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Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1500 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Suite 401B
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 863-4444

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Going for the Throat to Reduce Complications after Neck Fusion

Posted on: 11/19/2002
Most people are familiar with the idea that low back pain can be caused by disc problems. But discs can also cause problems in the neck. Damaged discs in the neck can cause muscle weakness, hand numbness, arm pain, and even bowel or bladder problems.

Similar treatments to those used for the low back area may be used. Surgery may be done to remove part of the disc and to fuse the vertebrae above and below the problem area. The difference is in how it's done. In the low back area, the incision is commonly made from the back of the body, moving toward the spine. In the neck, the surgeon most often goes in from the front of the neck.

After this kind of surgery, hoarseness and problems with swallowing can occur. These may happen as a result of swelling in the neck area. If more than one disc is removed, the chance of these problems occurring goes up. This is because more soft tissue is cut, and there is a greater chance to damage the nerves in the area.

Doctors are finding ways to reduce these problems. For example, the breathing tube used during the operation can put pressure on the nerves. This can be changed. Once the tube is in the trachea, the doctor lets the air out in the cuff that's holding the tube in place. Then just enough air is allowed back in to keep the airway open.

Other solutions to the problem include using drugs to reduce the swelling. New imaging technology is also making it possible to see the problem area before cutting open the skin. This limits the amount of surgical damage. For patients with disc problems at several levels, it may be best to reach the discs from the back surface of the neck.

Anthony Frempong-Broadu, et al. Swallowing and Speech Dysfunction in Patients Undergoing Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion: A Prospective, Objective Preoperative and Postoperative Assessment. In Journal of Spinal Disorders. November 2002. Vol. 15. No. 5. Pp. 362-368.

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