Anterior Cervical Fusion

As we age, discs in our spine may get injured or worn down. This can lead to pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness in the arms, neck pain, and upper back pain. When traditional therapies and medications fail to relieve neck or arm pain caused by pinched nerves or diseased discs, your doctor may recommend anterior cervical fusion.

 

What is anterior cervical fusion?

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a minimally invasive neck surgery that relieves spinal cord and nerve root pressure by removing a herniated or damaged disc. As a result, the pain, weakness, numbness and tingling associated with diseased discs are all likely to be relieved by this treatment.

The surgery consists of two parts: an anterior cervical discectomy where an incision is made through the front of the neck (anterior) instead of the back of the neck (posterior) to reach and remove the diseased disc. The second part is the fusion surgery. The fusion is done at the same time as the discectomy surgery and involves placing a bone graft or implant in the removed disc’s place in order to provide stability to the affected area. Spine surgeons prefer the anterior approach as it provides access to the spine in a more straightforward pathway. Patients tend to have less pain at the incision site than in the posterior version of the surgery.

Why might I need anterior cervical fusion?

Your doctor may recommend anterior cervical discectomy and fusion as surgery for neck to remove bone spurs that pinch your nerves. Treating the compressed nerve with ACDF surgery can provide great relief to pain, numbness, and weakness. A herniated, bulging, or degenerative disc may also cause discomfort and moderate to severe pain. Many diseased discs heal within weeks or months of non-surgical interventions, but surgery may be required for those who have persistent pain and discomfort. Anterior cervical fusion may provide relief from:

 

– Herniated disc

– Bulging disc

– Degenerative disc disease

– Bone spurs

 

The primary goal of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is to relieve neck pain and pressure in the spinal cord.

 

What can I expect during and after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion?  

The patient is given anesthesia and does not feel pain or discomfort during the procedure. An incision is made in front of the neck. With this approach, one or more cervical discs can be accessed. Once the disc is removed, the space is empty. The affected nerve root is decompressed, and a spacer is put in place of the disc. A bone graft from the patient’s hip is shaped and inserted into the space between the vertebrae, followed by a plate and screws that will provide stability during the fusion. Patients typically leave the hospital the same day as the surgery, with some requiring one night in the hospital.


What are the complications of an ACDF?

All surgeries come with some risk. General complications of any surgery include bleeding, infection and reactions to the anesthesia. A common complication after surgery is difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia. The condition usually resolves in a few days, but there is a risk it could last weeks or months. Risks can be minimized by choosing an experienced surgeon and adhering to your surgeon’s pre and post-operative instructions.

 

What is the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion recovery period? 

Patients are expected to fully recover within 4 to 6 weeks, with some able to return to daily activities within a few weeks. An x-ray will be taken at follow up to determine that the fusion is taking place. Even though patients may begin to feel better, the fusion may take a full year to 18 months to heal into one solid, cohesive bone. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy after your neck has completed the healing process. Success rates range from 85-95%, with most patients reporting a reduction of arm and neck pain.

When traditional treatment methods are ineffective, surgical intervention may be necessary. Using state of the art technology, many surgeries are now completed through smaller and less painful incisions. We are now offering minimally invasive spine surgery at Performance Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine. For more information about Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and to take the first step to living your life fully without pain please call one of our Patient Care Coordinators at 908-754-1960 or book a consultation with our highly recognized Neurosurgeon today!