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Anterior and Posterior Cervical Fusion

Your doctor has recommended surgery on your neck. This surgery is called an anterior and/or posterior cervical (SERV-uh-kol) fusion (FEW-zhun). Bone spurs or disks causing the problem in your neck will be removed. Your neck will then be secured, or fused, with bone from your hip. Sometimes a metal plate or wires are used to secure the fusion.

An incision (cut) will be made on either the front or the back of your neck (see the diagram below). The size of this incision will depend on the extent of your problem. A second incision will be made on either the front or the back of your hip (see the diagram). Bone will be removed from your hip and will be placed in your neck. The hip piece will be used to create a bone fusion. The surgery may take about three hours. The average length of stay in the hospital is two days.

Anterior and Posterior Cervical Fusion Operation IncisionsYour incisions will probably be closed with stitches and may be secured with Steri-strip tapes, paper-like strips that stick to your skin and help keep the sides of the incision from shifting. The stitches will dissolve completely. The Steri-strips will fall off by themselves, usually within two weeks of surgery.

After the Operation

After the operation, you will be given ice chips and clear liquids. When normal bowel function returns, you will be able to eat a regular diet. This usually occurs within two days. Your hip may feel sore for several weeks following surgery.

You will wear a Dennison brace or the Miami-J collar, which was placed on your neck during surgery, for about six weeks. Sometimes, with more complex surgery, you may be fitted for a halo brace. Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about the type of brace you will need. You will wear the brace or collar from the time of surgery until the doctor removes it. You will receive instructions about wearing your brace.

On your first day after surgery, you will be able to sit in a chair as often as you like. Physical therapy will begin on that day. A staff member or physical therapist will help you get a cane or walker if needed after surgery.

At Home

  • Do not return to work until your doctor says you may.
  • Do not drive while you are wearing your brace or collar — usually for six weeks. The
    brace does not allow for peripheral, or side, vision while driving. This is a safety concern as well as a legal issue. In addition, your reaction time may be slower due to pain or certain prescribed medications.
  • You may ride in a car from the hospital to your home. However, you should not take car trips until your doctor says you may.
  • Walking is good for you, but you should rest as needed. Do not get overtired. Try to limit going up and down stairs to once a day for one to two weeks.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise or activities like swimming, golfing, or running until you
    check with your doctor.
  • Do not bend from the waist to pick up things, because this strains your back
    muscles. You should bend your knees and squat instead.
  • Do not carry heavy items, such as groceries or laundry. Do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Do not try to move heavy furniture until your doctor says you may. Do not lift anything over your head.
  • Keep the incision dry. Take sponge baths; do not take tub baths until your doctor says you may. Showering is usually allowed seven to 10 days after surgery, if the incision is not red or draining. Before showering, remove the brace and cover the incision with plastic wrap, to keep water from hitting the incision. Be sure to use a rubber mat in the shower, to prevent slipping. Be careful not to move your neck from side to side while the brace is off.
  • Usually you may sleep in any position that is comfortable.
  • Sexual activities may be resumed when you feel comfortable.
  • Incisions may be numb or tender for a few weeks after surgery. Some redness around the
  • incision is common and usually disappears within one to three weeks. Ask a family member to assist you in checking your incision daily.
  • A raised toilet seat will be provided for you. If necessary, other assistive devices will be arranged for you by hospital staff or your primary care doctor.

When to Call the Doctor

If you notice any of the following signs of infection, call your doctor or nurse immediately:

  • Increased redness at the incision site
  • Increased pain at the site
  • Increased swelling at the site
  • Pus-like drainage from the site
  • Black tissue around the site
  • Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or above for more than 24 hours
  • Chills

Use common sense in judging what you can and cannot do. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call your doctor or nurse.


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