Posterior cervical fusion, a permanent neck procedure, requires a surgeon to access the neck vertebrae through the back of the neck. Consequently, the procedure fuses two or more neck vertebrae together to minimize movement and pain.

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Posterior Cervical Fusion

Cervical spine, illustration

The posterior cervical fusion, performed through an incision in the back of the neck, permits a doctor to fuse two or more neck vertebrae. A doctor uses this procedure to:

  • Stop the motion between two or more vertebrae
  • Recreate the normal curve of the cervical spine and keep a spinal deformity from getting worse
  • Stabilize the spine after a fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine

This surgery requires an incision through the back of the neck. Then a bone graft gets placed on the back surface of the problem vertebrae. During the healing process, the vertebrae grow together, creating a solid piece of bone. Likewise, doctors use this type of fusion in the cervical spine for fractures and dislocations. Also, doctors use it to correct deformities in the neck.

Goals of Spinal Fusion

The goal of spinal fusion is to stop the motion caused by segmental instability. Consequently, this reduces the mechanical neck pain caused by too much motion in the spinal segment.

You may also hear the term anterior cervical fusion. Surgeons use this procedure to commonly treat neck problems. The surgeon works from the front (anterior) of the neck. Doctors place a bone graft between two vertebral bodies (interbody area) to replace the disc that normally sits between them. During the healing process, the vertebrae grow together, creating a solid piece of bone.

Instrumented Posterior Cervical Fusion

When a bone graft becomes held tightly in place, it will fuse the vertebrae together. To improve fusion, doctors commonly use metal plates, screws, and rods.  Also, surgeons use many different types of metal implants to maximize the healing of the fusion. Bone heals best when held still-without motion between the pieces trying to heal. Similarly, the healing of a fusion appears the same as the healing of a fractured bone, such as a broken arm. However, the neck does not hold still very well, even with a brace worn around the outside of the neck. Wearing a brace for several months after the surgery can become uncomfortable.

To improve the success of a posterior fusion, metal rods or plates are attached to the bone structures in the back of the spine. Additionally, stainless steel or titanium cables can also be used. When doctors use screws and cables, a brace may only be needed for a short period of time, or not at all.

If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.