Department of  Neurosurgery
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Cervical Deformity

Cervical Deformity
Cervical deformity before surgery; post-surgery correction of cervical deformity

Washington University spinal neurosurgeons provide comprehensive treatment for all spinal deformities, including diseases leading to deformities of the cervical spine.

Conditions & Treatments

Deformity of the cervical spine typically results in an abnormal position of the head relative to the chest and shoulders. While this is usually cosmetically bothersome to a person, cervical deformity also can result in difficulty swallowing and breathing, and can severely disrupt the person’s ability to perform normal tasks such as driving, eating and reading.

The most common causes of cervical deformity are

  • Degenerative - progressive collapse of the intervertebral discs and/or vertebrae
  • Post-traumatic - resulting from injury
  • Inflammatory - due to certain inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis

Cervical deformities are categorized in two primary ways

  1. Fixed — meaning that the deformity is rigid regardless of patient position
  2. Reducible — meaning that the deformity is flexible. 

Depending on whether it is fixed or reducible, the deformity may require surgery from the front of the neck, the back of the neck, or sometimes multiple stages from both the front and back.

Surgical treatment of a cervical deformity can pose a substantial risk of spinal cord injury. It is critical to seek the expertise of an experienced surgeon. Washington University spinal neurosurgeons have extensive experience in these procedures. In fact, other spine surgeons in the region frequently refer patients with cervical deformities to our team of specialists.

We use the most advanced techniques, ranging from minimally invasive approaches to the most aggressive osteotomies and reconstructions, in order to tailor an appropriate treatment for each patient. Our surgeons take a comprehensive approach to the health of the whole patient, so that each individual receives the care he or she needs.



On average, 900 cervical patients are seen annually.