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Posterior Cervical Decompression

Posterior Cervical Decompression

A posterior cervical decompression is an operation to relieve pressure on a nerve or spinal cord in the neck via a scar on the back of the neck. The operation is performed to relieve pressure on a nerve that is causing arm pain or pressure on the spinal cord that is causing problems with hand function and walking.

Surgery is normally recommended after failed non-operative treatment. Non-operative treatment will include pain relief, physiotherapy and sometimes a cervical epidural injection of steroid. In cases of severe spinal cord compression, early surgery is likely to be recommended.

The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic, through a small incision that is made in the back of the neck. The spinal muscles are retracted and spine exposed.

Once your surgeon has ascertained the correct spinal level with an x-ray, bone and ligament is removed resulting in decompression of the affected nerve root and/or spinal cord.

A thorough check is made that the nerves and spinal cord are free from compression. The wound is closed in layers, sometimes with a wound drain. The operation usually lasts 1-2 hours.

Post-operatively, you will be able to mobilize a few hours following surgery. A wound drain, if present, is removed by nursing staff the following morning and you will be reviewed by your physiotherapist. It is recommended that you do not drive a car for two weeks and that you do not work full-time for four to six weeks. The most important message following a posterior cervical decompression is to avoid lifting any significant weights for the first few weeks following surgery. It is normally recommended that you have 4-6 weeks off work after cervical disc surgery.

If you have any questions about your post-operative care, please contact us directly.

How successful is the operation?
Patient satisfaction rates are 85-90% and we would expect 90% of patients to experience significant relief of arm pain. Pain relief is normally immediate. If numbness or weakness are present before the operation, then these may recover over a time period of months.

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