Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, commonly referred to as ACDF, is a procedure used to treat chronic pain in the neck. Our physicians may recommend the ACDF procedure if patients feel numbness and tingling as a result of pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord. A discectomy is done to remove the damaged spinal disc and then spinal fusion is done to stabilize the discs by surgically adding a bone graft to the cervical spine.
For this procedure, the surgeon will take the anterior approach, meaning that the incision will be made towards the front of the neck. This approach allows the surgeon to have a more direct path to the spine and reduce the amount of tissue that is cut during the procedure. Before the minimally invasive procedure, the area will be cleansed and you will be put under anesthesia. The surgeon will begin by removing parts of the disc that are pressing into the nerve. After decompressing the nerve, the surgeon inserts a bone graft. The bone graft serves as a filler in place of the missing disc and is used to stabilize the spine, keeping the vertebra from moving.
After the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure, the incision will be stitched up and bandages may need to be worn for a few days. Patients should avoid submerging the area in water and always wash their hands before touching the wound. Patients should rest at first, and then gradually increase physical activity. Your physician may recommend physical therapy around 4-6 weeks after the procedure. Physical therapy will usually start out with light stretches to strengthen the muscles of the neck. As a result, patients may experience an improved range of motion and may experience even greater pain relief following their sessions with a physical therapist. Recovery time varies from patient to patient, so the physician can provide more exact information about post-operative timelines during follow up visits. Some patients may be concerned about traveling after an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion because metal is often inserted between the discs for stability. While patients may want to advise airport security personnel, our physicians note that the type of metal used in the spine are not usually detected by metal detectors at airports and events.