Potential intra-operative risks

All operations carry risks

Like any other operation, neck hernia operations carry certain risks. However, complications are highly unlikely to occur. After all, neck hernia operations are carried out many times a year at Bergman Clinics.

In rare cases, a nerve serving the patient’s voice box may be damaged, which may cause the patient’s voice to be hoarse, either temporarily or permanently. Inflammation, haemorrhaging or subsequent bleeding may occur, as well, but these complications are likewise very rare. In addition, the sac holding the cerebrospinal fluid may spring a slight leak. This is completely harmless, although the tear must be sealed during the procedure to stop it from continuing to leak. A sealed sac always heals and patients hardly ever notice it tore in the first place. This complication, too, is highly unlikely to occur.

Since the arm nerve in the spinal canal is literally being released during the operation, there is a (very limited) chance that the person performing the surgery will cause even more damage to the nerve, which means the patient may have more pain after the operation than before. Generally, such additional symptoms will subside after a while, but in very rare cases, a little residual damage may remain. Unfortunately, this cannot be completely prevented from happening.

An even more rare complication that has been reported in the past is damage to the oesophagus. This is a severe complication requiring immediate follow-up. Since the spinal cord is located right next to the neck hernia, the spinal cord may sustain damage during the procedure. However, chances of this happening are negligible.

Hernia recurrence

Generally speaking, 8 to 9 out of 10 patients are satisfied with the results of their neck hernia surgery. Neck hernias never recur in the same spot and on the same side of the spine, as the entire affected intervertebral disc is removed during this procedure.

New hernias may occur in other parts of the spine. It is said that the adjacent vertebrae and discs carry a heavier load following the operation, which may promote the onset of problems in these adjacent body parts. However, in actual fact, this hardly ever occurs.

What is fairly common is patients experiencing both neck and spinal hernias, as the same degenerative process is at work in both the neck and the spine. After the operation, the pain radiating down the arm will be much less intense or gone completely. However, patients will experience tingling or numbness in one arm or hand following the operation. This will generally subside in the year following the operation, but may linger in some people. The neck pain, too, may persist after the operation, and may actually get worse for a little while. After all, a part of your spine just underwent surgery, and the wound in your neck is still ‘fresh’.

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