Does a cervical discectomy always require a vertebral fusion?

If you’ve been experiencing neck pain for several months and the treatment program prescribed by your physician has not brought the improvement you need, he or she may recommend surgery. One procedure that can be recommended for conditions like a bulging or herniated disc is a cervical discectomy and fusion. A spinal fusion is usually recommended in situations where severe disc degeneration requires full disc removal and the insertion of a bone graft into the disc space to fuse and stabilize the surrounding vertebrae.

Whether or not to undergo this procedure can be a difficult decision, and an important question every patient should ask their surgeon is whether a fusion procedure is necessary for his or her condition. Learning more about this procedure, and the alternative surgical options that may be available, can help you make a confident decision and enable you to return to the people and activities you’ve been missing out on.

Cervical discectomy and fusion overview

Because a traditional open spine cervical discectomy is invasive — often requiring the surgeon to access the cervical spine through a large incision in the front of the neck — it is usually a last resort for people experiencing chronic neck pain and other symptoms related to a degenerative disc condition. This operation involves the surgical removal of all or part of a spinal disc, which are tough but flexible pads that separate the vertebrae. The space between the vertebrae is then filled with a bone graft intended to cause bone growth that will fuse the two vertebrae. However, traditional open spine fusions usually involve the following drawbacks:

  • A large muscle-disrupting incision
  • Overnight hospitalization
  • Risk of complications like infection and failed back surgery syndrome

Due to advances in medical technology and surgical technique, alternatives to traditional open spine vertebral fusion have been developed that take a less invasive approach. Many patients are now able to undergo a discectomy procedure that only removes disc material that is putting pressure on spinal nerves, avoiding the need for a fusion.

Laser Spine Institute

Since 2005 the board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain with our minimally invasive spine surgery. We perform a minimally invasive discectomy that involves a less than 1-inch incision and a streamlined outpatient experience.

For patients that do require a fusion procedure, we provide a range of minimally invasive outpatient stabilization surgeries that are still performed through a small incision. The result is less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine fusions.^

For more information on our procedures and to receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

Browse Related Resources