This is an operation to remove a fragment of cervical disc or indeed a chronic disc bar from compressing the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots. This is carried out via an open technique from the front of the spine.
The reason the operation in the cervical spine is performed through the front of the spine is that it is technically more simple to access the disc this way. Also it avoids trying to manoeuvre around the spinal cord which can have catastrophic side effects.
The operation is carried out under general anaesthetic and routinely takes approximately ninety minutes to perform.
In the operating theatre the disc space is marked by taking an x ray and generally a right sided horizontal incision in the neck is made to approach the relevant disc space. The approach is in fact relatively simple leading directly onto the front of the cervical spine. The appropriate disc space is then marked again and opened up. All the disc tissue is removed and any bone osteophytes drilled off to take the pressure off nerves underneath. At SpineWorks we then insert a cage in the gap made by removing the disc bone tissue. These cages are made of plastic material called P.E.E.K. and are filled with bone graft to allow a fusion to occur.
The hospitalisation period is about three nights and it would take some four weeks to recover from the general effects of the operation in terms of wound pain. …. ?? are not routinely required post operatively.The risks and complications of this surgery are the anaesthetic itself. There is a small risk of nerve injury during the dissection to remove the disc and osteophytes around the spinal cord. This however is a low risk. Also there is a risk of infection and clots in veins which are covered by the use of anti biotics and TED stockings. In the cervical spine there is specific risk of hoarseness of the voice due to traction on one of the nerves supplying the voice box. This tends to be temporary.
The rate of nerve recovery from cervical discectomy or decompression depends upon how long the nerve has been compressed for and how severely. Clearly if there has been permanent damage done to the nerve prior to it's decompression then it may not completely recover. In these cases recovery can be prolonged and it may take 12 to 18 months before it is certain how complete the recovery will be.