If you have frequent neck or shoulder pain, you could have a herniated or degenerative cervical disc. The most common surgery to relieve pain in the neck and shoulder areas from damaged discs is an anterior cervical fusion surgery. This surgery is often successful at relieving pain from compressed nerves and for helping people suffering from degenerative disc diseases. People who successfully have this surgery may experience a reduction in the amount of medication they take, experience relief from numbness and tingling, and live a better quality of life.
The Basics of the Surgery
Anterior means front, so this surgery takes place through the front of the body rather than the back. Since the surgeon is focusing on the neck, he can go through the throat area to access the necessary disc. The surgeon locates the damaged disc and cuts it out. This leaves a space between the vertebrate. To compensate for this space, and allow the bones to fuse back together instead of collapsing from lack of support, a bone graft is placed within the empty space.
In anterior cervical fusion surgery, either a bone graft is taken from your hipbone during the surgery or donated bone from organ donors is used. The benefits of using bone from your hip is that it’s full of living cells and makes it easier for the vertebrates to fuse back together. Donated bones have no living cells, but the center of the bone is full of living cells scraped from your bones during the surgery. The major disadvantage of using bone from your hip is that you will have pain in both the throat and hip area after surgery.
Procedures during Surgery
While the main focus of the surgeon will be to locate the damaged disc, remove it, and place the bone graft, he or she will also perform any other necessary procedures that will help with pain relief. The two other common aspects of the surgery include removing bone spurs that compress the nerves and making the nerve exit from the spinal cord to the rest of the body larger to allow for easier movement of the nerves. If the bone graft is coming from your hip, you will have an incision placed in the hip area during surgery.
Your doctor can tell you if you’re a good candidate for anterior cervical fusion surgery and what to expect during recovery. Your doctor can also tell you how well he or she thinks the surgery will help relieve pain and for how many years.
For more information about anterior cervical fusion surgery, Contact Dr. Alexander N. Lenard, MD
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