Preventing the need for a posterior cervical fusion

Surgery for the treatment of conditions affecting the cervical (upper) spine is usually seen as a last resort by doctors, but it may become necessary for lasting relief if other treatments have been exhausted. A posterior cervical fusion is a procedure that may be recommended in cases of severe spinal degeneration and instability in the cervical (upper) region of the spine.

Many patients want to avoid this type of surgery because it can be highly invasive and carries a risk of complications, especially if performed as a traditional open spine procedure. While a physician or surgeon can only make a recommendation about this type of surgery after a full evaluation, the decision is ultimately yours. The following information about the full range of treatment options for cervical spine conditions can help you be more confident you have done everything in your power to prevent the need for a posterior cervical fusion.

Conservative treatment to prevent posterior cervical fusion

Though many patients with upper spine conditions are already in severe or chronic pain, there are conservative treatments and lifestyle changes that can help with pain management, range of motion and overall spine health. In a large number of cases, several months of conservative treatment provide lasting pain relief and prevent the need for spine surgery like posterior cervical fusion. Some commonly recommended conservative treatments include:

  • Stretching
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Water therapy
  • Medication
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Rest
  • Alternating heat and ice packs
  • Healthy life choices like practicing good posture, eating right and quitting smoking, if necessary

Many patients also report finding relief from complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment and herbal remedies. It is recommended that any form of alternative treatment be attempted with the supervision of your primary care doctor.

You and your doctor should agree that nonsurgical options have been fully exhausted, usually after a period of weeks to months, before surgery becomes a serious consideration.

Minimally invasive versus traditional surgery

For years, the only posterior cervical fusion procedure available was a highly invasive traditional open neck procedure performed in a hospital setting. However, patients are now offered a safer and effective alternative^ to traditional open neck fusion: minimally invasive stabilization surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

Performed through a small incision, our minimally invasive posterior fusion uses muscle-sparing techniques. Our surgeons use direct visualization equipment and a series of dilating tubes to access the area to increase stability in the spine and reduce pressure on the pinched nerve. Because of our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery, our patients can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication compared to traditional open neck surgery.

If you are interested in learning more about our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can review your MRI report or CT scan at no cost* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.