Cervical Spinal Fusion: Before Your Surgery
What is cervical spinal fusion?
Cervical spinal fusion is surgery that joins two or more of the vertebrae in your neck. When these bones are joined together, it's called fusion. After the joints are fused, they can no longer move.
During the surgery, the doctor uses bone to make a "bridge" between your vertebrae. This bridge may be strengthened with metal plates and screws. In most cases, the doctor uses bone from another part of your body or bone that has been donated to a bone bank. But sometimes human-made bone is used.
To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in either the front or the back of your neck. The cut is called an incision. It leaves a scar that fades with time.
After surgery, you will have a short hospital stay. Your neck will feel stiff or sore. You will get medicine to help with pain.
Most people can go back to work after 4 to 6 weeks. But it may take a few months to get back to your usual activities.
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.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
What happens on the day of surgery?
Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
At the hospital or surgery centre
Bring a picture ID.
The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
The surgery usually takes 2 to 4 hours. If more than two vertebrae are being fused together, it will take longer.
When you wake up, you will be lying on your back. You will have a soft or hard collar around your neck. This will protect and support your neck. It will also keep you from turning your head.
You may have a small plastic tube coming out of your incision. This is to drain fluids. It's usually taken out in 1 or 2 days.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You do not understand how to prepare for your surgery.
- You become ill before surgery (such as fever, cold or influenza [flu], chest pain, or shortness of breath).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter N543 in the search box to learn more about "Cervical Spinal Fusion: Before Your Surgery".
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Robert B. Keller MD - Orthopedics