The cervical region of the spine is composed of the vertebrae that range from the base of the skull down to the upper torso. Compared to other regions of the spine, the cervical vertebrae are less protected and therefore, more prone to injury as well as general wear and tear. But before you start looking for anterior cervical fusion surgeons, review the information below to determine whether you would be a good candidate for this type of surgical treatment.
The health of the cervical region of the spine becomes compromised when the bones, cartilage, muscles or ligaments in this area are affected by arthritis. While arthritis may cause a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, the solution sometimes involves a surgical approach.
Clue #1: You may be a good candidate for decompression and fusion surgery if conservative, non-operative treatment options have failed to provide you with relief or your arm or neck pain.
The first and most common indicator that there is a compressive structure in the cervical region of the spine is shoulder and/or arm pain. Often, an arthritic or herniated disc which pinches a nerve and triggers pain and other symptoms through the shoulders and arms.
Clue #2: You may be a good candidate for decompression and fusion surgery if you have been experiencing consistent arm pain, weakness, numbness, and/or a tingling sensation.
In many cases involving a compressive structure, such as a herniated disc, anterior cervical fusion surgeons will recommend a cervical decompression and fusion surgery as the best treatment option. The fusing of a segment of the spinal column can sufficiently strengthen and stabilize the spine, reducing pain and improving function, once the nerves and spinal cord have been decompressed.
Spinal fusion is performed both anteriorly (from the front) and posteriorly (from behind).
The Anterior approach is chosen when the compressive pathology originates from the disc, or from spurs in front of the spinal cord. And depending on the alignment of the cervical spine, choosing the this approach may allow anterior cervical fusion surgeons to best view and address the problem area.
During the ACDF surgery, the spine is “decompressed” in the act of removing the arthritic spurs or disc, or other problematic spinal element. Then, during the natural recovery process, the segment of vertebrae surrounding the decompression is fused to promote stability and ensure that herniation does not repeat at that level again in the future.
Many patients report immediate pain relief following this surgery. Some anterior cervical fusion surgeons recommend that patients perform a series of isometric neck strengthening movements during their recovery process. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions of your surgeon to ensure a full recovery. After all, the goal is to get you back to an active, healthy, pain-free lifestyle as soon as possible!