Pediatric cervical spine surgery is a treatment option for children who have injuries or abnormalities in the neck portion of the spine (cervical spine).

Cervical spine injuries may occur at birth or result from a car accident or other trauma. Cervical spine abnormalities are usually present at birth (congenital). These abnormalities are rare, occurring most often in children who have Down syndrome, various forms of dwarfism, Klippel-Feil syndrome or bone disorders.

If your child has a cervical spine injury or abnormality, bony structures may press the skull against the brainstem or upper part of the spinal cord. This compression can cause abnormal brain development or spine problems.

In pediatric cervical spine surgery, a surgeon removes the bony structures or abnormalities that are compressing your child's brainstem or spinal cord. Surgery can help prevent deformity, chronic pain and loss of nerve function.

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Pediatric cervical spine surgery can be challenging because children's bones are small, and surgeons must account for the child's future growth and development. At Mayo Clinic, a pediatric neurosurgeon discusses treatment options with you.

The most appropriate surgical approach depends on the location of the bone injury or abnormality. The surgeon may recommend approaching the spinal cord or brainstem:

  • Through the mouth (transoral approach). A flexible tube with a camera at the tip (endoscope) may be used.
  • Through an incision in the neck, either in the front or back.
  • Through an incision in the back.

During the procedure, the surgeon will remove bony structures or small pieces of bone that are pressing on your child's brainstem or spinal cord.

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

  • Experience. Mayo Clinic specialists have experience performing cervical spine surgery on children. Each year, Mayo surgeons perform more than 40 of these procedures.
  • Expertise. At Mayo Clinic surgeons specializing in children's brain and spine disorders (pediatric neurosurgeons) work with orthopedic surgeons and pediatricians to treat children with cervical spine problems.
  • Technology. Mayo Clinic surgeons use the latest techniques for cervical spine surgery, including minimally invasive approaches and detailed imaging during surgery to guide the procedure.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for neurology and neurosurgery and among the Best Hospitals for orthopedics in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Specialists in neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota perform pediatric cervical spine surgery.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Please refer to the international appointment section to request appointments via phone.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic researchers are working to improve the evaluation and treatment of pediatric cervical spine injuries and abnormalities. Read more about neurosurgery research at Mayo Clinic.

See a list of publications on epilepsy by Mayo Clinic doctors on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

  1. Nicholas M. Wetjen, M.D.
Apr. 26, 2014