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Cervical spinal fusion (arthrodesis) is a surgery that joins selected bones in the neck (cervical spine). There are different methods of doing a cervical spinal fusion:
This procedure can be done through an incision on the front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck.
This surgery usually requires a short stay in the hospital. You may need to wear a brace on your neck (cervical collar) during recovery.
Cervical spinal fusion 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
Although cervical spinal fusion stiffens part of the neck, this does not reduce neck flexibility for most people.
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:
Because there are so many things to consider when spinal fusion is recommended, seek a second opinion before making a decision.
CitationsCarragee 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: March 2, 2020
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
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