Patients are generally placed in a supine position with the head in an extended position. As noted above, Gardner-Wells tongs can be used for additional cervical traction. The hands can also be tied downward to increase the operative exposure. Once the surgical site is properly prepared with cleansing material, the appropriate surgical level is identified with intraoperative radiographs.
A scalpel is used to make a linear longitudinal incision just medial to the body of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The incision is made long enough to include at least 2 vertebral levels if a 1-level discectomy is being performed. Alternatively, transverse skin incisions over the targeted vertebral level can also be performed. The platysmal muscle is identified and incised. The platysmal incision can be extended if a multilevel decompression is the surgical aim. Extensive subplatysmal dissection is performed to reduce retraction injury.