Posterior Cervical Fusion

If you are suffering from a cervical fracture—the breaking of one or more of the vertebrae in your neck—a posterior cervical fusion is one of the treatments that could mend your bones back together. Although it is not always the right solution, you may want to learn more about the procedure and how it could potentially benefit your situation.

A proactive back doctor could sit with you and discuss the specific issues you are having so that you could potentially determine whether this may be an appropriate treatment. However, as with all surgical treatments, a doctor may first recommend trying conservative treatments.

What is Posterior Cervical Fusion?

The spine is made up of numerous vertebrae, which are the tiny, interlocking bones that protect the spinal cord and form the spinal column. But over time, these bones could wear and fracture, potentially leading to pinched nerves and damage to other spinal structures. Regardless of how the injury occurs, the end result is often pain.

Posterior cervical fusion is one potential treatment for these vertebrae fractures and the disruption they cause. It is a surgical technique used to fuse two or more of the vertebrae in the neck together. After making an incision into the back of the patient’s neck, a surgeon typically inserts a bone graft onto the sides of the bones and may create a scaffolding to support them using metal rods and screws (also called metalwork). Over the course of nine to 12 months, they fuse together and—with proper healing—could reduce pain in the long-term.

In situations where damage extends to the skull, the patient might also require an extended form of this surgery called occipitocervical fusion. In addition to treating cervical fractures, this surgical technique may also be used for many other spinal conditions, including:

  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Deformity

It might also be used in combination with an anterior cervical surgery. Call a well-practiced spine doctor and ask if a posterior cervical fusion could be an effective treatment.

When Surgery is Necessary

Posterior cervical fusion is not always necessary. Even if a patient is experiencing neck pain, conservative treatments such as physical therapy and medication are typically recommended first. However, if these methods do not work, surgery could be the next medical option to consider. This surgery could be used to treat the following:

  • Stopping motion between multiple vertebrae
  • Straightening the cervical (neck) spine bones
  • Preventing the progression of spinal deformities
  • Stabilizing the spine following dislocation or fracture

Post-Treatment Care

After surgery, the patient should typically be able to return home in three to five days. Occupational and physical therapists could ensure that they understand the proper way to walk and get in and out of bed.

For the first one to two months following care, the patient generally will be encouraged to avoid twisting and bending their neck to give the vertebrae time to fuse properly. During this period, they may notice the pain begin to subside. After two to three months, the patient may be instructed to begin gently bending their neck, although they typically should avoid heavy lifting for two to four months. The patient could be advised to avoid driving until two to six weeks have passed. At this point, their range of neck motion could be broad enough to drive safely.

A Doctor Could Answer Questions About Posterior Cervical Fusion

Neck pain may be caused by many different issues including pinched nerves, fractures, and even tumors. Determining the right surgery generally requires educated medical guidance and posterior cervical fusion is often a safe and effective solution.

If you are looking for a solution to your neck pain, speak with a dedicated spine doctor. They could help you create a treatment plan that may allow you to return to a pain-free lifestyle.