Do you have neck pain or a degenerative health condition that has not responded to conservative treatment options and hinders you from working? If that is the case, you can benefit from minimally invasive neck surgery. The surgical approach is an advanced process that provides significantly less post-op pain and quicker recovery than open surgery. Dr. George Rappard, a seasoned Los Angeles-based neurointerntional practice, can help you treat dysfunction and chronic pain related to herniated disks, osteoarthritis, bone spurs, and other spinal conditions. Please read this article to learn more about this surgical approach and postsurgical rehabilitation so you can return to a physically active lifestyle and enjoy your life.

Understanding Your Neck Anatomy

Your neck is part of a long, flexible column (backbone or spinal column) that extends through most of your body. The neck region (cervical spine) has seven bones (C1–C7) that are separated from each other by intervertebral discs. The discs allow your spine to move freely and absorb shock during activities.

The cervical spine has many functions, including protecting the spinal cord, offering a safe passageway from vertebral arteries, supporting your head, and allowing head movement.

Most health conditions result from issues in the neck and the neighboring nerves and soft tissues. They include:

  • Neck pain.
  • Cervical radiculopathy.
  • Cervical degenerative disk disease.
  • Herniated disk.
  • Bone spurs.
  • Cervical spondylosis.
  • Cervical spinal fracture.
  • Cervical spinal cord compression.
  • Stenosis.
  • Osteomyelitis.

To diagnose your neck disease, your doctor will collect your medical history, inquire about your signs and symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and order imaging tests and studies like X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electromyograms, and myelograms.

Surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are available to treat most cervical spine conditions. The choice depends on the root cause of the neck pain and the severity. However, your physician can recommend minimally invasive neck surgery if:

  • Traditional treatment options are not improving your symptoms.
  • You are healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure.
  • Signs and symptoms involving your legs, arms, and spine are worsening.

Please note that not all patients qualify for minimally invasive neck surgery. There are particular indications for when the approach works best and when a surgeon should perform it from a safety standpoint. Medical practitioners should customize every surgery and technique for the patient. Nevertheless, before considering surgery, your doctor can decide during your evaluation whether they should try other treatment options before considering surgery.

Minimally Invasive Neck Surgery Options

Minimally invasive neck surgery refers to surgical options that reduce the damage and disruption of soft tissues surrounding your spine, including tissues, ligaments, and muscles. The techniques allow the surgeon to avoid long incisions and extensive muscle dissection, reducing tissue injuries, blood loss, and postoperative pain. Numerous lab and imaging studies enable your physician to lower paraspinal muscle atrophy and preserve normal spinal motion.

Some of the advantages of minimally invasive surgery over open surgery include the following:

  • MIS techniques cause less post-op discomfort and pain.
  • Shorter hospital stays and patients can return to their daily activities quickly.
  • Less scarring and better cosmetic outcome.
  • Fewer injuries to your tissues.
  • Less pain medication use.
  • Lower risk of infections.

MIS surgeries use video-assisted tools and imaging tests; your physician has better magnification and visualization of internal structures and organs. It means the procedure will be more definitive and accurate.

Common minimally invasive neck surgery options include the following:

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

The procedure entails using a tiny tube with a microscope to perform surgery. With the small metal tubes inserted via the skin into your bone, your surgeon can move muscles out of the way and then operate via the small tube in your surgical area. Once the surgical procedure is over, the doctor will pull away the tubes, and your muscles will fall back where they were initially. Finally, they will close the incision using staples, glue, or stitches and put a small bandage on your wound.

Cervical Discectomy

Cervical discectomy relieves nerve roots or spinal cord compression due to a bone spur or herniated disc. Your surgeon will remove the compression on the nerve roots by removing part or all of the disc that causes pain.

The doctor performs the surgery with you lying on your back after administering general anesthesia. They will make a small incision at the neck’s center on the front side and gently separate the soft tissues and muscles. Next, they will insert dilators (small tubes) via the incision and remove the root cause of compression. Finally, they will remove the tubes, restore muscles and soft tissues to their usual places, and close your incision.

Sometimes, your surgeon can perform a cervical discectomy along with a spinal fusion. It involves placing bone grafts between affected vertebral bones to stimulate growth between your vertebral bodies.

Endoscopic Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy

Endoscopic posterior cervical foraminotomy is a minimally invasive neck surgery that treats pain stemming from nerve compression as it travels via the spine’s natural passageways.

To initiate the surgery, your doctor will make a small nick on the skin at your neck’s back. Next, they will place a tiny tube via your skin and, using imaging guidance, advance the tube to the neck or facet joint. Using specialized equipment, the doctor performs the surgery through the tube and makes a foraminotomy (small hole ) along part of the joint. The opening frees up your nerve and lets your physician remove the herniated discs.

An endoscope that the surgeon places via the X-rays and tube guides the surgery.

Modern Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Advancements

Some of the latest advances in minimally invasive spine surgery include the following:

  • Endoscopic spine surgery — Doctors have improved visibility, 3D depth, and light perception. Thanks to endoscopes, a thin tube with a light source and camera lens. The endoscope also allows the insertion of most tools, making minimally invasive approaches ideal for most patients.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) — Your surgeon can now use AI to review your patient data to determine the best surgical approach depending on your health condition.
  • Robotic-asssisted spinal surgery — Your doctor can access your neck using a computer-guided surgical robot. The approach makes the placement of spinal hardware more accurate and treatment safer.

