Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion
An Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion (ACDF) is a surgical procedure that removes part or all of a damaged cervical disc via a one- to two-inch incision in the anterior (front) side of the neck. The surgeon also removes bone spurs and/or pieces of the damaged disc that may be pressing the nerve root or spinal cord. If the disc has collapsed from disease, the vertebrae are moved back into their normal position. Finally, the damaged disc is replaced by a bone graft and fusion.
Conditions Treated by an ACDF
ACDF is appropriate for treating neck conditions that stem from a disc ruptured due to injury or degenerative disc disease. When a disc degenerates, it can herniate. A herniated disc is when the soft, jelly-like interior of the disc escapes its tougher outer coating. A herniated disc can create pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord, causing shoulder, arm or neck pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. In cases where multiple discs are compromised, an ACFD can be performed at more than one level in the spine.
Benefits of an ACDF
If the spinal injury is addressed before the point of irreversible damage, patients tend to heal quickly and experience a significant degree of relief from pain. In fact, one of the most impressive aspects of anterior cervical fusion procedures is that most patients are able to leave the hospital the very next day (or, at least within 2-3 days).
The ACDF Procedure
During the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery, the patient lies on their back. The surgeon makes a small incision in the front of the neck directly over the disc. The small incision creates a pathway to the spine by moving the muscles to the side, somewhat like opening a curtain. This pathway exposes the damaged disc with minimal trauma to the muscle and tissue surrounding the disc.
A discectomy is the removal of a damaged disc. The damaged disc is removed and the pressure it was putting on the spine and nerve root is relieved.
A fusion is a bone graft that forms between two vertebrae. After removing a damaged cervical disc, the surgeon inserts an implant into the space between the vertebrae. The implant may be made from synthetic material or from actual bone. This implant acts as a support between the two vertebrae to hold them in place while they heal.
Finally, the surgeon may need to further strengthen the reconstruction with the addition of a small metal plate and screws. This extra support may be required to aid in bone healing.
Most patients go home after the ACDF surgery with a Band-Aid covering the small incision, while a few stay overnight in the hospital. While each patient is different, complete healing the bone graft and fusion typically takes up to 18 months.
If you have questions about spinal stenosis or the minimally invasive spine procedures offered by DISC of Louisiana, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at one of our clinics across the south Louisiana region.
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