What is Cervical Fusion?

Cervical spinal fusion is also known as an arthrodesis. It is a surgery in which selective bones in the neck are fused together. It can be done in many different ways, including having bone taken from other body parts and grafting it onto existing cervical spinal bone. This is called a bone graft. The bone bridges the space between vertebral bone and fuses them together.

Metal implants to hold the vertebrae together can be used to eventually fuse the separate bones together. Metal plates are commonly used for this purpose. A whole vertebra can be cut carefully out of the body with fusion of the remaining spine. Incisions can be approached via the front (anteriorly) or from the back (posteriorly), depending on the surgeon and where the fusion is. After the surgery, you can expect to wear a cervical collar to support the neck and you should expect to stay in the hospital for a few days.

Why is a Cervical Surgery Done?
The reasons for a surgical cervical fusion include:

  • Following an injury, a fusion is done to keep the bony fragments held together.
  • To treat mal-alignment of the surgical spine.
  • Following herniated discs, spinal stenosis or the effects of spinal infection, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal deformities or spinal tumors.

How well does spinal fusion work?
Most people have good results in relieving their symptoms following surgery. It does not always work better than non-surgical treatment, however. There can be complications in some cases and, in others, they need a secondary surgery to make things right.

Risks of the Surgery:
Risks depend on one’s age and debility at the time of diagnosis, as well as on the procedure used and the diagnosis. Major risks include:

  • Pain at the donor site for bone grafts
  • Failure of the fusion site or breakage of the metal implant
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Nerve injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Graft rejection
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • General anesthesia risks