You may know about traditional surgery for neck pain…but have you heard about this latest advance?
The two most common surgical recommendations for neck pain are spinal fusion and artificial disc replacement. Each of these surgeries offers a solution for neck pain depending on the patient’s unique condition. Spinal fusions are most applicable for conditions that cause misalignment or instability, while artificial disc replacements are recommended to maintain motion in the neck. But now, with technological advances, paired with the expert precision of our surgeons, we are able to present patients with a third option that combines the best of both procedures.
Spinal fusions are highly successful in eliminating painful disc and nerve compression and are ideal for conditions that have caused misalignment or instability within the spine (such as scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or spinal fractures). While the underlying function of a spinal fusion is to eliminate motion at the level that was operated on, it does place increased stress on adjacent levels of the spine. A one-level fusion has minimal impact, but for individuals that require multiple-level fusions, it can cause more impact.
As an alternative to spinal fusions, artificial discs have also been developed to eliminate painful discs and decompress the nerves, but they preserve motion. Artificial discs simulate a more normal range of motion in the neck while eliminating the pain source and decreasing stress on adjacent levels. This helps to slow the rate of progressive breakdown of nearby structures. Similar to spinal fusions, not everyone is a candidate for artificial discs.
Hybrid cervical spine surgery combines spinal fusion and artificial disc replacement operations to stabilize or align one or more cervical levels while preserving motion at the adjacent levels. This surgical procedure is ideal for patients that have instability in some levels of the spine but would benefit from motion restoration in other levels.
Benefits of hybrid cervical spine surgery:
I believe strongly in the effectiveness of hybrid cervical spine surgery because I have performed over 100 operations with great results and even underwent the procedure for my own neck condition. I had previous surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in my spine, and due to severe collapse and scarring at that level, an artificial disc would not have helped. Instead, I had that level fused and the two adjacent levels received an artificial disc that preserved motion and ensured there would be no breakdown in the future. Preserving motion in my neck (while still treating the original problem level) has changed my life and, most importantly, allowed me to keep enjoying it. I can again spend time with my family – playing tennis and basketball with my son and daughters. I’m able to work out, hit the links, and swim with no limitations. Additionally, I can still perform my career as a spinal surgeon, helping relieve other patients from their pain.
It is our job as care providers to understand the goals of our patients and recommend the best treatment options that will help them attain those goals. I am here to report firsthand that hybrid cervical spine surgery is often the best choice for many of my patients and gets them back to the life they love.
Dr. Thomas Schuler is a world-renowned, double board certified spine surgeon; trained in both neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery of the spine. He founded Virginia Spine Institute in 1992 and is a recognized international leader in the treatment of neck and lower back conditions. Dr. Schuler is noted among the 100 best spine surgeons in America, and serves as President of the National Spine Health Foundation as well as Chairman of its Medical and Scientific Board. Learn more about Dr. Schuler.