The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


My doctor tells me I need a “plate” in my neck. Why?

“Plates” are metal brackets which are used to strengthen fusions.

A cervical plate looks similar to the “mending plates” sold in the local hardware store. It is a flat piece of metal with holes for several screws. Cervical plates are now usually made of titanium. The screws, also made of titanium, have lock nuts so that they don’t loosen.

After removing a disc in the neck, one generally replaces the disc. The disc can be replaced with a mechanical device or with a bone spacer. The mechanical device, called an artificial disc, is still experimental and may have significant risk. The bone spacer is simpler and probably safer. It fuses with the neck bones over time. To strengthen the bones after placing the spacer, a “plate” is installed. The “plate” holds everything tightly during healing. The plate doesn’t need to be removed. It will not set off metal detectors in the airport.

The most important question for you may be, “Why do I need any surgery?” Many problems can be treated with conservative measures. Consider a second opinion if you are unsure. 



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

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Last modified: 07/27/08