I've heard there’s a new way to treat cervical spine collapse with titanium cages. What’s the downside of this surgery?

Since the mid-1990s surgeons have been using mesh cages filled with bone chips to replace collapsing bones. These cages offer immediate support. However, they aren’t without some problems.

Studies of patients receiving titanium cages show a high complication rate. As many as one-third of all patients have trouble after the operation. In some cases, the cages move or the screws loosen. There can be wound infection, nerve damage, or serious blood loss. Paralysis or even death can occur.

Some patients complain that they can feel the plate that holds the cages in place. Others have injuries to the esophagus or vocal cords. Doctors report that various problems are more likely to occur when more than two levels of bone are removed. Removing only part of the vertebra is another cause of problems.

Researchers will continue to look for ways to improve this operation or find another method of treatment.