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Spinal fusion

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Fusing vertebrae in your neck area is one way to treat neck and arm pain.

Your Marshfield Clinic spine specialists diagnose and treat problems with your back.

Spinal Fusion: Cervical

Fusing vertebrae in the cervical curve may help ease neck and arm pain. Two or more vertebrae in your neck are fused. Cervical fusion is usually done through an incision in the front of the neck. It may sometimes be done through the back of the neck, or through both the front and back. The surgery generally takes from 1 to 4 hours.

Image of cervical vertebrae
Cervical vertebrae

The Fusion Procedure

These steps apply to fusion from the front of the neck:

  • The disk is removed from between the vertebrae.

  • Bone graft is packed into the now-empty space between the vertebrae. In time, the graft and the bone around it will grow into a solid unit.

  • To help keep your spine steady and promote fusion, extra support (see below) may be used

  • The incision is closed with sutures or staples.

The disk between the vertebrae is removed.

Bone graft is packed into the now-empty space between the vertebrae.

Over a few months, the bone graft and vertebrae fuse into a solid unit.

If Extra Support Is Needed

Metal supports called instrumentation may be used to help steady your spine while it fuses. Your surgeon may use one or more types of support, such as a plate or a cage. A plate is a metal piece put across the front of the vertebrae and graft. It is secured with screws. A cage is a plastic or metal “basket” that is packed with bone graft. This is inserted into the empty space where the disk was removed. These supports remain in the body and are not removed.

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How Much Do You Know About Your Back?

You probably take your back for granted—until it starts to hurt. Think about it—your back is a part of your body that's in nearly constant use. Whether you're sitting, standing, or moving, your back and its muscles are providing support all day, every day. Test your knowledge of the back by taking this quiz.

1. How many bones are in your spine?
2. What position is best for your back when you sleep?
3. Which of these sports can cause dangerous back injuries?
4. How many Americans will suffer back pain at some time in their lives?
5. What is the average recovery time for low-back pain?
6. Disks cushion vertebrae in the back. What are they made of?
7. Which of these is a significant risk factor for backache?
8. Which of these measures will help a backache?
9. How should you lift a heavy object?
10. What are the warning signs of a herniated disk?

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