Upper cervical anterior diskectomy and fusion improves discogenic cervical headaches

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2002 Oct 15;27(20):2240-4. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200210150-00011.


Study design: Retrospective patient identification and prospective data collection were performed.

Objective: To evaluate the outcome of anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion for discogenic cervical headaches.

Summary of background data: Cervicogenic headaches affect up to 2.5% of the population. One cause is discogenic pain. Because anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion may improve neck pain, the effect of this procedure on discogenic cervical headaches was evaluated.

Methods: Nine patients with severe refractory cervicogenic headaches who underwent anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion of the upper cervical discs were retrospectively identified on the basis of clinical, radiographic, and diskography findings. Pain was measured by a numerical rating scale, and function by the Oswestry Disability Index.

Results: The study involved six women and three men with a mean age of 52 (range, 35-72 years) and a mean follow-up period of 37 months (range, 24-49 months). Anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion was performed at both C2-C3 and C3-C4 in seven patients, at C2-C3 in one patient, and at C2-C3, C3-C4, and C4-C5 in one patient. Associated symptoms included nausea, arm pain, dizziness, and visual disturbances. All the patients improved. All stated that they would have the same surgery again for the same outcome. The mean numerical rating score improved from 8 (range, 5-10) to 2.7 (range, 0-7) ( < 0.001), and five patients (56%) had total headache relief. The mean Oswestry Disability Index improved from 62 (range, 42-87) to 35 (range, 2-82) ( < 0.009). The associated symptoms resolved in all the patients. There was early moderate to severe dysphagia in three patients, and mild dysphagia in four patients. At the final follow-up assessment, five patients evidenced mild dysphagia.

Conclusions: Anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion appears to be quite effective for discogenic cervical headache, but should be reserved for patients who are extremely impaired and refractory to all other treatments.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Deglutition Disorders / etiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Diskectomy* / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Headache / etiology
  • Headache / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / drug therapy
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / surgery
  • Neck* / surgery
  • Patient Selection
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion* / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid