What Are the Risks of Surgery for a Herniated Disc in the Neck?


Quick Answer

Problems during or after surgeries for herniated discs in the neck are rare, but occasional risks may include adverse reactions to the anesthesia, infection, chronic neck pain or heavy bleeding, reports WebMD. The wound may not heal properly, or patients may experience nerve, spinal cord, esophagus or vocal cord damage. Most people experience neck pain for a while, and weakness and numbness in the arms may linger for a few weeks or months, adds Spine-health.

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Cervical herniated disc pain usually goes away with nonsurgical treatments such as rest, exercise, medication and modified activities, explains WebMD. Doctors only consider surgery when patients have long-lasting pain, weakness and loss of bowel or bladder control. Surgeons are successful in relieving pain in about 95 to 98 percent of cervical herniated disc surgeries as of 2015, states Spine-health.

Surgeons usually perform cervical herniated disc surgery through a small incision in the front of the neck, according to Spine-health. Although they can perform it from the back, there are more veins there, and the risk of bleeding is greater. After surgeons remove the damaged disc, they may fuse the disc space, possibly adding a plate for greater stability. Alternatively, they insert artificial discs to replace the original damaged discs. Patients may go home the same day or spend one night in the hospital.

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