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Cervical Spondylitic Myelopathy - Spinal Cord Compression Treatment

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The symptoms of some cases of cervical spondylitic myelopathy may be relieved with non-surgical treatments.  Neck immobilization, such as with a collar or bracing, medications to reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy may be helpful.  If symptoms do not improve or become worse, surgery may be necessary.

Surgery is used to relieve spinal cord compression.  The majority of conditions that cause spinal cord compression are located in front of the spinal cord.  For this reason, anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) surgery is commonly used to treat cervical spondylitic myelopathy.  The goals of ACDF surgery are to remove pressure from the spinal cord, relieve pain, restore function, and stabilize the spine.
ACDF surgery is performed through an incision at the front of the neck.  Your surgeon will make an incision approximately two inches long carefully avoiding your throat and airway.  Your muscles and arteries will be moved aside with care to allow access to the vertebrae.  Your surgeon will remove abnormal disc and bone structures.

Next, the surgeon replaces the disc or discs with a bone graft or interbody fusion cage to support the cervical spine.  Surgical hardware including plates and screws may be used.  The surgical hardware secures the vertebrae together and allows the bone grafts to heal.

At the completion of your ACDF surgery, your surgeon will close your incision with stitches.  You will receive pain medication immediately following your surgery.  You will wear a neck brace or collar while your fusion heals. 

You should expect to stay overnight in the hospital.  You may need some help from another person during the first few days or weeks at home. 

Following surgery, your doctor will initially restrict your activity and body positioning.  You should avoid lifting, housework, and yard-work until your doctor gives you the okay to do so.  You will wear a neck brace for support.  Once your neck has healed, physical therapists will teach you flexibility and strengthening exercises.  You will also learn body mechanics and proper postures.

The recovery process is different for everyone.  It depends on the particulars of your surgery and the extent of your condition.  Your surgeon will let you know what to expect.

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