Surgery for cervical myelopathy (say "my-uhl-OP-uh-thee") removes any tissues that are pressing on the spinal cord. Tissues can include bone, ruptured discs, and ligaments.
The surgery can be done from the back or the front of the neck. If surgery is done from the front, small pieces of bone or small plates and screws will be used to hold the spine in place after the tissue is removed. This is called fusion. If surgery is done from the back, a fusion may or may not be done at the same time.
Your doctor makes a cut (incision) in the skin over the spine where the pressure on the spinal cord is. He or she puts special surgical tools through the incision. Your doctor removes any tissues that are putting pressure on the spinal cord. He or she then closes the incision with stitches. You will have a small scar on your neck or back. It will fade with time.
Surgery is done to stop the pressure on the spinal cord. This may help with pain and numbness and may improve movement. It will also help prevent more damage. Some people notice that their symptoms improve very soon after surgery. But your neck and upper back may feel stiff and sore for several weeks after your surgery.
Most people stay overnight in the hospital. You will probably be able to return to work or your normal routine in 4 to 6 weeks. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a rehabilitation program after surgery. This may include physiotherapy and home exercises.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: March 21, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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