Cervical Trauma/Fractures

In the case of trauma, dislocations and fractures can result in an unstable spinal column. They can occur in any region of the spine and may be associated with neurological injury.

Symptoms

Severe neck pain; pain that extends toward the shoulder, between the shoulder blades, and even pain in the back of the head. There may also be radicular symptoms with pain, numbness, or weakness extending into the arms or legs. If severe, loss of coordination and bowel or bladder incontinence may occur.

About this Condition

Trauma to the spine refers to injury that has occurred to bony elements, soft tissues and/or neurological structures. The two things that surgeons are most concerned about, in the case of spinal trauma, are instability of the vertebral column and actual or potential neurological injury. Stability to the spinal column can be compromised when bony elements are injured or there is disruption to soft tissues such as ligaments. Instability causes the spine to become unable to successfully carry normal loads, which can lead to permanent deformity, severe pain and in some cases catastrophic neurological injuries. Most often the instability comes from a fracture in one of the bony parts of the vertebra, specifically the vertebral body, the lamina or the pedicles.

In the case of trauma, dislocations and fractures can result in an unstable spinal column. They can occur in any region of the spine and may be associated with neurological injury. A surgeon needs to restore the mechanical stability of the spine to try and prevent more neurologic injury, progressive deformity or prolonged incapacitating pain.

This content is for your general education only. See your doctor for a professional diagnosis and to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.

Conservative Treatments

Physical Therapy / Occupational Therapy

Physical and occupational therapy can play a vital role in your recovery. Once acute pain improves, your doctor or a therapist can design a rehabilitation program to help prevent recurrent injuries.

These programs often include heat, cold and electrotherapy to help alleviate pain, decrease swelling, increase strength and promote healing. Methods include therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, functional training and use of assistive devices and adaptive equipment to increase strength, range of motion, endurance, wound healing and functional independence.

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Surgery

Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is an operation that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots, the spinal cord or both by a herniated disc or bone spurs.

Through a small incision made in a natural deep skin crease in the front of the neck, the surgeon:

  • Removes the intervertebral disc to access the compressed neural structures
  • Places a bone graft to fuse adjacent vertebrae
  • In some cases, implants a small metal plate to stabilize the spine while it heals
  • In certain cases, an artificial disc may be placed

 

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Posterior Fusion

Following a discectomy, laminectomy or other surgery that involves removing portions of one or more vertebrae to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, fusion instrumentation and bone grafting are used to stabilize the spine. Metal or non-metal instrumentation is put in place to hold the vertebrae together as the bone graft grows and fuses the vertebrae. These implants include rods, plates and screws that are left in place after the surgery. Bone grafts may be placed on the outside of the two vertebrae or between the vertebrae (interbody).

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Please keep in mind that all treatments and outcomes are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results and other important medical information.