Occipito-Cervical Fixation (OC Fusion)
This surgical procedure aligns and stabilizes the cervical spine to correct instability at the junction of the spine and skull, which can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, spinal tumors, and spinal trauma.
Anesthesia is administered, and the patient is placed in a face-down position. The surgeon creates an incision from the back of the head down along the back of the neck to expose the skull and spine.
In some cases, the surgeon may perform a laminectomy to relieve compression on the spinal cord before the fixation is created.
Attaching the Skull Plate
The surgeon uses screws to attach a metal plate to the base of the skull. The plate will provide an attachment point for the stabilizing rods. Some rod systems attach directly to the skull without a skull plate.
Attaching the Rods
The surgeon carefully contours a set of stabilizing rods to match or recreate the normal curvature of the cervical spine. The rods are placed on both sides of the rear of the spine and anchored to the skull plate with screws.
Anchoring the Rods
The rods are anchored to the vertebrae with screws, locking the lower end of the system in place and stabilizing the spine. Bone graft harvested from the patient's hip, from a donor, or from bone taken during decompression may be placed along the hardware.
End of Procedure and Aftercare
The incisions are closed and a bandage is applied. A hard collar or halo may be used to stabilize the neck after surgery. Patients may need to be immobilized for 1 to 3 months. Physical therapy may be needed.