What is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion Procedure?

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 11, 2016

acdf spine surgery

An Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) is a procedure that removes a herniated or degenerative disc from the cervical (neck) region of the spine. The goal is to provide pain relief and improve mobility in the spine. A discectomy can be performed in any region of the spine, but today we’re going to focus on the anterior approach of a cervical discectomy.

ACDF Surgery

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion may sound like a complicated procedure, but it’s pretty straightforward when you break down each individual word. Anterior is another way to say front, cervical speaks to the location of the surgery, and discectomy means “to cut out the disc.” In other words, a damaged disc in the upper portion of your spine will be removed, and the surgeon will access the disc through your front of your neck.

The surgeon performs this operation by making an incision on the front of your neck and slowly moving the neck muscles, trachea and esophagus until the disc and vertebrae are accessible. It may seem like it’s more difficult to access the spine by going through the front of your neck, but this allows the surgeon to reach the spine without interfering with the spinal cord, spinal nerves and the stronger posterior neck muscles. Once the problemed disc is in sight, the surgeon works to remove the disc.

Fusing & Grafting

Here’s where the fusion part of the operation comes in. The surgeon will now need to insert a spacer or graft between the vertebrae to keep them from collapsing. The doctor will insert trial spacers to determine the right fit for the actual spacer. The permanent spacer is then filled with bone products and inserted with special devices to ensure an exact fit. The surgeon then inserts a plate and screws into the location to ensure stability and durability. The surgeon removes his tools and ensures all neck structures are placed back in their correct location before closing the wound and confirming proper placement with an X-ray. After 6 to 9 months, the bone spacer should join the two vertebrae to form one solid piece of bone.

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