My sister had a neck fusion and now tells me she has weakness and a heavy sensation in her arms. They call the problem myelopathy. Will this ever go away for her?
Myelopathy refers to any problem affecting the spinal cord. this problem may be caused by pressure on the spinal cord after trauma or related to degenerative processes in the spine.
Sometimes myelopathy is a symptom of an unstable cervical spine. Surgery is needed to fuse and restabilize the affected segment. Myelopathy present before surgery is a known risk factor for a greater chance of problems after surgery.
New onset of myelopathy after surgery can be caused by swelling, prolonged position during neck surgery, or many days in the hospital following fusion surgery. The symptoms of myelopathy may disappear over time if the cause of the problem is eliminated. For example, swelling can be reduced with antiinflammatory medication.
It sounds like your sister has told the surgeon about this new symptom. If anything changes to make it worse, a follow-up visit is needed. The surgeon will be able to advise your sister about the cause, treatment, and future expectations (prognosis). There's a very good chance that the feelings of weakness and heavy sensation are transient, meaning that they are temporary and will gradually go away in time.
Mohammed F. Shamji, MD, MSc, et al. Impact of Surgical Approach on Complications and Resource Utilization of Cervical Spine Fusion: A Nationwide Perspective to the Surgical Treatment of Diffuse Cervical Spondylosis. In The Spine Journal. January 2009. Vol. 9. No. 1. Pp. 31-38.
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