Cervical spine fusions to treat myelopathy: what are my options?

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Cervical spine fusion may be a treatment option for some patients who have a degenerative condition in the neck or upper back that’s causing myelopathy, or symptoms related to compression of the spinal cord, especially if conservative treatments have proven ineffective. Cervical myelopathy can occur when there is a narrowing, or stenosis, in the upper spine. Symptoms of cervical myelopathy include:

  • Difficulty walking or heaviness in the legs
  • Problems with fine motor skills in the hands
  • Shooting, electrical pains that travel to the arms or legs

While considering surgical fusion can be an overwhelming decision, the possible benefits can outweigh the daily debilitating pain that is preventing you from experiencing the life you enjoy. However, like any form of surgery, there are risks and difficulties that can go with it, including complications like infection as well as the prospect of a long recovery period. As you research your options, it’s important to be aware of the different approaches to cervical fusion. The following information can help you make a more confident and informed decision if you have been presented with surgery to treat myelopathy.

Traditional fusion versus minimally invasive stabilization

If you are considering fusion for cervical myelopathy, you should familiarize yourself with these two types of procedures in order to make a confident and informed decision about your spine care treatment.

  • Traditional open spinal fusion. This is an inpatient procedure that can potentially require several days of hospitalization. A large incision is made, muscles surrounding the spine are cut, the damaged disc and bone material are removed and a bone graft is inserted into the empty space. Due to the highly invasive nature of the procedure, recovery can be long and painful.
  • Minimally invasive stabilization. An example of this type of surgery is the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) performed by our board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute. This is an outpatient procedure with the same goals as an open spinal fusion — removal of a degenerated disc and insertion of a bone graft to promote permanent spine stability. The difference is that the surgical techniques used are far less invasive and involve less muscle disruption.

Benefits of a minimally invasive cervical spine stabilization

Minimally invasive ACDF offers many benefits over a traditional open cervical spine fusion due to its minimally invasive nature. It not only lowers the risk of infection, nerve damage and scarring, but it also allows patients to enjoy a shorter recovery period^ compared to traditional open neck fusion.

To learn more about the benefits of ACDF and our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost review of your MRI report or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.