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.
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.
April 26, 2014
Watch Nicholas M. Wetjen, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon, discuss pediatric cervical spine surgery on YouTube.
- Hervey-Jumper SL, et al. Neurological management of congenital malformations and inherited disease of the spine. Neuroimaging Clinics of North America. 2011;21:719.
- Wetjen NM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 30, 2013.
- AskMayoExpert. What is the management protocol for a pediatric cervical spine injury? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Rozzelle CJ, et al. Management of pediatric cervical spine and spinal cord injuries. Neurosurgery. 2013;72:205.