Herniated Cervical Disc
A herniated cervical disc is one of the injuries we see most often as personal injury attorneys based in the Washington D.C. area and practicing statewide in Virginia and Maryland. A herniated cervical disc may result from any motor vehicle accident, including a car accident or motorcycle wreck, or a truck, tractor trailer, semi or big rig accident.
The spine contains a row of bones called vertebra, and there are nerves branching out from the vertebrae and the spinal cord to all parts of the body. The vertebra are separated by shock absorbers called intervertebral discs, which are often compared to a jelly donut. The outer layer (the “bread” of the donut) is the annulus fibrosis, a tough tissue comprised of several layers of fibrocartilage containing the nucleus pulposus (the “jelly” of the donut).
There are normally 23 discs in the spine: 6 in the neck (cervical region), 12 in the middle back region, and 5 in the lower back (lumbar region). They are called by letters and numbers according to the location. For example, the disc between the fifth and the sixth cervical vertebrae is designated “C5-6.”
When there is a herniation injury to the disc, the bread of the donut weakens allowing the jelly to protrude outward. There may be a bulge in the disc so that it pinches the nerve causing pain, numbness, and tingling. Often a disc herniation causes disabling pain or the loss of bodily function.
As people age, the annulus fibrosus gets weaker with age and begins to crack, and the nucleus pulposus becomes dehydrate, which limits its ability to absorb shock. These age related changes may not cause any symptoms for many decades until some event such as a car or truck collision causes trauma that aggravates the degenerative condition.
Because a person with age related degeneration may do just fine until trauma causes severe pain, numbness, or loss of bodily functions, we generally address such injuries as a preexisting condition. The few exceptions are when post-accident x-rays, CT scans and MRI images show a fracture of a vertebra.
For patients who have cervical disc herniation injuries due to automobile or truck collisions, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons prescribe conservative treatment, such as a period of physical therapy. If symptoms still persist, they will discuss with the patient surgical options. For cervical (neck) we most often see anterior cervical fusion surgery in which an incision is made in the front of the neck, the disc is removed, replaced with bone tissue (from the patient’s own hip or donor bone tissue), and the vertebra is secured with a metal plate and screws. Sometimes a newer model of flexible artificial disc is used. The surgery usually improves the patient’s quality of life and ability to engage in activities without significant pain.
A herniated cervical or lumbar disc injury is serious and the medical expenses and pain and suffering can be overwhelming. The attorneys at Charles B. Roberts, Personal Injury Attorney, PC, will handle the process of obtaining you full and fair compensation for your injuries, while you are dealing with the medical aspects of your spinal injuries. For a free consultation, call us at (703) 491-7070.