Fusion surgery is a last resort for work-related cervical or neck injury. After fusion, most injured workers are given permanent work restrictions from their surgeon. If the work restrictions prevent a return to work in the same type of job that contributed to the workers compensation injury, there may be additional workers compensation benefits available – loss of earning capacity and/or vocational retraining benefits. A fusion surgery joins two or more bones into one solid bone. The purpose for doing spinal fusion is to increase the space between the vertebrae and to keep the sore joint from moving. This is usually done by placing a small block of bone graft in the space where a disc was removed. Opening up space enlarges the neural foramen, takes pressure off the nerve roots, and eases tension on the facet joints. Cervical fusion is used to treat neck problems such as cervical radiculopathy, disc herniations, fractures, and spinal instability.
Anterior Discectomy and Fusion: Anterior discectomy and fusion is done through the front of the neck. After taking out the disc (discectomy), the disc space is filled with a small graft of bone. The bone is allowed to heal, fusing the two vertebrae into one solid bone.
Posterior Fusion: In posterior fusion, the surgeon lays small grafts of bone over the back of the spine. When these bones heal together, they fuse the two vertebrae into one solid bone. Posterior fusions in the cervical spine are primarily used to treat fractures of the neck.
The bone graft needs time to heal in order for the fusion to succeed. This requires the neck to be held still. After cervical fusion surgery, patients usually have to wear a special neck brace for several months. These neck braces are often bulky and restrictive. Recently, surgeons have begun using metal plates and screws (often referred to as instrumentation) to lock the bones in place. The instrumentation is fastened to the vertebrae, where it holds the bones still while the graft heals.
There is often a months long period of rest, rehabilitation and therapy following work-related fusion surgery. During this recovery period workers comp benefits called temporary total disability benefits are due the injured worker if they are off work.
McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have provided successful legal representation for thousands of employees with a work-related cervical or neck injury over the last 37 years of practice. Back and neck injuries are what we do. But make no mistake, every client’s case is unique and has its own specific facts upon which the case can turn. The key is knowing what those issues are and being able to deal with them successfully for the injured worker.