Fusing vertebrae in the cervical spine (the top 7 vertebrae of your spine) may help ease neck and arm pain. It may also help relieve progressive paralysis caused by compression of your nerve roots or spinal cord. Two or more vertebrae in your neck are fused. Cervical fusion is usually done through an incision in the front of the neck. It may sometimes be done through the back of the neck, or through both the front and back. The surgery generally takes from 1 to 4 hours.
These steps apply to fusion from the front of the neck:
The skin is cut and the muscles, blood vessels, trachea, and esophagus are pushed apart to get to the vertebrae and disks.
An X-ray is done to verify that the right spinal level is being operated on.
The disk is removed from between the vertebrae.
Bone spurs are removed.
Bone graft is packed into the now-empty space between the vertebrae. In time, the graft and the bone around it will grow into a solid unit.
To help keep your spine steady and promote fusion, extra support (see below) may be used
The incision is closed with sutures or staples.
Metal supports called instrumentation may be used to help steady your spine while it fuses. Your surgeon may use one or more types of support, such as a plate or a cage. A plate is a metal piece put across the front of the vertebrae and graft. It is secured with screws. A cage is a plastic or metal “basket” that is packed with bone graft or stem cells. This is inserted into the empty space where the disk was removed. These supports remain in the body and are not removed.