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Scheduled for Surgery

Weighing up the risks and benefits

Surgery is a major undertaking. It is important you understand the risks and benefits of an operation. This page will cover some of the key aspects.

What are the intended benefits?

The main objectives of surgery are to help with arm pain and to stop the worsening of any disability.

Of the people who are experiencing pain in their neck and arm 90 to 95% can expect relief from their arm pain if they have surgery. Neck pain is less responsive to surgery.

People with disability about 60% can expect improvement, 30% will find their condition stabilises but does not improve and less than 10% will find that their condition continues to deteriorate. It is good news that less than 1% will feel worse as a direct consequence of the operation.

What are the risks involved?

With any operation there are risks involved. These can be categorised as risks due to the surgery and risks due to having general anaesthesia.

Risks due to Surgery

‚ÄčIncluding, but not limited to:


  • Neck Pain (related to surgical process, tends to improve within 1-4 weeks)


  • Infection
  • Bleeding, including a clot forming at the surgical site requiring re-operation to remove.

Extremely Uncommon

  • Injury to the spinal cord, causing short term or long-term nerve damage including paralysis
  • Problems associated with a stay in hospital: Deep vein thrombosis [DVT] and pulmonary embolism.
  • Death
Risks due to General Anaesthesia

Including, but not limited to:

Common [1-10% patients]

  • Nausea (tends to settle within 1-3 days)
  • Sore throat (related to insertion of an artificial airway whilst asleep, tend to settle within 1-3 days)


  • Damage to teeth
  • Existing medical condition getting worse (e.g. lung or heart disease)

Extremely Uncommon

  • Allergy
  • Awareness (waking up during the operation)
  • Heart attack or Stroke
  • Death

What are the alternative options?

CSM symptoms in approximately 70% of individuals deteriorate over a five-year period. Surgery is the only known option to halt the disease progression. However, surgery is not beneficial for all patients, nor all symptoms.

Most surgeons agree that in the presence of symptoms such as arm weakness, numbness or in-coordination, then surgery is required to attempt to improve those symptoms and prevent progression because if left alone, cord compression can progress, potentially leading to symptoms such as paralysis.

If you have any concerns about anything discussed above, you should raise them with your surgeon.