Degenerative Spine Disorders
Degenerative Cervical Spine Disorders
The cervical spine is the most flexible anatomic region in the axial skeleton. Distinct segments of the cervical spine give us the ability to perform complex neck motions like head turning or tilting and to carry weight or absorb impact while protecting the delicate spinal cord and nerve roots that pass through te cervical vertebra. Vital supportive structures of the cervical spine, such as the discs, facet joints, and surrounding ligaments, are subject to repetitive injury and degeneration from normal activities, such as work or sports, and from aging, stress, or trauma.
The Occipito-cervical Junction
Instability in the atlanto-occipital joint results in hyper mobility of the junction between the head and the neck, which can cause severe pain or paralysis. It may result from rheumatoid arthritis or congenital defects that can accelerate degenerative arthropathy. The Neurospinal Disorders Program at UCSF uses the latest developments in imaging, computer-assisted surgery, and instrumentation to provide safer and more-effective decompression and arthrodesis.
The Atlanto-Axial (C1-2) Joint
Chronic C1-2 instability and subsequent joint degeneration is primarily caused by trauma, congenital odontoid insufficiency, or rheumatoid arthritis. Our neurosurgeons have substantial experience with complex surgical procedures, including use of either transarticular screws or pedicle screws to restore stability to this segment without injuring the vertebral arteries.
The Subaxial Cervical Spine
Consequences of instability to the subaxial cervical spine range from radicular pain (sciatica) to severe damage to the spinal cord, depending on the source. Possible causes of subaxial cervical spine injury include disc herniations, stenosis, bone spurs, or trauma. At UCSF, minimally invasive surgery can be performed to decompress the nerve roots. Our surgical team also has expertise in motion-sparing operations such as cervical disc replacement and cervical laminoplasty that make cervical spinal fusion unnecessary.
Degnerative Thoracolumbar Spine Disorders
Degnerative thoracolumbar disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent as patients have longer, healthier, and more active lives. While much of the treatment is non-surgical, there are certain conditions that require surgery. Some degenerative diseases can be easily treated with small, minimally invasive procedures, but others require larger, reconstructive operations. The spine neurosurgeons at UCSF are experienced in treating the entire spectrum of degnerative disorders, and have in-depth knowledge of the success rates of each procedure. This experience enables them to guide patients towards the appropriate treatment based on the entire clinical picture, not just a focal finding.
Thoracolumbar conditions treated include:
• Disc herniations
• Adult scoliosis