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Surgeon and Author, Dr. Stuart Gold,
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The Facts About Cervical Neck Surgery For Patients

July 23rd, 2011

Cervical neck surgery can take many forms and be used to treat a variety of conditions. One of the most common ailments treated by neck surgery is a ruptured or herniated disc. Discs are the fluid-filled “pillows” between the vertebrae. Illness or injury can cause the fluid inside the disc to begin leaking on nearby nerves.

To alleviate the pain, the surgeon may perform a microdiscectomy or an open discectomy. A microdiscectomy is less invasive and often performed as an outpatient procedure. An open discectomy is performed in a hospital. With either procedure, the surgeon will remove all or part of the damaged disc.

Some patients may choose to have a laminotomy or decompression procedure performed in conjunction with surgery for a ruptured disc. In a laminectomy, the surgeon removes all or part of the covering of the spinal canal known as the lamina. By enlarging the spinal canal, the surgeon can often reduce the pressure exerted on a nerve and alleviate the patient’s pain. A similar procedure, known as a laminectomy, removes not only the lamina but also any portion of the disc that is bulging beyond the vertebrae and any tissue that might be damaged.

A cervical disc replacement is a relatively new procedure in which a damaged disc is removed and replaced with a prosthesis. Some insurance companies, however, consider the procedure as experimental and refuse to provide benefits for the surgery

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If the patient has vertebrae that are fractured or that slip out of place, the surgeon may recommend a cervical spinal fusion. This normally involves using a bone graft taken from the patient and inserted between two vertebrae to fuse the vertebrae together. The fused vertebrae will move as one, so there is a loss of flexibility in the operative area.

A foramenotomy is a procedure often performed to relieve a pinched nerve or a nerve that is being compressed where it exits the spinal canal. The surgeon first makes an incision in the neck and then removes the tissue responsible for the compression. In addition to bulging discs, damaged ligaments and bone spurs can exert pressure on the nerve.

If it is necessary to remove all or part of a vertebra and its disc, a surgeon may perform a corpectomy. Most patients who undergo this procedure have spinal canals that have become extremely narrow due to the growth of bone spurs. The surgeon may harvest a bone graft from the patient to reconstruct the area or he may use a metal plate to strengthen and stabilize the area.

I hope this helped you learn more about cervical neck surgery!

Until next time,

About the Author: Dr. Stuart Gold, M.D. is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who has 23 years experience specializing in sport injuries, joint replacement, arthritis and limb salvage. As the Director of the Orthopedic Institute, Dr. Gold recently published The Patient's Guide To Orthopedic Surgery to help patients better understand the challenges, risks and opportunities of orthopedic care.

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