Pediatric cervical spine surgery is a treatment option for children who have cervical spine injuries or abnormalities. Cervical spine injuries may occur in birth trauma, motor accidents or other trauma. Cervical spine abnormalities may occur when bone abnormalities present at birth (congenital) compress the skull on the brainstem or upper cervical spinal cord. This compression may cause abnormal development or spine destabilization. Pediatric cervical spine abnormalities are uncommon, but often occur in children who have Down syndrome, various forms of dwarfism, Klippel-Feil syndrome or bone disorders.

In pediatric cervical spine surgery, a surgeon removes the bony structures or abnormalities pressing on your child's brainstem or spinal cord. Surgery may help to prevent long-term loss of neurological function, deformity and chronic pain.

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At Mayo Clinic, a surgeon trained in treating children who have brain or nervous system conditions (pediatric neurosurgeon) and other doctors evaluate your child and determine whether cervical spinal surgery is the most appropriate treatment.

Your treatment team will discuss your child's condition and treatment options with you. Pediatric cervical spine surgery can be challenging because children have smaller bones and surgeons must account for a child's future growth and development. Mayo Clinic surgeons have experience performing pediatric cervical spine surgery.

Surgeons may approach the spinal cord or brainstem through your child's mouth (transoral approach), through an incision in the front or back of the neck or through an incision in the back. In the transoral approach, surgeons sometimes use a flexible tube with a camera at the tip (endoscope) to conduct the procedure. Surgeons determine which surgical approach is most appropriate depending on the location of the bone abnormalities. Surgeons remove bony structures or small pieces of bone pressing on the front or back of the spinal cord or brainstem (decompression).

If your child's spine is unstable after the bony structures are removed, surgeons may insert plates, screws or bone grafts to help stabilize the spine. Surgeons may use bone grafts from another part of your child's body or from donated bone.

Pediatric cervical spine surgery may help prevent progression of neurological symptoms caused by cervical spine injuries or abnormalities, stabilize your child's condition, and help improve your child's condition.

Feb. 01, 2011