As a cervical spine specialist, Dr. Wright has performed more than 2,500 cervical spine surgeries. He is considered one of the leading experts in the field and has special expertise in a number of procedures, including the following:
Dr. Wright performs ACDF surgery to relieve pain, numbness and weakness in the neck, shoulder, and arms, and to provide stability in the cervical (neck) portion of the spine.
Dr. Wright generally recommends an ACDF to remove a damaged disc that is causing pain due to compressed nerves or when there is excessive motion between the vertebrae. This can be due to a fracture or congenital anomaly, but most patients develop damage from progressive, chronic degenerative disease. Often, this occurs because of osteoarthritis or a herniated disc.
Dr. Wright performs the ACDF procedure using a minimally invasive technique where he makes a small incision in the front (anterior) of the neck. This approach allows access the disc without disturbing the neck muscles and uninvolved spinal nerves.
The surgery itself is made up of two parts:
1. Discectomy – The damaged disc is removed through the small incision that was made. This eliminates pressure on the compressed nerve, thus relieving the pain and other symptoms the compression causes.
2. Fusion – A bone graft or implant device is inserted in the empty space where the damaged disc was to provide strength and stability to the area.
After the disc is removed, the space between the bony vertebrae is empty. To prevent the vertebrae from collapsing and rubbing together, a spacer bone graft is inserted to fill the open disc space. The graft serves as a bridge between the two vertebrae to create a spinal fusion. The bone graft and vertebrae are fixed in place with metal plates and screws. Following surgery, the body begins its natural healing process and new bone cells grow around the graft. After three – six months, the bone graft should join the two vertebrae and form one solid piece of bone. The instrumentation and fusion work together, similar to reinforced concrete.
After fusion you may notice some range of motion loss, but this varies according to neck mobility before surgery and the number of levels fused. If only one level is fused, you may have similar or even better range of motion than before surgery. If more than two levels are fused, you may notice limits in turning your head and looking up and down. Motion-preserving artificial disc replacements have emerged as an alternative to fusion and Dr. Wright uses this technique whenever possible.
Posterior cervical fusion is the general term used to describe the procedure of mending two or more cervical vertebrae through an incision in the back (posterior) of the neck.
The procedure is a common one for patients who have cervical spine fractures or instability. Dr. Wright may also recommend a posterior cervical fusion to straighten the cervical spine and stop the progression of a spinal deformity, or to remove a tumor.
The goal of the procedure is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, and to provide neck stability by fusing two or more vertebrae into one solid bone.
During a posterior cervical fusion, Dr. Wright makes an incision in the back of the neck and places a bone graft along the sides of the injured section of the cervical spine. Over time, this bone graft fuses together to provide healing and greater stability. Metal screws and rods are sometimes used in conjunction with the procedure to extend fusion and/or provide immediate stability, as well as increase the likelihood of successful fusion.
Recovery from a posterior cervical laminectomy and fusion surgery takes 8-12 weeks for the bones to heal, but patients continue to heal for up to a year after surgery. Walking is highly encouraged, immediately after surgery and throughout your post operative period. Most patients can return to a light desk job or household activities by 2-3 weeks after surgery. Patients with jobs that require heavy lifting, strenuous labor, or activities such as biking, skiing, or running will not be allowed to return until Dr. Wright ensures your bones have fused. This is usually around 12 weeks.