Chris is a 62 year old active gentleman who experienced right arm pain and numbness for several months. He has also had neck pain for a few years that became worse. The pain traveled into his thumb, index finger, and middle finger. He had numbness in the same area. He noticed slight weakness in the arm as well.
On physical exam, he had decreased strength in his wrist and triceps.
Chris worked with a physical therapist for 3 months. He also worked with a chiropractor. He noted some improvement in his neck pain with these treatments. He had 2 steroid injections by a pain doctor. This gave him only temporary relief.
After reviewing his MRI and x-rays, I thought surgery would help Chris. He had arthritis at the cervical 5-6 and 6-7 levels. His symptoms matched the findings on the MRI. He had failed to improve with conservative therapy. I opted to do a cervical fusion and not a disc replacement because of the advanced degeneration.
The surgery took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. After surgery Chris noted pain in the back of the neck between the shoulder blades and some difficulty swallowing. He also noted improvement in his arm symptoms. He went home a few hours after the operation. Three months after surgery, his neck pain and swallowing were better. He has not had any recurrence of the arm symptoms. He has returned to full activity.
One of the things I was particularly excited about with Chris was the maintenance of the disc height after surgery. Using a 3D printed, titanium cage that is optimized for this purpose, we were able to restore and keep the discs open. I think this has helped improve the outcome.
Disclaimer: Although this is a real patient, I have used a different name for privacy protection and added a few details for educational purposes. This patient gave consent to have his case shared.