Cervical Fusion Surgery in Westchester County
What is anterior cervical fusion?
Over time, your body goes through natural aging processes, including degenerative changes in the spine known as degenerative disc disease (DDD). DDD can disrupt the discs found in your cervical spine, which is located in your neck. Your cervical spinal discs add comfort and support between the bones that make up your neck, and when they are damaged due to the aging process, it can result in chronic neck pain and immobility. Cervical fusion is a procedure that joins two vertebrae in your neck to prevent the friction between them. The surgery can help a patient overcome long-term neck pain and return to a pain-free life. Our cervical spine surgeons at Specialty Orthopaedics are highly experienced in spinal fusion surgery and can help you overcome your neck pain using innovative techniques and procedures.
Why is anterior cervical fusion used?
Cervical fusion is used to address any of the following cervical spine/neck problems:
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD)
- Herniated disc
- Cervical stenosis/spinal stenosis
- Neck fractures
What does anterior cervical fusion involve?
At Specialty Orthopaedics, we take the time to address any of your concerns or questions prior to your operation. We will walk you through the entire procedure so you are knowledgeable about what to expect on the day of your cervical fusion surgery. In general, you can expect the following:
- Your surgeon makes an incision to access the cervical spine.
- The muscles and other internal structures surrounding your spine are moved to the side so your spine is visible.
- The damaged disc between your spine bones is removed.
- The two cervical bones are connected to prevent them from rubbing against one another, which causes your neck pain.
- Your surgeon carefully closes the incision.
Soon after your procedure, you’ll have a follow-up visit with one of our orthopedic specialists. We’ll spend time with you going over your recovery plan and coordinating any additional care you may need to ensure a speedy and safe recovery.
What are the benefits of having anterior cervical fusion surgery?
Choosing to entrust our cervical spine surgeons at Specialty Orthopaedics with your cervical fusion surgery can offer you the following benefits:
- Chronic neck pain relief
- Experienced and caring neck surgeons
- Evidence-based orthopedic techniques
- Performed at some of the best orthopedic hospitals in the country
Will I need physical therapy after anterior cervical fusion?
Yes. Physical therapy is important to reduce pain and restore mobility to your neck. Initial physical therapy is for pain relief and to reduce inflammation. This may include electrical stimulation, massage, and other treatments.
True physical therapy begins in about 4 weeks for most patients, although this start can be delayed for as long as 3 months. Physical therapy usually lasts for 6-12 weeks. These programs start with stretching exercises, then progress to adding aerobic exercise, followed by resistance training with weights to improve strength and stability.
How long will I be out of work after this surgery?
This is hard to estimate. First, it depends on your job. Most patients can drive in 1 to 2 weeks after their cervical fusion surgery, and this could allow you to return to a sedentary desk job somewhere in that timeframe. But most people would need more time. The initial healing process takes from 4 to 6 weeks. After 3 weeks, patients are usually cleared to do some light work around the house. You cannot lift items over 10 pounds, however. A good way to judge this is by using a gallon of milk as a gauge — it weighs 8 pounds. This limitation on lifting could impinge on your return to work, depending upon your job.
When will I be able to drive after anterior cervical fusion?
Most patients can begin driving after just 1 to 2 weeks. This depends on if you need to wear a cervical collar or not. Obviously, wearing a hard collar would make movements to see traffic too difficult.
How long will I be wearing the cervical collar?
Not all patients need to wear a cervical collar. Many find that it does help them stay comfortable when trying to sleep. This would usually be a soft collar. Your neck doesn’t need to be kept still, but it shouldn’t be tilted from front to back, twisted, or moved quickly.
Improvements in technology in the brackets and screws used to support the fusing vertebrae have lessened the need for patients to have to wear cervical collars, so this is no longer a guaranteed requirement. In rarer cases, a patient will have a necessity for a longer immobilization period, and he or she could be required to wear a hard collar for 4-12 weeks. This is rare.
We’ll discuss your particular situation before your surgery and, of course, afterward.
Will I be able to have an MRI after anterior cervical fusion surgery?
Yes. The plate and screws will be solidly in place and will not be affected by the magnetic energy used in MRIs.
Is anterior cervical fusion surgery painful?
This surgery is intended to relieve the chronic pain you’ve had due to your degenerating cervical disc. The pain after these surgeries varies from patient to patient. Using the anterior method decreases recovery pain quite a bit, but there will still be some pain at the incision location. You will be prescribed pain medication for a limited time, 2 to 4 weeks. From there acetaminophen is usually adequate for pain management.
Patients can also have pain that tends to move about their bodies. This pain isn’t usually in the expected location of the neck but in the upper back and shoulders. This is because the fusion has altered the biomechanics of the attached muscles. If we took a bone graft from your hip, you can have some pain there. Your arm pain and tingling that led to this procedure can sometimes not immediately vanish. In some cases, it may actually feel worse before it turns the corner and begins to resolve.
Some patients have hoarseness, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing after this surgery, but these are temporary symptoms and will resolve in 1 to 4 weeks.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
If you are interested in anterior cervical fusion surgery, visit Specialty Orthopaedics. Our New York orthopedic practice is home to a team of fellowship-trained orthopedists in a variety of specialty areas. We offer comprehensive treatment for musculoskeletal disorders in a caring and responsive clinical atmosphere. Give us a call at 914.686.0111 or fill out the form on this page to schedule your appointment today.