Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion requires the removal of diseased or degenerative discs within the cervical spinal vertebrae, as well as the fusion or “welding” of affected discs in order to restore stability and decrease pain caused by motion. If movement is the leading constituent of patient pain as is often the case with cervical pathologies, removal of the affected tissue and limitation of mobility through fusion will effectively treat symptoms.
The anterior approach of this procedure includes several related benefits such as direct surgical access to the intervertebral disc, avoidance of back surgery site repetition preceding or following this surgery, expedited recovery, and lordosis (swayback) for your spine. In addition, nerves are avoided and therefor preserved.
The surgery itself requires approximately 2-3 hours. The first step of this process is the removal of the damaged intervertebral disc, allowing for implantation of medical grade plastic, metal, or bone spacer. This creates a cage between the two adjoining vertebrae. Within the space is bone graft, often taken from the patient’s pelvis. This graft material encourages healing and fusion between the vertebrae. The spacer is then held in place with surgical screws and or a plate. This will sometimes require an additional incision, however in some cases can be achieved through the same incision as the initial procedure.
Most patients regain the ability to walk and stand the day following surgery. Depending on the grade of pain, patients may require a 1-3-day hospital stay. A back brace may be necessary to ensure comfort and stability. While walking and basic exercises are generally acceptable during the first weeks following surgery, strenuous activity such as lifting, twisting, and bending must be avoided. Improvement is typically gradual, however most patients experience benefits anywhere from several weeks to months after surgery.