Category: Minimally Invasive Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 2, 2015
Lately we’ve been talking a lot about ACDF surgery (see our previous blogs on swallowing after ACDF, and voice recovery after ACDF). Today we’re going to take yet another look at this procedure – this time in the context of numbness. We are going to discuss the causes of numbness after an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, and highlight when numbness is normal, and when it’s cause for concern.
ACDF stands for Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. In simple terms, ACDF is a surgery in which a spinal disc is removed from the neck and the surrounding vertebrae are fused together using hardware and/or a bone graft. This procedure (along with all other spine surgery procedures) requires the surgeon to navigate delicately around, and between nerves and muscles. After the procedure, the surgical area will remain inflamed as the body heals itself. This inflammation can impact the nerves and cause some numbness. Typically this is nothing to be concerned about. However, there are instances in which something more serious is causing the numbness.
When to be Concerned
Numbness after spine surgery is frightening for most patients. Many go into a minimally invasive procedure with the goal of reducing pain and preventing numbness and nerve damage. When numbness crops up after a spine procedure, it is quite scary indeed.
With that said, let me alleviate your fears by saying that some numbness following spine surgery is quite normal. Inflammation around the surgical area can cause numbness for days and even weeks after surgery. This is nothing to be worried about and the numbness should resolve on its own when the inflammation subsides. In some scenarios, numbness can be cause for immediate concern, particularly if the numbness progressively worsens over time or if it comes coupled with loss of bladder control. This can indicate nerve damage.
Contact your spine specialist if you have numbness that does not resolve or gets worse after several months post-op.