Throughout the average lifetime of a reasonably active individual, the spinal column withstands quite a bit of stress and impact. As a person ages, the soft, fluid-filled discs between the vertebrae become less and less effective at absorbing the shock of the body’s movement. As simple wear and tear takes it’s toll, each movement - especially those that are particularly abrupt - contributes to the breakdown of these discs. Accidents and direct impact to the spine can actually result in injury, which can further damage the protection between the vertebrae. All of these factors together can sometimes result in a condition known as a herniated disc.
When a disc becomes damaged in the cervical area of the spine, it can bulge abnormally and put pressure on the nerve roots nearby. The result is significant pain and often also symptoms such as numbness, tingling or loss of strength. Fortunately, experienced anterior cervical fusion physicians know how to address the issue and relieve the pain through a surgical procedure that decompresses the problem area, adds a bone graft and allows for the natural fusion of vertebrae to occur. Sometimes, depending on the pathology, surgeons choose to access the spine through the posterior side of the neck whereas in other cases an anterior approach is more appropriate.
Though anterior decompression and fusion surgery is more common than ever, it is still imperative that patients do some research to find the best anterior cervical fusion physicians in their area. There is a growing body of literature on patient outcomes and treatment strategies and patients should look for a surgeon that not only has the skill and experience but also the academic expertise to provide the best possible result.
3 Reasons to Find the Best Anterior Decompression and Cervical Fusion Physicians
1. Surgical Precision and Expertise
During an anterior decompression and fusion procedure, the incision is made in the front of the neck. With intentional movement tissue planes are bluntly dissected and separated, vessels protected and the anterior most structures of the neck retracted to allow direct access to the spine. This is a tissue sparing procedure whereby very little muscle is divided if any at all. Not only will a good physician know exactly where and how to enter the body to effectively reach the spinal column, but they will have mastered the skill of removing the damaged discs and any bone spurs once they get there.
2. Minimize Possible Complications
Some of the potential, though rare, complications of this procedure include:
- Spinal cord damage during surgery
- Failure of bone graft to fuse properly
- Prolonged pain while swallowing (due to injury or swelling of the esophagus)
- Nerve root injury
Although complications are rare, most patients want to know how they can reduce their chances of incurring one of these potential risks and it is important to discuss this with your treating surgeon. First and foremost, patients should attempt to maintain a healthy lifestyle leading up to surgery so that their body is strong, healthy and ready to heal well. However, outside of simply staying healthy, the other significant variable in any surgery is the surgeon. In fact, the rates of these complications occurring can vary greatly among anterior cervical fusion physicians. That’s why it’s important to find the best possible surgeon to perform such an important procedure!
3. Quicker Recovery
Patients who undergo anterior decompression and fusion usually heal relatively quickly and experience significant pain relief. Many individuals are able to leave the hospital the day after their procedure! However, it is important that the physician is able to perform the procedure with minimal disturbance to the surrounding areas of the body so that recovery can proceed without complications. After the procedure, a good anterior cervical fusion physician will have a thorough plan for follow up as well.
Call Rothman to find out how our team of renowned spine specialists can help diagnose your condition and provide a treatment plan to get you back to a healthy, active lifestyle.