of any surgical procedure to know when a doctor’s visit is necessary. If you experience pain, swelling, tenderness, wound drainage, chills, and a fever over 100.4°F following your surgery, seek immediate medical assistance.
Spinal and Cervical Fusion Surgery in Rochester Hills, MI
Cervical spine fusion can significantly improve your neck pain and immobility. It also prevents further complications caused by cervical degeneration, instability, and herniation. So, if you experience chronic pain in your neck that limits your mobility, consult with your doctor.
Dr. Bradley D. Ahlgren of Ahlgren Spine is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 25 years of experience in the field. He can diagnose and treat your spine problems, including those that cause your chronic neck pain.
You may reach us at (248) 215-8080 for your inquiries about our orthopedic services. Alternatively, you may use this secure online form to schedule an appointment at our clinics in Rochester Hills, Bad Axe, and Royal Oak, Michigan. Let us keep your spine strong and healthy!