People who are contemplating spine fusion surgery need only listen to the story of yoga instructor Daina Lewis. Lewis is passionate about what she does, teaching out of her studio in Moline, Illinois. But despite her love for what she does and the difference she makes in other people’s lives, Lewis was afraid that she might never be able to teach another class at Shine! Yoga & Bodyworks after she woke up with shooting pains running down her arm. Making matters worse was the fact that her hand was completely numb.
Lewis felt at loose ends and afraid as a result of her physical weakness. She told a local news station, “It was very scary, especially when I didn’t know what was going on. I had a lot of anxiety about it because when I was in front of people, I couldn’t do certain poses. I couldn’t show them.”
She contacted a spine surgeon, who diagnosed a herniated disc in her neck that was putting pressure on a nerve. The physician suggested a procedure called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, describing it this way: “What I did was actually remove the disc between two bones, and there’s a spacer filled with bone graft that bridges those bones together. I told her beforehand, I really wasn’t sure. We never are when someone has that weakness – it doesn’t always come back. So I was kinda on edge, waiting to see how things were going to work out, too, but they did go well.” Today, Daina is back to full strength and able to do just about everything that she did back before her problem appeared.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery treats compression of either the nerve root or the spinal cord. It takes pressure off of the compromised area and creates stability for the vertebrae. The surgery is most frequently performed on younger patients for whom other non-operative measures such as physical therapy or medication do not work. General anesthesia is used, with the surgeon making an incision through the front of the neck and then moving soft tissues to the side in order to provide access to the anterior spine. The damaged materials are removed in order to take pressure off of the nerves or spinal cord, and then the spinal column is fused using a bone graft in order to provide stability. Titanium plates and screws are often used to hold everything in place as the bone heals and becomes more stable. When the surgery is completed, the incision is closed.
Recovery from anterior cervical discectomy usually involves a single overnight stay in the hospital followed by limited activities until the patient has been cleared by their doctor. It can take a period of weeks or months before full activities are resumed.
If you are suffering from symptoms similar to those that Daina Lewis was experiencing, you need to consult with an experienced spine surgeon. To set up an appointment, contact our office.