Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Treatment for Neck and Spine to Relieve Spinal Cord or Nerve Root Pressure

Cervical discectomy and fusion is a surgical procedure performed on the cervical (neck) region of the spine to help relieve pressure on the nerves and, perhaps, even the spinal cord itself. Overtime, wear and tear, arthritis or an injury can damage the structures of the cervical spine, resulting in pressure and irritation to nerves and nerve roots. The pressure can cause severe pain, discomfort and numbness not only to the neck, but down the arms as well.

During the operation, a small incision is made, usually in the front of the neck and the surgeon removes the bony material or disc that is causing the problem. In most cases, the surgeon then fuses or joins together the affected vertebrae using bone graft and a metal plate.

Who is a candidate?

If you experience numbness in your neck or ams—you may be a candidate. A diseased or damaged disc in the neck is a common cause of pain or numbness down the arms. Over time, a disc can wear and “flatten,” resulting in the vertebrae above and below the flattened disc to slide back and forth or even touch. This can pinch or irritate the nerves causing pain and numbness.

Another cause may be a sudden injury, resulting in a bulging out or herniated disc, causing pressure on the nerves and nerve roots. Bony growths (spurs) can also form and further narrow the pathways through which the nerves must travel.

What are the alternatives?

Surgery is usually the last option considered. If your symptoms are mild, you may not require any treatment at all. Other conservative treatment such as physical therapy, medication and steroid injections may relieve symptoms for a time. However, they usually do not permanently change the underlying cause of the problem.

In some cases, cervical discectomy and fusion may be the only solution to remove irritation and create more space for the nerves.

How are neck problems evaluated?

Your doctor will use a number of approaches to evaluate and diagnose neck problems, such as a herniated disc. These include:

  • A Detailed History – Your role in providing a detailed history is very important. Your doctor will need to know where and when it hurts, if there was a recent injury or fall, and a description of the pain. Are there positions or activities that make it feel worse? What makes it feel better? All of these details can help pinpoint the problem.
  • A Physical Exam – A thorough exam by a spine expert is another important step in getting a good diagnosis.
  • Diagnostic Imaging – X-rays can show the structure and alignment of the vertebrae, as well as the presence and size of bone spurs or other bony abnormalities. MRI images produced are very helpful in visualizing the soft tissues.

How long will it take to recover?

Recovery time after cervical discectomy and fusion varies depending on your particular situation, the number of levels involved, as well as your general health. Some people may be able to return home the same day, while others may spend one to two days in the hospital.

The key to a successful recovery is maintaining a positive attitude. It can take up to three months for the bones to fuse together. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on activity levels, including when you can resume driving and return to work.

Why choose the Advanced Spine Institute?

Our Advanced Spine & Joint Institute has brought together San Diego’s best spine surgeons to provide the latest advances in spine surgery in a beautiful recovery unit designed to expedite healing. Among America's 100 Best Hospitals in America for Spine Surgery™ (2014-16), we are proud to offer our patients superior recognized care that is nationally recognized. Some of what makes us unique:

  • Minimally invasive and laser spine surgery procedures offered
  • Beautiful San Diego landscape-theme patient unit to enhance healing
  • All private rooms in a family-focused care environment
  • Comfortable clothes from home for a “wellness” attitude
  • Early mobility strategies
  • Extensive pre- and post-surgery education
  • High patient satisfaction scores

Contact Us for More Information and Physician Referral

To find a spine surgeon affiliated with our program, click here or call (619) 229-4548.