Neck Pain - Cervical Spine Fusion

This surgery involves fusing, or joining, two or more cervical vertebrae (the bones that make up the upper part of the spine).

This surgery involves fusing, or joining, two or more cervical vertebrae (the bones that make up the upper part of the spine).

Cervical spine fusion is surgery to join two or more cervical vertebrae (the bones that make up the upper part of the spine), also known as the neck. Fusing or joining the vertebrae prevents these bones from moving and putting pressure on other areas of the neck.

  • Prior to joining the vertebrae, the surgeon almost always removes the cushion between the vertebrae being fused (a diskectomy).
  • The vertebrae may be fused using a bone graft or a metal cage filled with bone graft material.
  • The bone graft can come from a bone in your body (autograft), a bone from someone else's body (allograft), or it can be a man-made substance. Screws, rods, and plates are also used to keep the bones in place while the bone grafts heal.

Your healthcare provider may recommend a cervical spine fusion if you are having surgery to remove all, or part of, the cushion that separates the bones in the neck (diskectomy). Some other reasons for a cervical fusion include:

  • Spine injury or fracture
  • Spine that is unstable or weak
  • Vertebrae that move and slip over one another (spondylolisthesis)
  • Abnormal curves in the cervical spine (kyphosis)

Prior to surgery, tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before surgery. These may include:

  • Medications you should not take before the surgery, such as blood thinners or aspirin
  • Regular medications you should continue to take on the day of your surgery
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before surgery
  • How to prepare your home for your return after you are discharged
  • Meeting with a physical therapist to learn how to use a back brace and walk with crutches

If you are a smoker, you should quit smoking, as it can interfere with your recovery.

A cervical fusion typically takes several hours. During surgery, you will receive anesthesia to keep you comfortable and pain free. General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia for a cervical fusion. It is where you are put into a deep sleep and are unable to see, hear, or feel anything. You may spend a few days in the hospital after surgery. However, depending on the nature of your specific condition and health, your doctor may feel that your surgery may be safely done as an outpatient procedure.

  • The people caring for you will teach you the right way to move, sit, stand and walk after a cervical fusion.
  • You may have to wear a back brace or cast for a period of time.
  • Physical therapy is often recommended for several weeks after back surgery. This is to help increase your strength and mobility.
  • You may also need pain medication and help at home while you recover.
  • Full recovery can take a long time. It typically involves exercise and physical therapy. It may take a few weeks to a few months before you are back to your normal activity level.

Do not forget to make arrangements for transportation to and from the facility and help at home.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a cervical spine fusion?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the surgery? Are there any less invasive treatments or procedures? If so, what kind?
  • What are the pros and cons of the surgery?
  • What kind of sedation will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • How will this surgery affect my daily life?
  • What are the possible complications to the surgery?
  • What are the chances the surgery will improve my symptoms?
  • Do you perform outpatient cervical spine fusions? Is outpatient surgery an option for me?
  • What type of recovery should I expect and how long will it take?
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).

After your surgery, you should know what you had done, what medication was given, and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your surgeon should also let your primary care physician know the details of your surgery and treatment plan.


Also known as:

Vertebrae Fusion
Surgery on Neck
Pain in Neck
Neck Surgery
Neck Pain - Cervical Spine Fusion
Neck Pain
Join Vertebrae
Fuse Vertebrae
Curvature of Spine
Cervical Spine Fusion
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