Anterior cervical fusion is an operation performed on the upper spine to relieve pressure on one or more nerve roots, or on the spinal cord. The term is derived from the words anterior (front), cervical (neck), and fusion (joining the vertebrae with a bone graft).

Why Is It Done?

When an intervertebral disc ruptures in the cervical spine, it puts pressure on one or more nerve roots (often called nerve root compression) or on the spinal cord, causing pain and other symptoms in the neck, arms, and even legs. In this operation, Dr. Lanman reaches the cervical spine through a small transverse incision in the front of the neck. After the muscles of the spine are spread, the intervertebral disc is removed and a graft is placed between the two vertebral bodies. Over time, this graft will create a fusion between the vertebrae it lies between.

Dr. Lanman performs cervical spine fusion with a small cervical plate to stabilize the spine. This hardware is used to improve the stability of the spine and to also decrease the chance that the graft might be dislodged or moved slightly from the position that it was placed in by Dr. Lanman. The use of hardware for stabilizing the cervical spine makes it so Dr. Lanman rarely uses a cervical collar after surgery.

What Happens Afterwards?

Successful recovery from anterior cervical fusion requires that you approach the operation and recovery period with confidence based on a thorough understanding of the process. Dr. Lanman has the training and expertise to correct physical defects by performing the operation; he and the rest of the health care team will support your recovery. Your body is able to heal the involved muscle, nerve, and bone tissues. Full recovery, however, will also depend on you having a strong, positive attitude, setting goals for improvement, and working steadily to accomplish each goal.

The Operation: Anterior Cervical Fusion Incision

Surgery for anterior cervical fusion is performed with the patient lying on his or her back. A small transverse incision is made in the front of the neck, to one side.

Exposure and Removal of the Cervical Disc

After a micro-retractor is used to pull aside the soft tissues, the disc is exposed between the vertebrae. The disc is removed using micro-instruments.

Then a microsurgical drill is used to enlarge the disc space, making it easier for Dr. Lanman to empty the intervertebral space fully and remove any bone spurs and herniated disc material.

Placement of the Bone Graft

A synthetic graft is then sized to fit appropriately inside the disc space. Some bone graft or bone growth factors may be added to promote the fusion between the vertebrae.

Adding Stability: Plate

Fusion is a direct result of the bone growing through and around the graft, but small, specialized metal plates (usually made of titanium) are also placed on the front of the cervical spine in order to increase the stability, promote fusion, and reduce pain. Dr. Lanman uses cervical plating to possibly eliminate the need for you to wear a cervical collar after surgery, and to increase your chances of getting a solid fusion between the two vertebral bodies.

Incision Closure

The operation is completed when the neck incision is closed in several layers. Dr. Lanman uses non-dissolving sutures that do NOT require removal to provide a plastic-like closure.

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