Your cervical spine is made up of the 7 bones, called cervical vertebrae, stacked on top of each other forming the neck area. The cervical disks are the cushions that lie between the cervical vertebrae. They act as shock absorbers to allow your neck to move freely.
Your cervical spine also forms a protective tunnel for the upper part of your spinal cord to pass through. This part of your spinal cord contains the spinal nerves that supply your upper body with sensation and movement. This part also contains all of the nerves coming or going to the lower half of your body.
When the space between your vertebrae becomes too narrow, part of your vertebrae or your cervical disk can press on your spinal cord or spinal nerves, causing you pain, numbness, or weakness. When these symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical types of treatment, disk surgery may be recommended.
Cervical disk replacement surgery involves removing a diseased cervical disk and replacing it with an artificial disk. Before this procedure was available, the affected disk was removed and the vertebrae above and below were fused together to prevent motion
The use of an artificial disk to replace your natural cervical disk is a newer type of treatment. Disk replacement surgery may help preserve movements. It may also help create less stress on the disks above and below compared with cervical fusion surgery.
Disk replacement is not for everyone. Fusion may be better if your spine is not stable, or if your neck has an abnormal curve.
Loss of space between your cervical vertebrae from cervical disk degeneration, or wear and tear, is common. Cervical disks begin to collapse and bulge with age; this happens to most people by age 60. But health care providers don’t know why some people have more symptoms from cervical disk degeneration than others.
Symptoms may include:
While any surgery carries some risk, disk replacement surgery is a relatively safe procedure. Before you have surgery, you will need to sign a consent form that explains the risks and benefits of the surgery.
Disk replacement is a newer type of spine surgery so there is less information on possible long-term (more than 10 years) risks and outcomes. Discuss with your surgeon the risks and benefits of disk replacement surgery compared with more traditional types of cervical spine surgery.
Some potential risks of cervical spine surgery include:
There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your surgeon before the procedure.
Ask your health care provider to tell you what you should do before your surgery. Below is a list of some common steps that you may be asked to do.
Just before the procedure starts you will have an intravenous line (IV) started so you can receive fluids and medications to make you relaxed and sleepy. This procedure is usually done under general anesthesia (you are asleep). Medication may be given through the IV to put you to sleep and a tube may be inserted in your throat to protect your airway and supplement your breathing. The actual procedure may last a few hours. This is what may happen once the procedure begins:
Some steps might be slightly different from those outlined above. Talk with your health care provider about what might happen during your procedure.
In the recovery area, you will be observed until you recover from the anesthesia. Pain after disk replacement surgery is normal and you may be given pain medication in the recovery area.
Most people will need to spend a day or two in the hospital. This is what may happen during your hospital stay:
Recovery and rehabilitation at home may be a little different for each person, but in general, here’s what you might expect:
You should call your surgeon if you have any of these problems:
Your health care team may give you other instructions about what you should do after your procedure.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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