What is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion (ACDF)?
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a surgery developed to remove a herniated or degenerative disc in the neck, and fuse together the bones above and below the disc. ACDF surgery may be recommended if physical therapy or medications fail to relieve chronic pain caused by pinched nerves.
A herniated disc is a very common condition in which the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing. A degenerative disc is a condition of the discs between vertebrae with loss of cushioning, fragmentation and herniation that is seen in advanced age due to wear and tear on the spine.
A discectomy can be performed anywhere along the spine from the neck (cervical) to the low back (lumbar). The surgeon reaches the damaged disc from the front (anterior) of the spine through the throat area. By moving aside the neck muscles, trachea, and esophagus, the disc and bony vertebrae are exposed. Surgery from the front of the neck is more accessible than from the back (posterior) because the disc can be reached without disturbing the spinal cord, spinal nerves, and the strong neck muscles.
After fusion surgery, loss of range of motion is to be expected depending on amount involved in the fusion. Most herniated discs heal after a few months of nonsurgical treatment. Your doctor may recommend treatment options, but only you can decide whether surgery is right for you.
Is Discectomy Right for You?
You may be a candidate for discectomy if you have:
- A herniated or degenerative disc
- Significant weakness in your hand or arm
- Arm pain that is worse than neck pain
- Symptoms that fail to improve with physical therapy or medication
ACDF may be helpful in treating the following conditions:
- Bulging and herniated disc: gel-like material within the disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the surrounding wall, while irritation and swelling occurs when this material presses on a nerve.
- Degenerative disc disease: as discs naturally wear out, bone spurs form and the facet joints inflame. The discs dry out and shrink, losing their flexibility and cushioning properties, and the disc spaces get smaller.
Post Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion (ACDF) Care
Most patients who have had a 1 or 2 level ACDF and experience no complications are sent home the same day.