Posterior cervical spine surgery is indicated in a number of different clinical situations. The most common among these is to provide relief from pain that originates from segmental movement between different vertebrae, spinal instability originating from injury, correction of physical deformities or to at least stop their progression.
The procedure involves the surgeon gaining surgical access to the back of the neck and then stabilizing the offending segments through the use of bone grafts, surgical tacks, metal plates, rods, and screws. The idea is to create a solid piece of bone that helps reduce the movements and provides a stable core around which the spine can be stabilized. It can also help improve the posture and stop further deterioration.
Recovery After Posterior Cervical Surgery
Patients are required to stay in the hospital for 1-3 days after the surgery after which they should be able to manage the post-operative pain with oral pain killers and move around on your own.
A collar or brace around the neck may be provided to the patients to help stabilize the muscles and prevent any jerky movement. In some cases, the doctors may want a patient to wear the collar at all times, including while showering, while in others patients have the liberty to take the collar on and off at specific intervals.
Driving is one activity that is usually prohibited for a couple of weeks after the surgery. There is simply not the required amount of neck movement that is necessary for safely maneuvering a vehicle. Also, driving under the influence of narcotic pain killers is strictly prohibited.
In fact, any activity that requires the patient to twist their neck repeatedly should be avoided.
Lifting any weight, even moderately light, is contraindicated. As a rule of thumb, no weight heavier than a gallon of milk should be lifted. All sports activities should be stopped until 4-6 weeks after the procedure. It is wise to take a doctors opinion before resuming a sporting activity even after the healing period is over.
Patients can undertake in sexual activity if they feel comfortable during the act.
Things To Watch Out For
The healing and recovery after a posterior cervical fusion surgery will be uneventful in most cases, however, there are certain situations in which you should alert the doctor and seek immediate attention.
If the patient suddenly develops a high-grade fever or pain that is not controlled even after taking medication then it is a matter of concern. An increase in swelling, redness, the wound edges starting to come apart, oozing of pus from the wound, tingling sensations, numbness and weakness in the muscles around the area are all signs that indicate that the healing is not going as expected and some intervention is necessary.
A follow up with the doctor two weeks after the procedure is usually indicated irrespective of whether any complications occur.
A posterior cervical fusion surgery is a procedure that is practiced successfully all over the world by doctors. Different studies indicate that the success rate of the procedure varies from around 75-90%.
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