What is Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion is a way to stabilize parts of the neck or back by causing vertebrae to grow together the way pieces of a broken bone will grow together. Often, metal plates, rods, and/or screws are used to facilitate fusion.
When Procedure is Used
Anterior cervical discectomies are performed when a patient has one or more discs that have herniated or become degenerative and are therefore causing intense pain and weakness. This pain and weakness may even extend into a patient’s arm or hand. If you are considering an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion, you have likely tried managing your symptoms with medication and physical therapy but have found no relief. Cervical fusion is a treatment option when motion is the source of pain. Eliminating the vertebral movement may alleviate your pain and help you return to normal activities.
You will be given general anesthesia to make sure you relax and to prevent pain and help you fall asleep. Your disc space can be reached more easily through the front of your neck than from the back of your neck, so the surgeon will make a small incision on one side of your neck and move aside the vessels, nerves, and muscles exposing your spine. The vertebra and disc that are causing pain can then be located so the surgeon can remove the disc and other damaged tissue or material putting pressure on your nerves. To fill this newly emptied space, you may have a bone graft taken from your own body, or you may have one inserted from a cadaver so that the vertebrae will fuse together. In some cases, your surgeon might use an artificial disc instead of a fusion. To stabilize the vertebrae and hold them together, your surgeon might also use pins, screws, and plates.
The risk of complications is very low. However, potential risks might include
- allergic reactions to medications
- nerve damage
- reduced mobility in the neck following fusion
- elimination of or decrease in pain
- increase in stability
- increase in strength