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What are the risks of cervical neck surgery?

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Possible surgical complications of cervical neck surgery include damage to the spinal column or vocal cords, damage to the veins and arteries that serve the brain, and a cerebrospinal fluid leak, according to Spine-health. If the surgery includes fusion, the bone graft may not heal properly or may have a mechanical complication. This surgery can also cause an infection, a hemorrhage or a hematoma.

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Surgical complications can lead to extremely dangerous or fatal outcomes, notes Spine-health. Damaging the vertebral or carotid artery can cause a stroke or death. If the surgeon damages the nerves in the spine, it could lead to poor sexual function, inability to control the bladder or bowel, paralysis, pain, and weakness.

Complications involving the bone graft, which include infection, shifting of the bone graft before the spine fuses and graft rejection, may require another surgery to correct, according to Everyday Health. An incorrectly healed bone graft can also cause painful pseudoarthrosis that doctors treat with surgery to replace malfunctioning hardware, to add another bone graft or to add a electronic stimulator that encourages bone fusion, explains University of Maryland Medical Center.

Patients should stop smoking and not use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications because they inhibit bone formation, recommends Spine-health. A patient may use a cervical collar to support the area and prevent turning the head before the neck heals, suggests Everyday Health. Recovery usually occurs within five weeks, but patients must avoid heavy lifting and intense exercise that could affect the spine for several months.

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