Posterior Cervical Fusion

Many neck problems can be caused by medical conditions or injuries that affect the stability or alignment of the cervical spine or the bones in the neck region. Our doctors at Nacogdoches Medical Partners may recommend posterior cervical fusion when conservative treatment options are insufficient to remove pain.

Posterior cervical fusion is a spinal fusion procedure aiming to stabilize the neck region by fusing some of the bones. Our orthopedic surgeons and medical care team in Nacogdoches, TX are highly skilled, experienced and trained in this procedure and in diagnosing and treating orthopedic and musculoskeletal conditions. We’re committed to guiding you through the entire process of this treatment, from preparation to rehabilitation.

Cervical Spine Anatomy

The cervical spine in the neck is made up of the first seven bones in the spine. It starts below the skull and ends above the thoracic spine. Unlike the rest of the backbone (vertebrae), the cervical spine has special openings in each of its bones for the arteries, as well as the spinal canal where the spinal cord passes through. The cervical spine’s atlas and axis are the two vertebrae that allow for neck rotation.

Like the rest of the backbone, the cervical spine contains intervertebral discs. These are flat and round cushioning that act as shock absorbers and allows you to rotate and flex your head during movement. Although the cervical spine is very flexible, it is at risk for injuries from whiplash and other strong, sudden movements affecting the neck.

What Is a Posterior Cervical Fusion?

Posterior cervical fusion requires a thorough evaluation and consultation to determine whether it is an appropriate treatment for you. This spinal surgery can help relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots in the cervical spine. It involves accessing the cervical spine through the back of the body. Spinal fusion surgery may be recommended for patients with spinal instability, which can be characterized by the following:

  • Structural deformity
  • Loss of pain tolerance of the spine
  • Nervous system damage due to strain or stress put on the body

Some reasons posterior cervical fusion may be needed include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Cervical spinal stenosis
  • Cervical dislocations or fractures
  • Infections or tumors
  • Failed previous surgeries

Imaging tests such as computed tomographic (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiographs may reveal the extent of the cervical spine damage. Your spine surgeon will perform posterior cervical fusion under general anesthesia, putting you into a deep sleep. You will lie face down, and the surgeon will make an incision in the skin on the back of the neck on the cervical area that needs to be treated.

Laminectomy may also be performed during this procedure, which aims to remove pressure on the nerves and open the spinal column by removing bone spurs and the bone walls of the vertebrae. The surgeon then attaches a bone graft to each affected cervical vertebrae to let them grow or fuse over time. The graft may be obtained from a donor bone bank, your pelvis or made from morphogenetic protein. Metal rods and screws are implanted to keep the bones in place as they fuse. The incision will be closed after the surgery. A rigid collar may be placed around your neck for spinal support during recovery.

Preparing for Posterior Cervical Fusion

Successful outcomes of posterior cervical fusion with decompression were 98% based on a study of patient-reported and clinical outcomes of this procedure. A key to higher success for this procedure is preparation and education. At Nacogdoches Medical Partners, we will help you understand posterior cervical fusion and answer any questions about it. Aside from a complete medical history, you will undergo a physical examination to ensure you’re healthy before the procedure.

Let your doctor know if you are allergic to medications, anesthesia, tape or latex. Also, disclose all the medicines and supplements you’re taking and if you have a history of bleeding disorders. If you’re using medications that affect blood clotting, your doctor may recommend stopping them before the procedure. Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or think you could be.

Follow your doctor’s instructions not to eat or drink before your procedure. The general anesthesia before your surgery will make you unable to do certain activities after your procedure, so arrange for someone to drive you home and help with the household chores for a few days.

What Are the Benefits of Posterior Cervical Fusion?

Neck fusion surgery can help alleviate pain and provide stability to the cervical area by:

  • Stopping the motion between two or more cervical vertebrae to prevent further damage
  • Straightening the cervical area to stop a spinal deformity from worsening
  • Stabilizing the spine after dislocation or fracture

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Posterior Cervical Fusion?

It’s normal for your neck to feel sore and stiff after surgery. This should improve in a few weeks. You may have trouble standing or sitting in one position for a long time. You may need to wear a neck brace to help keep your neck as still as possible during recovery.

Your wound area should be kept clean and dry and covered with a gauze bandage with tape securing it. Replace the bandage every one to two days. Patients can shower immediately after surgery but keep the incision area covered and try to avoid the water from directly hitting it. Change the bandage after showering. Don’t bathe until your wound has completely healed, which may take around two weeks after posterior cervical fusion.

Some people can return to work after four to six weeks but returning to usual activities may take a few months. Your doctor may recommend a rehabilitation program to teach you the proper techniques of walking independently and getting in and out of bed. You should avoid excessive bending and twisting of your neck the first few months after your operation. Also, avoid lifting anything heavy.

Follow your doctor’s instructions during recovery and report to them if you feel anything unusual. Show up on your follow-up visits with your doctor, where your incision will be checked, and stitches will be removed if needed. You may need to undergo an X-ray to confirm if your fusion area is healing and mending correctly.

Devoted to Excellence in Patient Care

Nacogdoches Medical Partners strives to help improve the quality of life of our patients by helping them live free of bone and joint pain. Contact us today to get checked and assessed for possible posterior cervical fusion treatment.

We’ve Got Your Back

You don’t have to bear the burden of pain alone. Our providers are here to listen to you and provide compassionate care. Whether you’re suffering from neck pain, an injury or any other orthopedic condition affecting your spine, Nacogdoches Medical Partners is here to help. We provide spine care services from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation. Early treatment may help relieve your symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening. Call 888-421-9679 or click the button below to schedule an appointment.