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Neck problems are one of the top five surgically treated conditions in the United States. The anatomy and flexibility of the neck make it susceptible to pressure and stress that can lead to various conditions such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc. However, the majority of neck problems can be treated conservatively without surgery. When neck surgery is necessary, minimally invasive spine surgery offers many potential advantages compared to traditional open surgery. These advantages include smaller incisions, less cutting and disruption of soft tissues, less post operative pain, an overall faster recovery, and most minimally invasive neck surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis. 

At Kalra Brain & Spine in Frisco, Texas, Ricky Kalra, M.D. is a board certified spine fellowship trained neurosurgeon who specializes in conservative management, second opinions, and minimally invasive cervical spine surgery. Following Dr. Kalra’s fellowship training he completed an additional six months of training in Germany to learn advanced spine procedures and new technologies coming out of Europe. He also received advanced training and has achieved superior outcomes utilizing cervical disc replacement technology for his patients. Dr. Kalra has been recognized as a D Best Neurosurgeon in Dallas by his physicians colleagues from 2017-2023. 

What Are The Most Common Causes of Neck Pain? 

The most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain that typically resolves in days but can last up to six weeks for more significant strains. Musculoskeletal strain describes injury to the muscle, ligaments, tendons, or bones. This occurs when one of these structures are stretched too far and tears. Most neck pain will subside on its own or with over the counter treatment such as rest, ice, and medications. Sleeping with your neck in an awkward position or being hunched over your computer for hours can both result in neck pain. Other common causes of neck pain include: 

  • Degenerative conditions (osteoarthritis)
  • Nerve or spinal cord compression (herniated discs) 
  • Injuries or trauma (motor vehicle accidents)
  • Diseases (rheumatoid arthritis)

When Should I Be Concerned About My Neck Pain? 

Neck pain can result in significant discomfort and pain. Most neck pain can be managed or controlled with conservative non-invasive treatments. You should be concerned about neck pain and seek immediate medical attention if it is so severe you can not manage it or if you have any of the following symptoms that accompany severe neck pain:

  • Significant pain and numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both hands or arms 
  • Fever and headache
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic swollen glands
  • Extreme instability of head or neck

If you experience the above symptoms neck surgery may be necessary. Neck surgery or cervical spine surgery is most commonly performed for three main reasons. The first reason is a pinched nerve or impingement on the spinal cord that may require decompression surgery. The second reason for cervical spine surgery is when a tumor or mass develops at the base of the skull or in the cervical spine that requires removal. The third reason cervical surgery may be performed, is when a patient is experiencing spinal instability and fusion surgery is recommended. With improved minimally invasive surgical techniques, pain control, and technological advancements cervical fusion is no longer a must for cervical spine surgery patients.

How is Cervical Disc Replacement Different From A Cervical Fusion? 

 The surgical procedure for an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) involves an incision on the front of the neck and removal of the diseased disc. The cervical disc is then replaced with a surgical cage.  A metal plate is secured to the vertebral body above and below the where the cervical cage was placed.  The metal plate will provide stability of the vertebral bodies while a boney fusion is formed. Over the course of six months to one year a solid fusion mass  will form providing stability of the vertebral bodies. Anterior cervical disc replacement (ACDR) surgery requires an incision to  be made on the front of the neck and the diseased disc is removed. Instead of then fusing these bones together Dr. Kalra inserts an artificial disc that allows this space to remain open creating a more natural anatomic structure that functions like your natural disc. Although the two surgeries have similarities, the main difference is post operative cervical range of motion or neck mobility and the recovery time of a cervical disc replacement is much less than the cervical fusion.  

What Are The Benefits of Anterior Cervical Disc Replacement Compared to Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion? 

While there are potential benefits to a cervical disc replacement not all patients are candidates for this procedure. Some potential benefits include:

  • Quicker recovery
  • Reduced risk of adjacent segment disease
  • Reduced risk of future surgery
  • Greater range of cervical motion 

If you have struggled with neck or back pain and you have tried lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, medications, pain management and it is not improving it may be time to see a neurosurgeon. If you have been told you need a neck or back surgery Dr. Kalra advises you and his patients to seek a second opinion. There are many new ideas, techniques, and technologies that may help you avoid a complex spine surgery or unnecessary pain. Remember, less than ten percent of people that experience neck or back pain need spine surgery. If you are interested in learning more about cervical disc replacement, need a second opinion, or to obtain the neurosurgical treatment you need call Kalra Brain & Spine at (972) 905-9226 or schedule an appointment on our website.