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What is involved in surgery to the neck?

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Quick Answer

Surgery to the neck usually involves removing portions of bone to relieve pressure on nerves or the insertion of plates and screws, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It carries the risk of nerve damage, bleeding, infection and stiffness, as well as a recovery time that can be extensive.

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Surgery to the neck is most commonly performed for chronic, degenerative conditions in the bones of the neck, the cervical vertebrae, says the Cleveland Clinic. Recovery from neck surgery can take between several months and several years. Initial recovery involves a stay in the hospital of up to four days, during which time a drainage tube may be inserted to prevent fluid buildup. A neck brace may be necessary to immobilize and protect the neck, and the incision must generally be kept clean and dry. A doctor's approval is needed before a patient resumes driving, lifting or working.

Neck problems requiring surgery can arise from injury, cancer or arthritis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A tumor on the spinal cord can force the cervical vertebrae to spread, resulting in fracture. With arthritis, the cartilage between the joints of the vertebrae wear away, reducing the distance between them. This compresses the nerves of the neck.

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