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Cervical Spinal Fusion

At some point, we all experience neck pain. Whether it’s from sleeping in an awkward position, working out a little too hard or even just making a sudden movement, neck pain can be an inconvenience. 

However, those that battle constant, chronic or significant pain know that it’s more than an everyday nuisance: It can greatly impact our daily lives and keep us from enjoying our favorite activities.

When rest, medication or other non-surgical approaches don’t effectively manage your neck pain, your doctor may talk to you about surgery. Today, there are many options and advances in cervical surgery that can address pain and get you on the road to recovery. One of those options is cervical spinal fusion. 

What is cervical spinal fusion surgery?

The discs in our spine work as shock absorbers, cushioning vertebrae and allowing slight movements along the spine. Sometimes, these discs can become damaged from an injury, accident, arthritis or degenerative disc disease.

Cervical spinal fusion can help reduce neck pain by permanently joining together two or more vertebrae. During this procedure, which relieves pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, doctors remove the unhealthy disc and place a spacer between the vertebrae. Fusion stabilizes the neck and protects nerves from getting pinched again. It does stiffen the neck, but generally does not limit movement.

How do I know if cervical spinal fusion is right for me?

Fusion may be a good option for individuals who:

  • Have suffered a serious injury and require stabilization of the neck to avoid risking further damage or paralysis; 
  • Require aligning and stabilizing of vertebrae;
  • Suffer from spinal stenosis, herniated discs, the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, spinal deformities or infections

What type of spinal fusion is right for me?

There are several different approaches to spinal fusion. We are proud to partner with Mayfield Spine and Brain surgeons to offer Mazor X, a minimally invasive approach to spinal fusion. We are the only health system in the region to offer this state-of-the-art technology that delivers outstanding precision. 

Our surgeons are also experienced in other cervical spinal fusion surgery approaches, including anterior or posterior spinal fusion and posterolateral spinal fusion. 

The spine may be fused with one or more different materials, depending on your spinal condition. Your surgeon may use a bone graft, steel cage, rod, screws, plates or a combination of these materials. 

Your doctor will discuss the approach that is best for you, given your medical history and the underlying cause of your neck pain. 

What to expect during cervical spinal fusion surgery

Traditional cervical spinal fusion surgery can last 3-4 hours. You will be placed under general anesthesia. During surgery, your surgeon will access your cervical spine through an incision in your back or side. Your doctor will then remove the unhealthy disc and place a spacer between the remaining discs to help stabilize the spine. 

Recovering from cervical spinal fusion surgery 

After your surgery, you will stay in the hospital for 3-4 days. Your surgeon and medical team will review important discharge instructions with you before you leave the hospital. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Daily walks are encouraged to help heal and strengthen your back.
  • Follow all instructions for pain medication to safely manage pain.
  • Wear a neck brace as directed by your surgeon.

Spinal fusion can help drastically reduce neck pain, and most patients are able to fully regain mobility and enjoy their favorite activities once again.

Preparing for cervical spinal fusion surgery 

Begin your road to recovery before you arrive at the hospital. If you use tobacco, this is a perfect time to stop. Nicotine prevents bone growth and reduces the chances of successful fusion. Avoid all tobacco products: cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco.

Prepare for your surgery ahead of time by reviewing discharge instructions provided by your doctor, setting up a recovery area in your home and learning other steps you can take to make your recovery process go smoothly.

Learn more 

Learn more about cervical spinal fusion surgery by contacting one of our affiliated surgeons, by clicking here.