Anterior Cervical Discectomy

Anterior Cervical Discectomy is a procedure that removes a damaged intervertebral disc/gel from the spine in the neck, using a surgical approach from the front of the neck.

An anterior cervical discectomy is often performed along with fusion to ensure spinal stability. Fusion is the implantation of a bone graft that will fuse (grow together) with vertebrae (bones of the spine) in the area with implantation of screws and plates. An Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion is often abbreviated ACDF.

When is this procedure performed?

  • In conditions that affect the amount of space available for the spinal cord and nerves such as slip disc in the neck, OPLL, degenerative stenosis. As a result, the spinal cord and nerves can become compressed (pinched), and even injured.
  • Surgery is typically the recommended treatment when the spinal cord is at risk of damage. Surgery may also be warranted for those patients who do not find relief with nonoperative treatment.

How is this procedure performed?

This procedure is performed under general anesthesia.

  • An incision is taken on the front of the neck on the left/right side, soft tissues dissected to expose the anterior spine. The damaged disc(s) and any bone spurs are removed reducing the pressure from the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Next, a very thin titanium plate and screws is used to fix the bones (hold them in place). The implantation of titanium hardware (the fixation) provides spinal stability as the cage fuses (grows together) with the adjacent bones. Once the bones have fused, the spine is stable.
  • The incision is closed with sutures underneath the skin and dressed with a small gauze bandage.

What should I expect after the procedure?

Is the Anterior approach is safe?

  • Yes. Anterior approach is safe and it takes place through natural planes in the soft tissues.

How long will I stay in the hospital?

  • Patients are usually discharged from the hospital the day after surgery. A follow up visit is scheduled on 10thday and at 3months. At the 3rd month follow up visit, X-rays are done to monitor the bones are healing.

Will I need to take any special medications?

  • The surgeon will typically prescribe oral pain medications to be taken at home.

Will I need to wear a collar?

  • The fixation provides immediate stability, so a collar may not be required in routine circumstances. Collar may be required for travelling purposes.

When can I resume exercise?

  • Patients are usually encouraged to increase their activities as they are able to tolerate, but should refrain from strenuous or high-impact exercise until cleared by the surgeon.

Will I need rehabilitation or physical therapy?

  • Physical therapy that focuses on the neck may commence at either 6 or 12 weeks following the surgery, once the bone graft is sufficiently healed.

Will I have any long-term limitations due to an anterior cervical discectomy?

  • There are no long-term limitations due to this procedure.