Cervical spinal narrowing can be caused by traumatic neck injury or by a degenerative spine condition related to the aging process. This narrowing, also called cervical stenosis, does not always produce symptoms. Only when the top of the spinal cord or the cervical nerve roots become irritated by an anatomical abnormality will symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness begin to affect the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
Risks of Conventional Surgery for Cervical Spine Narrowing
Most cases of cervical stenosis do not require surgery. However, if symptoms remain debilitating after several weeks of conservative treatment, your doctor might recommend that you begin to explore surgical options. Before settling for conventional spinal fusion surgery, consider the potential risks, which include:
- Fusion failure – a false joint, known as pseudoarthrosis, might develop if the bones don’t fuse as expected; additional surgery might be necessary.
- Anesthesia – a small percentage of patients experience adverse reactions to general anesthesia, including diminished lung function while unconscious.
- Blood clots – also known as thrombosis; steps must be taken by the surgical team to prevent serious thrombosis-related problems, including pulmonary embolism.
- Infection – this is relatively rare, but unpredictable; if it occurs beneath the skin, additional surgery might be required.
- Nerve damage – a surgical instrument that bumps or cuts a nerve can cause permanent damage.
Minimally Invasive Alternatives
Chronic symptoms associated with cervical spinal narrowing also can be treated endoscopically, avoiding many of the risks inherent to conventional surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our orthopedic specialists perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures using advanced, endoscopic technology. Tens of thousands of cervical stenosis patients have found relief through the use of a small incision, deep IV sedation and – most significantly – no insertion of fusion hardware. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more or for a complimentary review of an MRI or CT scan.