Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion – Why it is used, How to Prepare and its Benefits
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), is a minimally invasive spine surgery that involves the removal of an injured or damaged disc in the neck. Removing herniated or degenerative discs helps to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, alleviating uncomfortable symptoms. As indicated by its name, this surgery has two parts. The anterior cervical discectomy is approached through an incision made in the front of the neck to retrieve the affected disc. A bone graft or medical implant is then inserted where the disc originally was, in order to fuse the bones located above and below this area and provide further reinforcement.
Why is ACDF Surgery Performed?
Typically, ACDF surgery is recommended if non-surgical treatments like over-the-counter medications or physical therapy have proven to be ineffective at relieving pain due to pinched nerves in the neck. Some other reasons this procedure may be performed include:
- Diagnostic tests confirm that you have a herniated or degenerative disc
- Herniated discs can release a gel-like liquid that presses on a nerve causing irritation and swelling
- Over time, discs will naturally wear out and bone and joints may become inflamed. Reduced function may develop into more serious conditions.
- Remove bone spurs that pinch your nerves to relieve associated symptoms including weakness and numbness
What to Expect from an ACDF Procedure?
ACDF is a minimally invasive spine surgery that is usually performed as an outpatient procedure but even so, there is some preparation that needs to take place before undergoing this type of operation. Learning about what to expect from the process can help patients feel more comfortable before, during and after the procedure:
- Before the Procedure: Arrive at the clinic a couple of hours prior to surgery in order to fill out any necessary paperwork and perform any pre-procedure testing. An anesthesiologist will meet with you to explain the risks and effects of anesthesia and an IV will be placed in your arm. The surgery will take place under general anesthesia, so you remain asleep for the duration of the procedure.
- During the Procedure: A small cut is made on the throat where your blood vessels, esophagus and trachea are moved aside to access the affected vertebrae. Using specialized tools, bone spurs and damaged discs are removed. A piece of bone is then taken from either somewhere else along your neck or from a donor to fill in the empty space where the disc was removed. A plate and screws made from titanium are attached to the vertebrae above and below the surgical site, your internal systems are put back into place and stitches are used to close up the cut.
- After the Procedure: You will wake up in the recovery room where you will be monitored, and any post-operative pain will be addressed. You will be encouraged to slowly increase your activity level and can usually expect to be sent home on the same day. Pain can be managed with medication and you may experience hoarseness, a sore throat and difficulty swallowing for a few weeks after surgery. Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you notice any signs of infection or have difficulty breathing.
What are the Benefits of ACDF?
The ACDF surgical technique allows the doctor to make as little cuts to the muscles in the neck as possible, which can significantly reduce post-operative pain following the surgery. Some other benefits of this procedure include:
- This form of treatment has a high success rate
- Helps patients regain control of neck and limb movement
- Enhances quality of life by allowing patients to resume normal activities following recovery
- Offers an effective solution for patients living with numbness, low mobility or chronic pain
At Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, our spine surgeons are backed by years of specialized training to handle even the most complex cases. Dr. Adam Lewis has performed over 8000 ACDF procedures since 1990. Book a consultation with him to assess the benefits and risks and determine if ACDF surgery is an appropriate option for you.
Contact us today to learn more about anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and other methods of minimally invasive spine surgery or to schedule a consultation. We’ll find a solution that works for you! Call us at (601) 366-1011.