Neck pain caused by degenerating intervertebral disks in your upper spine can be debilitating. If non-invasive treatments fail to relieve your pain, your doctor might suggest an anterior cervical fusion procedure. There are risks involved with this surgical treatment, including experiencing rejection symptoms with the bone graft after it is complete.
Anterior Cervical Fusion
Your anterior cervical fusion procedure will be performed in an operating room while you are under anesthesia. Your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your neck, running down beside your windpipe. Through that incision, she will remove the intervertebral disk that is causing your pain. She will fill the space left between your vertebrae with a piece of bone. The bone might be held in place by the vertebrae, or your surgeon could use metals plates or screws to secure it.
Transplant rejection is a serious risk with any kind of transplanted tissue, including donated bone marrow, transplanted organs and bone used in a bone graft. After undergoing anterior cervical fusion, your immune system could react to the bone placed between your vertebrae as though it were a harmful microorganism. Your immune system will reject the new tissue and attempt to destroy it with antibodies.
The symptoms of anterior cervical fusion rejection include a general feeling of illness or discomfort. These sensations are caused by the hostile response from your immune system. The major symptom of rejection is failure of the bone graft to take which means your vertebrae will not fuse with the new bone or with each other. More rarely, you could experience pain or swelling in your neck or run a fever.
The treatment for transplant rejection usually begins with preventing it from occurring in the first place. Your doctor can give you medication that will suppress your immune system before performing your anterior cervical fusion procedure. This will lessen the likelihood of rejection. The drugs can also be given to you after rejection has begun. In severe cases where symptoms are not helped by the medication, you might need to undergo surgery so the procedure can be redone.
When performing your anterior cervical fusion, your doctor can use bone harvested from your pelvis or bone from a donor bank. Using bone from your own body reduces the risk of rejection, because any living cells transferred with the bone graft should be recognized by your immune system as safe. Your doctor will compare the risks of harvesting bone with experiencing rejection symptoms with you when discussing the procedure.