Cervical disc surgery normally involves removing the disc that is pressing on your spinal column or pinching your nerve, causing you pain or muscle spasm. After the doctor removes the disc, you may be able to choose to put in an artificial disc or have cervical fusion. An artificial disc is metal and can give you greater range of motion than cervical fusion can, which is placing a bone graft between your vertebrae that eventually fuses together.
Not everyone can handle the artificial disc, according to WebMD. If you have osteoporosis, joint disease, inflammation at the site, an infection or are allergic to stainless steel, you probably cannot have an artificial disc. However, if you can handle the artificial disc, the surgery is a less-invasive procedure than fusion is. It takes about 90 minutes to implant the artificial disc, according to the Mayo Clinic. There is less pain after the procedure than with the fusion technique.
Generally, cervical disc surgery is safe, but there are some risks associated with it. You may get an infection, experience excessive bleeding, have a bad reaction to the anesthesia, suffer chronic neck pain, have damage to your spinal cord, nerves, vocal cords or esophagus or not heal properly.
According to MedlinePlus, most people improve after surgery. However, it may take several months to a year to resume all your normal activities without strain or pain. It is possible for you to develop long-term back pain, a loss of movement or sensation in your legs or feet, a loss of bladder or bowel function or a permanent spinal cord injury, which is rare. If you do have any of these complications, you should call your doctor.
Complications with Fusion
The cervical fusion technique could cause more complications than giving you an artificial disc. Some people develop problems above and/or below the fused area, according to WebMD. Some people develop a new cervical disc problem within 10 years of the fusion surgery, while others need another fusion at a different disc level.
To minimize complications, be cautious and safe during work and recreation after surgery. Use proper-lifting techniques and control your weight. You might want to use a back brace to help support your spine, especially if you lift heavy objects at work. Be careful about overusing braces, recommends MedlinePlus. You could weaken your back and abdominal muscles by doing so.