Anterior Cervical Fusion

Care After

ExitCare ImagePinching of the nerves is a common cause of long-term pain. When this happens, a procedure called an anterior cervical fusion is sometimes performed. It relieves the pressure on the pinched nerve roots or spinal cord in the neck.

An anterior cervical fusion means that the operation is done through the front (anterior) of your neck to fuse bones in your neck together. This procedure is done to relieve the pressure on pinched nerve roots or spinal cord. This operation is done to control the movement of your spine, which may be pressing on the nerves. This may relieve the pain. The procedure that stops the movement of the spine is called a fusion. The cut by the surgeon (incision) is usually within a skin fold line under your chin. After moving the neck muscles gently apart, the neurosurgeon uses an operating microscope and removes the injured intervertebral disk (the cushion or pad of tissue between the bones of the spine). This takes the pressure off the nerves or spinal cord. This is called decompression. The area where the disc was removed is then filled with a bone graft. The graft will fuse the vertebrae together over time. This means it causes the vertebral bodies to grow together. The bone graft may be obtained from your own bone (your hip for example), or may be obtained from a bone bank. Receiving bone from a bone bank is similar to a blood bank, only the bone comes from human donors who have recently died. This type of graft is referred to as allograft bone. The preformed bone plug is safe and will not be rejected by your body. It does not contain blood cells.

In some cases, the surgeon may use hardware in your neck to help stabilize it. This means that metal plates or pins or screws may be used to:

  • Provide extra support to the neck.

  • Help the bones to grow together more easily.

A cervical fusion procedure takes a couple hours to several hours, depending on what needs to be done. Your caregiver will be able to answer your questions for you.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • It will be normal to have a sore throat and have difficulty swallowing foods for a couple weeks following surgery. See your caregiver if this seems to be getting worse rather than better.

  • You may resume normal diet and activities as directed or allowed. Generally, walking and stair climbing are fine. Avoid lifting more than ten pounds and do no lifting above your head.

  • If given a cervical collar, remove only for bathing and eating, or as directed.

  • Use only showers for cleaning up, with no bathing, until seen.

  • You may apply ice to the surgical or bone donor site for 15-20 minutes each hour while awake for the first couple days following surgery. Put the ice in a plastic bag and place a towel between the bag of ice and your skin.

  • Change dressings if necessary or as directed.

  • Avoid driving a car until given the OK by your surgeon.

  • Take prescribed medication as directed. Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Make an appointment to see your caregiver for suture or staple removal when instructed.

  • If physical therapy was prescribed, follow your caregiver's directions.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • There is redness, swelling, or increasing pain in the wound.

  • There is pus coming from the wound.

  • An unexplained oral temperature over 102° F (38.9° C) develops.

  • There is a bad smell coming from the wound or dressing.

  • You have swelling in your calf or leg.

  • You develop shortness of breath or chest pain.

  • The wound edges break open after sutures or staples have been removed.

  • Your pain is not controlled with medicine.

  • You seem to be getting worse rather than better.