Patient Education: Neck Surgery


What do I need to know about neck surgery?


The following information will answer many of your questions about what will happen before, during, and after your surgery. If after reading this information you or your family still have questions, please feel free to call our office. There is never a silly question, and we hope that by asking questions now, you will understand what is happening at each step in the recovery process. The more you know, the better your recovery period will be.


Neck Surgery

neck surgery

Types of Neck Surgery

There are several different types of neck surgery depending on your problem; therefore, some of the following information may not pertain to your specific case.

Fusion immobilizes a segment of your spine due to spondylosis, degenerative disc disease (DDD), and/or HNP.

  • Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion (ACDF) done through an incision on the front of the neck, immobilizes the level(s) in question from any further movement.
  • Posterior Cervical Fusion, done through an incision on the back of the neck, immobilizes the vertebral disc space(s) in question from any further movement.

Disc Arthroplasty replaces the disc between two vertebral bodies to maintain motion at that segment.

  • Anterior Cervical Disc Arthroplasty (ACDA) is done through an incision on the front of the neck replacing the disc between two cervical vertebral bodies (i.e. C5-6).

Preparing for Surgery

The doctor may request medical clearance from your family doctor in order to make sure any medical conditions you have will not affect your ability to tolerate surgery. If you take insulin, ask your family doctor how to take this medicine on the day of surgery.

All medications having blood thinning tendencies, prescribed or over-the-counter, must be stopped five days prior to surgery. 

If you take prescription medicines you must check with the doctor monitoring this medicine to be sure it is okay to stop.

Notify us immediately if at any time before your surgery you have any symptoms of an infection (for example, a urinary tract or sinus infection), especially the week before your surgery.

If you smoke, your doctor may require you to stop 4-6 weeks before doing your surgery and for 12 weeks after your surgery. The nicotine dramatically slows and/or hinders the healing process by 40% per level fused. The doctor may order a blood draw or urine test to check your nicotine level.

Cervical fusion patients will wear a neck brace/cervical collar for 2-4 weeks or as determined by the doctor.

You must not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery! You may drink clear liquids up to 3 hours before surgery.

What to Expect After Surgery

Cervical fusion can be either outpatient or require an overnight stay depending on your health and number of levels being fused.

Pain management during your stay may be by intravenous injections or by oral pain medications. We recommend you switch to oral pain medications as soon as you are comfortable.

After a cervical fusion, you may find a drain coming from your neck pinned to your gown. This will relieve any fluid accumulation from the surgical area. If you are sent home with a drain you will have to return to our office the following day to have it removed.

Do not be discouraged if you have some of the same pain as before your surgery. You have had pressure on the nerves for some time and it can take 12-18 months for the nerves to recover. You may find that your energy level is quite low after surgery (even the trip home from the hospital may wear you out). 

Patient Education Sheets

For additional information about treatment, we have included this complete patient eduction sheet as a pdf to view, download and print:

View full Patient Education pdf

View Decision-Making Tool pdf