Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
What is anterior cervical discectomy and fusion?
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is surgery to remove a herniated or diseased disc in the neck. The procedure is performed to relieve pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord and eliminate pain. During ACDF, the surgeon makes an incision in the front of the neck to reach the spine. The problematic disc is removed, along with any bone spurs, and the vertebrae are fused together with a bone graft. Typically screws and a titanium plate are used to increase stability between the vertebrae.
Advantages of the anterior approach (from the front) include better access to the cervical spine, less muscle disruption and less post-operative pain.
Who is a good candidate for this procedure?
Candidates for ACDF are those with worsening pain, weakness or instability in the neck, shoulder, arms or hands from a herniated disc or cervical degenerative disc disease. It is important that each patient is carefully screened by a qualified surgeon to determine the most appropriate treatment.
The cervical spine is made up of the first seven vertebrae in the spine. Between each vertebra is a gel-like disc that acts as a shock absorber and provides a cushioning effect to absorb pressure and distribute stress. Cervical disc herniation is a painful rupture of the cartilage of these discs. Wear and tear degeneration is the most common cause. Cervical discs can also be damaged by disease or traumatic injury.
When is surgery recommended?
If you have pain or weakness in your neck, shoulders, arms or hands resulting from a herniated or diseased disc that limits your everyday activities, and conservative measures have failed or symptoms are worsening, you should consider ACDF.
What is the recovery time?
Patients are typically walking the day of surgery and go home the next day. In some cases, patients wear a collar to stabilize the neck and for comfort. Many people are able to resume work and daily activities within a week to two weeks. Those with physically demanding jobs that include lifting and operating heavy machinery may have to wait longer to return to work, typically about six weeks. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.