Cervical Spine Surgery
Cervical spine (or neck) pain most commonly is the result of muscle or ligament injury or irritation. Other common causes of neck pain are arthritis or a disc herniation. Less commonly, it can be due to trauma, infection, or tumor.
Cervical radiculopathy is arm, forearm, or hand pain, numbness, or tingling that is the result of a pinched nerve in the neck. Nerves are like the electrical wires of the body that allow our brain to send and receive messages to and from various areas in our body. The nerves that originate in our neck allow us to feel and control our arms. Therefore, pinching of nerves can also lead to weakness in our arm, forearm, or hand muscles. For instance, if you’re finding that it’s harder to lift things, or grip items, this may be the result of a pinched nerve in the neck. Arthritis or a disc herniation are the most common causes of cervical radiculopathy.
Cervical myelopathy is a potentially very serious condition that results when your spinal cord is being pinched. Most often, this happens in the setting of more advanced arthritis. Because the spinal cord is an extension of the brain, when this happens, it can affect more than just the arms. Imagine if something was pressing on your brain! It can affect your legs and even your bowel and bladder function. People may find that their hands become clumsy or they have trouble with their balance. If left alone, this disease process most often gets worse and in late stages, can lead to irreversible paralysis. As a result of this, cervical myelopathy is considered a potentially very serious condition that may require more urgent surgery.
Cervical fusion is often performed to treat nerve or spinal cord pinching and neck pain that result from arthritis. During the surgery, the nerves are un-pinched, and the arthritic segments are fused together to prevent painful motion. While this is most often done through an anterior (from the front), in some cases, it may need to be performed through a posterior (from the back) approach. Less commonly, an anterior and posterior approach may be required.
Cervical artificial disc replacement
Cervical disc replacement or cervical disc arthroplasty can be performed in many instances instead of cervical fusion in the right candidate. The benefit of cervical disc replacement is that it preserves motion. More importantly, it may help to slow down the rate at which arthritis develops at the levels above and below where the disc replacement is performed. This is the main advantage of cervical disc replacement over fusion. Furthermore, recovery is typically quicker than with a fusion.
Cervical laminoplasty is unique procedure that is performed to treat spinal cord pinching (i.e. cervical myelopathy) when it involves multiple levels. It is a motion-sparing surgery that may allow for quicker recovery than the alternative surgical options. It involves expanding the space where the spinal cord lives through a posterior (through the back) approach.
In the cervical spine, in most cases, decompression (or un-pinching) of nerves occurs at the same time as a fusion or disc replacement surgery. That being said, in some cases, decompression alone can be performed in the cervical spine. Most often, this is done using a foraminotomy where the pinched nerve is un-pinched using a minimally invasive approach.
There are numerous causes of arm, forearm, and hand pain that may seem like they are neck-related but truly are not. Arthritis, tendon issues, and/or nerve issues, in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and/or hand may easily be confused for cervical radiculopathy. Similarly, a pinched nerve in the neck causing pain in the arm can be mistaken for a true extremity problem. Often you can have multiple ongoing issues. The body is complex! As an orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Chung also has extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of all extremity-related issues and will ensure sure that you’re receiving the right treatment for your problem.
Other conditions that can be treated with cervical spine surgery include:
Ultimately, cervical spine surgery can be performed for a variety of reasons and there is no one-size fits all procedure for everybody.
Trained in the latest micro-invasive and motion-preserving techniques, Dr. Chung can help you figure out how to best address your pain through the least invasive approach possible and get you back on track to living a better life.