Cervical fusion is a surgical procedure that involves the fusion or linking of the cervical spine located in the neck area. This surgical procedure is often employed for various conditions affecting the cervical spine such as degeneration of the joints. When cervical fusion is employed, linking together of the bones is achieved when bone growth is stimulated. Usually, a metal rod is used to secure and stabilize the spine until bone growth has been achieved.
A cervical fusion is a permanent procedure because once the bones have been linked together; the connected or fused bones cannot be separated making the fused spine as one. Before a spinal fusion is employed, the disc between two vertebrae is removed to allow linking.
Cervical fusion is not a surgery to anyone. There are certain conditions in the spine that require this type of surgical procedure. Also, cervical fusion is not an initial treatment modality, but is employed when other measures failed. Some of the conditions that require cervical fusion include:
• Disc herniation in the neck
A disc herniation is characterized by the bulging of the disc in between the vertebrae that allows the pushing of the underlying nerve. The pressure on the nerves is the root of the symptoms such as neck pain, numbness and tingling sensations in the arms, neck and shoulders. When physical therapy and other means are not effective, fusing the cervical spine is the last resort.
• Spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis or the narrowing of the lumen of the vertebrae can also be a reason for cervical fusion.
• Cervical osteoarthritis
Degeneration of the joint in the cervical area makes the cervical vertebrae unstable because of the absence of a strong connection in between the vertebrae. As a result, a cervical fusion may be ordered to enhance the stability of the cervical vertebrae.
Complications of Cervical Fusion
As with any surgical procedure, various complications may develop. One of these is failure to relieve neck pain, despite the procedure. Another potential complication is failure of the bones to completely fuse together, which may require additional surgery. Incomplete fusion usually happens when the patient continues smoking and is not compliant to other therapies prescribed. During the procedure, nerve damage can also happen. There can also be difficulty of swallowing as a result of injury to the nerve supplying the neck area. Finally, there can also be bleeding and infection due to impaired skin integrity.
Recovery from Cervical Fusion
Cervical fusion has been effective in the treatment of various conditions stated above. Full recovery is achieved in a period of two to three months when bone growth allowed the vertebrae to fuse together. Once fully recovered, increased activity levels are already allowed only that certain activities should still be avoided such as lifting heavy weight most of the time and employing poor body mechanics to prevent another spinal injury to form. The success rate of cervical fusion is at most 90% and most people who have undergone the procedure reported relief from symptoms.
If you have been suffering from conditions requiring cervical fusion, consulting a health care provider is optimal to determine if you are a candidate for the procedure. Nevertheless, starting from conservative therapies is still essential to limit possible complications that can develop with surgery.