Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Damage to nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation along the nerve's pathway into the arm and hand, depending on where the damaged roots are located.
Pain medications such as corticosteroids or non-steroidal pain medication
If significant compression on the nerve exists to the extent that motor weakness results, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure.
There are three surgical procedures commonly performed to treat cervical radiculopathy:
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR): This procedure involves removing the degenerated disk and replacing it with artificial parts, as is done in hip or knee replacement. The goal of disk replacement is to allow the spinal segment to keep some flexibility and maintain more normal motion.
Similar to ACDF, your doctor will use an "anterior" approach for the surgery - making a 1 – 2 inch incision along the neck crease. The exact location and length of your incision may vary depending on your specific condition.
During the surgery, your doctor will remove your problematic disk and then insert an artificial disk implant into the disk space. The implant is made of all metal or metal and plastic. It is designed to maintain the motion between the vertebrae after the degenerated disk has been removed. The implant may help restore the height between the vertebrae and widen the passageway for the nerve roots to exit the spinal canal.
Posterior Cervical Laminoforaminotomy:
"Posterior" refers to the back part of your body. In this procedure, the doctor will make a 1- to 2-inch incision along the midline of the back of the neck. During a posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy, the doctor uses a burr and other specialized tools to thin down the lamina—the bony arch that forms the backside of the spinal canal. Removing this allows the doctor better access to the damaged nerve. The doctor then removes the bone, bone spurs, and tissues that are compressing the nerve root. Unlike ACDF, posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy does not require spinal fusion to stabilize the spine. Because of this, you will maintain better range of motion in your neck and your recovery will be quicker.
After surgery, you will typically stay in the hospital for 1 or 2 days. This will vary, however, depending on the type of surgery you have had and how many disk levels were involved.
Most patients are able to walk and eat on the first day after surgery. It is normal to have difficulty swallowing solid foods for a few weeks or have some hoarseness following anterior cervical spine surgery.
You may need to wear a soft or a rigid cervical collar at first. How long you should wear it will depend on the type of surgery you have had.
After spinal fusion, it may take from 6 to 12 months for the bone to become solid. Because of this, your doctor will give you specific restrictions for some time period after your surgery. Right after your operation, your doctor may recommend only light activity, like walking. As you regain strength, you will be able to slowly increase your activity level.
Usually by 4 to 6 weeks, you can gradually begin to do range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy during the recovery period to help you regain full function.
Return to work:
Most people are able to return to a desk job within a few days to a few weeks after surgery. They may be able to return to full activities by 3 to 4 months, depending on the procedure. For some people, healing may take longer.