Fusion Surgery

  • Failure of Fusion: For any fusion procedure, there is a risk of the vertebrae not fusing, known as pseudarthrosis or nonunion.
    • Dr. Bjerke uses advanced bone grafting techniques when possible and careful preparation of bone.

Anterior Cervical Surgery

  • Esophageal or Tracheal Injury: The esophagus and trachea need to be moved to access the front of the spine in the neck. Moving the esophagus may lead to dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. This is rarely permanent.
    • Dr. Bjerke works with the anesthesiologist to reduce the pressure on the esophagus, which has been shown to reduce difficulty swallowing.
  • Vertebral Artery Injury: The arteries that feed the brain run through the cervical spinal column and are at risk during any neck surgery. With careful dissection, this risk is quite low.
    • Dr. Bjerke has trained extensively in this area and always uses a surgical microscope to minimize risk of damage to nerves and arteries in this sensitive area.

Posterior Cervical Surgery

  • Infection: In this area of the spine, the risk of infection is higher.
    • Dr. Bjerke uses additional antibiotic powder in this area to minimize the risk of infection.
  • C5 Palsy: The C5 nerve root, or the nerve that controls the deltoid and biceps muscles, is at increased risk of injury in both anterior and posterior cervical spine surgery.
    • Dr. Bjerke will make additional room for this nerve if needed and will always monitor nerves with intra-operative monitoring during any neck surgery.

Anterior Lumbar Surgery

  • Infection: In this area of the spine, the risk of infection is higher.
    • Dr. Bjerke uses additional antibiotic powder in this area to minimize the risk of infection.
  • Bowel or Vascular Injury: This operation is through the abdomen and places major vessels and gastrointestinal structures at risk.
    • Dr. Bjerke always works with a general or vascular surgeon to approach the spine in this area to minimize these risks.

Lateral Lumbar Surgery (XLIF®)

  • Nerve Damage: Nerves in the lumbar spine exit from the sides. Sometimes, these nerves need to be pushed aside to allow a cage to be placed in the disc space. This damage may result in pain in the front of the legs or weakness extending the knee. It is usually temporary.
    • Dr. Bjerke uses an additional and specialized nerve monitoring system for this procedure.

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