Cervical spinal fusion is surgery that joins two or more of the vertebrae in your neck. When these bones are joined together, it's called fusion. After the joints are fused, they can no longer move.
During the surgery, the doctor uses bone to make a "bridge" between your vertebrae. This bridge may be strengthened with metal plates and screws. In most cases, the doctor uses bone from another part of your body or bone that has been donated to a bone bank. But sometimes artificial bone is used.
To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in either the front or the back of your neck. The cut is called an incision. It leaves a scar that fades with time.
After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a few days. Your neck will feel stiff or sore. You will get medicine to help with pain.
Most people can go back to work after 4 to 6 weeks. But it may take a few months to get back to your usual activities.
This surgery usually requires a short stay in the hospital. You may need to wear a brace on your neck (cervical collar) while you recover.
Cervical spinal fusion joins two or more vertebrae in the neck to make the neck more stable. It may be done:
Often spinal fusion is needed to keep the spine stable after injury, infection, or a tumor.
When symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the arm suggest that a neck problem is causing a pinched nerve (radiculopathy), surgery may help you feel better faster. But it's not clear that surgery is any better than nonsurgical treatment in the long run. And research also suggests that a complex surgery that includes fusion is not better than a simpler surgery to take the pressure off the nerve.footnote 1
If you have neck pain alone, with no signs of a pinched nerve, neck surgery will not help.footnote 1
Cervical spinal fusion can cause the part of the neck that is fused to be stiff. If two vertebrae are fused together, it doesn't reduce neck flexibility for most people. But if more vertebrae are fused, the neck may be stiff.
Surgery and the use of anesthesia involve some risk. The risks associated with this procedure vary depending on your age and overall health, diagnosis, and type of procedure used. Risks include:
Carragee EJ, et al. (2008). Treatment of neck pain. Injections and surgical interventions: Results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine, 33(4S): S153–S169.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineRobert B. Keller MD - Orthopedics
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Robert B. Keller MD - Orthopedics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.