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Mir H. Ali, MD, PhD
Orthopedic Spine Surgery
Patient Educational Series

Cervical Indications

Assuming that there is no fracture, infection, or tumor in the neck, surgery on the cervical spine should be considered only if any of the following three conditions are met: 1) if the patient has spinal cord compression with symptoms of spinal cord dysfunction, such as difficulty with balance, heaviness in the legs, bowel/bladder issues, swelling of the spinal cord seen on MRI, etc. 2) Progressive weakness of the affected upper extremity. For example, if the pinched nerve is on the right side at C7, then the patient may develop weakness in the triceps and have weakness with right elbow extension that worsens over time despite vigorous physical therapy. 3) If the patient has continued neck and/or arm pain after months of exhausting all non-operative treatment options. The pain from a pinched nerve can be very severe, and - if the patient does not get adequate lasting relief from oral medications, physcial therapy, and epidural injections - then surgery can reliably relief the patient's pain and discomfort.

The proper surgical technique for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy is based on many factors (the patient's age, medical/surgical history, body type, spinal alignment, degree of spinal cord compression, degree of neck pain versus arm pain, pain in one arm versus both arms, etc.) The recommendation of surgery and the type of surgery should be discussed with the spine surgeon and be viewed on a case by case basis.

For more information and/or more specific questions, please consult a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon.

Mir H. Ali, MD,PhD
Director - Deerpath Spine Institute
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon - Rezin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Dr. Ali is a board certified orthopedic spine surgeon trained in the diagnosis as well as the treatment of non-operative and operative spinal disorders. Dr. Ali practices in the far western and southwestern suburbs of Chicago and utilizes surgery as a last resort when all other non-operative treatments have failed to relieve pain and/or reduce risk of nerve damage/injury. All recommendations on this site are for general situations and a particular situation requires evaluation before specific treatment recommendations can be made.