Preparing for Your Surgery

Please follow the guidelines below to prepare for your procedure, ensure smooth surgery, and accelerate healing.

Foods and Beverages

Do not eat food or drink beverages after midnight before your treatment day, except for water with the allowed medicines. Remember to avoid swallowing anything when brushing your teeth.

However, your surgeon can permit you to drink and eat with the exceptions below:

  • If your doctor will inject your spine without sedation, you can eat light meals like cereal, fruits, or cereal. Additionally, drink at least eight ounces of water before your surgery.
  • You can eat a light breakfast if your minimally invasive neck surgery is scheduled after 2 p.m.

Taking Your Medication

While you should stop taking some drugs, there are particular medications you should continue taking. Please consult your surgeon for guidance if you are taking one of the following:

  • Insulin.
  • Diuretics and specific hypertension medications.
  • Fish oil, blood thinners, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Oral diabetic drugs.

Tobacco Products and Alcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol for at least twelve hours before the surgery. Alcohol causes dehydration.

Also, refrain from all forms of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and marijuana for forty-eight hours before your treatment. Smoking hinders healing.

Contact Lenses, Jewelry, Valuables, and Piercings

Please leave all these things at home on your surgery day. It also includes body piercings and wedding rings.

Avoid wearing make-up, deodorant, or body lotion on the surgery day.

Your Clothing

Ensure you wear simple, comfortable, and loose clothes. Footwear like sandals, dress shoes, and flip-flops is unsuitable and unsafe for walking following the procedure.

Items to Carry

Here are some of the items to carry to your appointment:

  • Insurance cards.
  • Medical assistance or Medicare information.
  • Contact information.
  • MRI discs.
  • List of your medication.
  • Contact lens holder.
  • Braces.

Supportive Care

Also, ensure you have:

  • A driver to drive you home after the surgery (Do not plan to use public transportation).
  • If your surgeon administered sedation, a loved one or caregiver should care for you for at least 24 hours.
  • A patient who cannot speak or read English needs an interpreter.
  • If you have minor children at home, make arrangements for a person to care for them after your treatment.

Asking Relevant Questions

Preparing for your neck surgery requires a thorough understanding and careful consideration. You should collect as many details as possible and engage in a meaningful discussion with your physician to make informed decisions and understand the potential outcomes. To guide the conversation, here are some questions to ask before the procedure. The questions cover different facets of the surgery, including the recommendation’s rationale, expected healing time, risks, benefits, and post-op care.

  • How challenging will the healing duration be? Will you need help at home after the minimally invasive neck surgery?.
  • How long will you be admitted to the hospital?.
  • Whether you have other treatment options to consider before deciding on the surgery.
  • Is the surgery painful? How will you manage the pain?.
  • How will the surgical procedure impact your everyday routine? Will you regain regular and daily functions?.
  • What lifestyle changes should you make before scheduling the procedure?.
  • What is the treatment’s success rate?.
  • What are the risks and benefits linked to the surgery?.
  • What type of anesthesia will the surgeon use? Does it have side effects?.

Ensure you have honest and open communication with the doctor. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification. Remember, understanding your neck surgery details can result in a smooth recovery process and improved results.

Minimally Invasive Neck Surgery Recovery

Unlike open surgery, minimally invasive surgery techniques cause less muscle damage, less pain, shorter hospital stays, and a quicker recovery.

Generally, hospital stays range between three and five days. Full recovery can take months. The exact duration of full recovery varies with patients. It depends on the neck problem, the procedure’s difficulty level, age, health condition, and the surgeon’s expertise.

Your physician can recommend physical therapy (PT) to assist you in regaining strength and accelerating your recovery.

Be sure to attend all your follow-up medical appointments with the doctor. During the visits, the medical expert will track your recovery progress.

You should also call your surgeon immediately if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain is worsening.
  • You experience challenges breathing.
  • The quantity of fluid leaking from the incision has increased.

Returning to Your Daily Routine After the Surgery

Some of the steps you take to maintain a healthy neck or spine after surgery include the following:

  • Walk as much as possible to increase blood flow to your spine and strengthen your core muscles.
  • Squat and lift heavy things using your legs instead of bending and stressing your back.
  • Refrain from bending or lifting things a lot, especially within two hours of waking up.
  • Always sit in the correct posture with your back straight, mainly while sitting in front of a computer. Take breaks from sitting. Stand and stretch, if possible.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Sleep on your side, using a firm mattress and a pillow between your legs. The pillow lowers pressure on your hips. Sleeping on your side reduces stress on the back. Finally, sleep on one pillow; you could hurt your cervix when your head is too elevated.
  • Consider incorporating wall squats into your post-op recovery routine. Before you begin, lean your back against a wall and gradually slide your feet one foot forward. After the feet are about 12 inches from the body, tighten the core and bend your knees slowly until they are at a 45-degree angle. Remain in that position for ten seconds before starting again.

Find a Qualified Surgeon Near Me

Minimally invasive neck surgery is an alternative to conventional open surgery surgery. The approach involves making small incisions, allowing you to experience fewer complications, less pain, reduced blood loss, and less tissue damage and recover faster. Please consult Dr. George Rappard at 424-777-7463 to book a medical evaluation to determine whether you would benefit from the surgery. We reserve surgical treatment as a last resort and can first seek to treat your condition using conservative treatments. Suppose your symptoms fail to improve, and we determine you qualify for surgical treatment. In that case, we can select the best surgical option based on your health condition and severity. Our practice serves the Los Angeles community.