The cervical spine is the region of the spine in the neck. It is made up of seven vertebral bones that surround and protect the spinal cord (bundle of nerves) in this region. Nerves communicate between the spinal cord and the rest of the body through spaces between the vertebral bones. Degeneration (wear and tear due to age), trauma, inflammation, deformity or infection can compress or damage the spinal cord or nerves, causing pain, numbness, weakness or loss of motion in the neck, shoulders and arms. Some of these conditions may be treated by nonsurgical methods. Cervical spine surgery is indicated when symptoms are persistent despite conservative treatment.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may choose to access your spine from the front or back of your neck to perform the surgery. A transoral approach, from the back of your mouth may also be chosen in some cases.
Common cervical spine procedures include:
A combination of procedures may be performed to relieve nerve or spinal cord compression, remove pathology, and correct abnormal curvature. Most of these procedures also involve fusion of the adjacent vertebrae to provide stability to the spine after treating the condition. Bone grafts, artificial discs or screws and plates may be used for fusion. Some procedures may be performed by minimally invasive methods involving small incisions that minimize discomfort and improve recovery.
Complications of cervical spine surgery are rare but can occur and include nerve injury, hoarseness, damage to the esophagus or failure of fusion.