Cervical Spine Surgery

This page will provide you with information about cervical spine surgery. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is the cervical spine?

The cervical spine consists of seven bones known as vertebrae. The top connects to the skull and the bottom is joined to the thoracic spine which runs behind the chest and supports the ribs.

There are two main sections of the cervical spine with each controlling a different movement of the skull. The top two vertebrae allow the head to move from side to side and the rest of the cervical spine makes it possible to nod and tilt the head and neck. Inside the cervical spine is the spinal canal and this plays an important role in protecting the spinal cord which carries nerve impulses to control the movement of nearly everything in the body, including skin, muscles, and ligaments.

Between every two vertebrae there is a disc consisting of tough material including cartilage which acts like a pad, cushioning the vertebrae and behaving like a shock absorber.

What problems occur in the cervical spine?

Pieces of the disc can push back into the spinal canal and press on the nerves, causing inflammation and possibly resulting in a herniated disc. In addition, deposits known as a spur can build up on the back of the vertebrae which also results in a pinching of the nerves. This can cause severe pain in the neck and arm.

What can be done to alleviate the problem?

Surgery is often considered the best option to ease symptoms caused by issues with cervical spine.

There are a range of surgical procedures and the simplest type is to alleviate a straight forward herniated disc where it has broken down on one side, leading to pain on that side of the body. It is possible to operate through the back of the neck (the posterior approach) or through the front (the anterior approach). The latter is more common as it is normally considered to be more comfortable for the patient, as there is less disruption to the natural alignment of the spine.

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.


This page is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Cervical Spine Surgery Consultants