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Spine and Back Health

C6 & C7 Disc Herniation

01/25/2010

Question:

I have seen a neurosurgeon and awaiting my next appointment. I am curious how much range of motion (and which directions) will I lose if I have the C6,C7 fusion and how much more if C5,C6 are fused as well. As I am only 40, I get the feeling that I am considered to young for this surgery, but due to the severity of the pain, we have limited choices.

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Unfortunately I can't give you an exact answer. This is because it depends a lot on how flexible you neck is to begin with, your age, and whether your surgeon chooses to have you wear a collar after surgery, as well as many other factors. From a purely strict biomechanical view, if you take a completely normal cervical spine each disc level contributes about 8% of your range of motion (about 50% of it occurs at the junction between the skull and the cervical spine), so theoretically if you fuse one disc you lose 8%, if you fuse two discs 16%. However, the remarkable human body can adapt and compensate for changes like this, so the final result often isn't as much as the math would suggest. Bottom line is, most patients don't notice more than a slight decrease in motion after a one- or two-level fusion. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University