Nationally recognized surgeon explains Peyton Manning's neck surgery

Dr. Rick Sasso is a nationally recognized cervical spine expert

INDIANAPOLIS - The procedure Thursday marks the third on Peyton Manning's neck in just 15 months. Nationally recognized cervical spine expert Dr. Rick Sasso explained more about the surgery and a typical recovery time.

The Colts' quarterback took a new approach to fix his neck this time. After consulting with physicians, he changed direction and went forward with an operation called a single level anterior fusion: a fix from the front.

Dr. Rick Sasso with the Indiana Spine Group has performed more than 1,000 of these procedures. He says that for most patients, the data to date overwhelmingly points to its success.

"The disc herniation is on the front of the nerve, so we go in through the front, take the pressure off the nerve, and then we distract that disc space where it belongs.  We also open the tunnel where the nerve runs out  and then we keep it in that position with a little bone graft. And you usually put a little plate across that section so people can move their neck right away and get back to doing their normal activities very quickly," he said.

Sasso says it's routine and highly reliable.

It's the exact same procedure we documented when our Eyewitness News colleague Scott Swan had spine surgery four years ago. The procedure was outpatient, and Scott was heading home in four hours. Scott was encouraged to start moving the next day, but getting back on the football field is longer recovery.

"Most of the time we allow our patients to do aerobic strengthening exercises right away," said Dr. Sasso "But before we do a collision activity we want to make sure that the fusion is healed and again that's at the minimum 3 to 4 months."

That timetable takes most of the current NFL season.