Posterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion
This procedure is performed to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord often coming from spinal stenosis (pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves). It can occasionally be combined with anterior cervical decompression and fusion if there is severe stenosis both anteriorly (in the front of the spinal cord) and posteriorly (in the back of the spinal cord). An incision is made in the midline of the back of the neck and the muscles are moved to the side exposing the bones in the neck. Cutting instruments are used often times removing the spinous processes and portions of the lamina in order to decompress the spinal cord and spinal nerves supplying the arms. Screws are then carefully put into the vertebral bodies bilaterally (on both sides) and connected with a rod to help stabilize the bones while they are healing. Bone graft is placed over the surgical levels to allow for fusion of the bones. Hospitalization for 2-3 days is often recommended and the patient is required to wear a cervical collar for 4-8 weeks depending on bone quality. Patients should avoid heavy lifting and extensive neck motion for 6-12 weeks while the bones are fusing.