Everything You Need to Know About Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion; ACDF Surgery

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a surgery that you get to help eliminate or reduce chronic pain in the back and neck that relates to disc problems. During anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, your surgeon will remove a herniated or degenerative disc from your neck.

Once the surgeon gets the damaged disc out, they’ll then fuse your bones together. The surgery is an anterior one because your surgeon will go in through the front of your neck to get to the disc. If you’d like to know more, this guide will outline everything you need to know below.

Defining Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

There is a cushion located between each bone in your spinal column. This area is an intervertebral disc. The function of these discs is to stop your bones from rubbing against one another. They also act like small shock absorbers during exercise, falls, or routine activity.

These discs can get damaged, and this can cause a range of pain. You could experience moderate or intense pain levels when they get damaged. Your discs have to be between one of the seven cervical bones for the ACDF surgery to take place.

Generally speaking, it’s much easier for your surgeon to reach your spinal column by going through the throat. If they enter through your back, they can damage the neck muscles and your spinal column by accident. The surgeon will move your throat and neck tissue out of the way to get to your spine and remove any damaged discs.

The surgeon also usually fuses two bones before the surgery is over to ensure that the bones don’t rub against one another without the cushion between them and to keep the spine in alignment. This is the point where your surgeon will replace the disc, and there are a few options available:

  • Arthroplasty – If the surgeon uses an artificial disc to replace your damaged disc, you’ll have this procedure.
  • Bone Graft – If you have a bone graft, your surgeon will attach bone to the area of the damaged disc to replace it. You could get the bone from a bone bank, or it could come from somewhere in your body.
  • Bone Graft Substitute – This is very similar to a traditional bone graft. However, it uses materials that are human-made and contain bone shavings from your bones.

Once the surgeon has the replacement disc in the correct space, they’ll put a titanium plate with screws into the area to attach your bones. If you get a bone graft, the bones will slowly grow together. The plate and screws will stay in to help stabilize your spine until the bones fuse. The surgeon can use an x-ray machine to ensure everything is correct. When they finish the ACDF surgery, they’ll move your throat and neck tissue back into place before sealing the area with stitches.

Why Get Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Surgery?

The discs in your spinal column usually allow you to move comfortably. However, injuries, age, and some degenerative conditions like arthritis can slowly damage these discs. They can dry out, thin, bulge, or swell. In turn, you don’t get enough cushion to move comfortably. If they herniate, they’ll swell and break open. The pain can cause your muscles to feel sore or stiff, and it can radiate to other areas. If this happens, you can experience shoulder pain, back pain, or headaches.

Surgery Expectations

This is typically an outpatient surgery, and you’ll most likely go home the same day of the surgery. You’ll get general anesthesia before the surgery, and this means that you’ll be asleep while they operate. After you have the surgery, it’s common to experience pain.

Recovery can take up to several weeks, and you might have to wear a collar to help stabilize your neck until you heal. Following the surgery, you’ll meet with your surgeon once within four to six weeks to have an assessment. You shouldn’t do any strenuous activity until your surgeon clears you.

Recovery Period

Most people are allowed to drive one or two weeks after surgery, but you’ll need between four and six weeks to heal completely. You can have physical therapy appointments after you have your follow-up visit. Physical therapy can help reduce pain while restoring mobility. You could have chronic stiffness, or you could recover fully and get a full range of motion with little to no pain.

Benefits of ACDF

There are several benefits that come with having this surgery, and this is why it’s so popular. They include but are not limited to:

  • Minimally Invasive – This is a minimally-invasive surgery that uses small incisions to complete it. This reduces your chances of complications like infections.
  • Reduces Pain – Chronic pain can be debilitating, and this surgery can help reduce the pain you feel. It can also reduce your stiffness levels, and you can go on to live a more fulfilling life.
  • Restores Range of Motion – Many people get a better range of motion with this surgery. They can move their neck or back without experiencing a lot of stiffness and pain.
  • Short Downtime – Even though the complete healing process can take up to six weeks from the date of the surgery, you have a relatively short downtime. You typically go home on the day of the surgery, and you can drive within a week or two. You do have to be careful with strenuous work.

Contact Florida Spine Associates for Information Regarding Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Surgery

If you think that ACDF surgery can improve your life, contact us. Our staff is ready to answer your questions, set up a consultation appointment, and help you find the best treatment option for your needs.