Re: herneated disc on C7, surgery to prevent nerve dying?
Not knowing how much you know about neck anatomy, let me explain what is going on(what I presume is going on) so you can talk about it with some understanding.
The C6-7 vertebrae are at the bottom of the neck and the nerves that exit go out to your arms but also feed all the way down to the fingers...important area. Between the 2 vertebrae is a disk that acts as a cushion and as we age, it gets drier, shrinks and is liable to tear(herniate). When it does that(through age or injury)the disk material can come in contact with the nerves that are peeling off the spinal cord. At each vertebra, a pair of spinal nerves peels off the cord and go out to the body...1 to the right and one to the left side. They exit the spinal cord canal through small holes they call foramina. Since this is a "fixed" point of exit, this is where all the trouble is as the nerves can't move away from the trouble. So if the disk just so happens to tear and bulge out in the area of these holes, the nerve is trapped between the rock(disk) and the hard place(bone)...literally.
So the problem can be alleviated in 2 main ways...one...they make the hole bigger so the nerve can move away from the disk material(foraminotomy done from the back) or two...they go in from the front and remove the entire disk, insert something to take it's place(usually bone grafts) and then they hold the 2 vertebrae together with screws and plates until the bone grows and fuses them together(ACDF done from the front).
If the disk material is also touching the spinal cord, they may do a "laminoplasty" as well where the back of the vertebra is opened and re-shaped to make more room for the cord...but they don't do this with the C7 vertebra(or at least they shouldn't...C6 yes). Also done from the back.
The least intrusive of these is the foraminotomy and it will not destabilize the neck further but alleviate the problem. HOWEVER, as with so many of the neck problems...it can return. Since the disk is still there, it may move further and then you'd have to address the problem again. But even the ACDF with the disk removal may mean more surgery as it destabilizes the neck and you often end up with the fusion having to be "enlarged" and the go back and remove more and move disks and fuse more and more vertebrae. Even the laminoplasty can end up with additional surgery. Any of them can can end up needing more.
Anyone tells you it is a permanent fix and they aren't being honest.
So now, Rbeck, think of what you'd like to ask the doc and tell us what it is and we'll try to guide you on what else to ask or what to expect for an answer.