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.


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.

  • Team approach. At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, doctors trained in treating children who have brain and nervous system conditions (pediatric neurosurgeons and pediatric neurology), musculoskeletal conditions (pediatric orthopedic surgery) and other medical conditions (pediatrics) and doctors trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation work together to evaluate pediatric cervical spine abnormalities and provide the most appropriate treatment for your child. Staff cares for children requiring hospitalization in the Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
  • Experience. Doctors at Mayo Clinic have experience in treating rare cervical spine abnormalities and other neurological conditions in children. Doctors and surgeons provide the most current treatment options for children, including minimally invasive and endoscopic surgery.
  • Technology. Mayo Clinic doctors and surgeons use the latest technology during pediatric cervical spine surgery, including detailed intraoperative image guidance.
  • Research. Mayo Clinic researchers conduct studies to determine the most appropriate evaluation and treatment approaches for pediatric cervical spine abnormalities.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for neurology and neurosurgery and for orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., are 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.

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.

Researchers conduct ongoing research in the evaluation and treatment of pediatric cervical bone abnormalities, pediatric cervical spine surgery and other types of pediatric neurosurgery. Mayo Clinic researchers are members of the Pediatric Craniocervical Society, a national group coordinating data related to pediatric spinal disease to learn more about these conditions and determine how to treat these conditions. Read more about neurosurgery research on the research website.

Feb. 01, 2011