What Is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)?

The anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery is performed to remove a herniated or degenerative disc in the cervical area (neck) of the spine. Once healed, a majority of patients experience pain relief in their arm and neck.

The incision is made in the front (anterior) of the neck near the throat. Once the disc has been removed, a bone graft is placed in order to fuse the bones above and below where the disc was previously.

With this surgery from Orlando Orthopaedic Center, patients typically go home the same or next day with recovery lasting about four weeks.

What is An Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)?

A discectomy denotes a removal of a disc in the spine. This removal can take place anywhere along the spine, from the neck (cervical) to the lower back (lumbar). When a spine surgeon reaches the disc to be removed from the front, it’s known as an anterior approach. When removed from the front, the surgeon can complete the procedure without disturbing the spinal cord, nerves and neck muscles found at the back (posterior) of the neck.

Once the herniated or degenerative disc is removed from the cervical spine, the space between the vertebrae above and below where the disc once sat is empty. In order to stabilize the cervical segment and prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together or collapsing, a bone graft is inserted into the space with metal plates and screws. This serves as a “bridge” between the two vertebrae to create a spinal fusion as the bones heal around the graft.

After three to six months, the bone graft will join the two vertebrae together and form a solid piece of bone.

Who is a Candidate for Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) Surgery?

Candidates for anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery typically have ongoing arm and neck pain. Once all conservative treatment methods have been exhausted, consult with your spine surgeon to determine if an ACDF procedure is right for you.

Patients who may experience relief from an ACDF spine surgery often have:

  • Herniated or degenerative discs
  • Weakness in their hand or arm
  • More arm pain than neck pain
  • Not seen improvement with physical therapy and/or medication

Be sure to consider all risks and benefits of spine surgery before making your decision. Only about 10 percent of people with herniated disc issues have enough pain after six weeks of conservative (nonsurgical) treatment to consider spine surgery.

What Should I Expect After an Anterior Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) Surgery?

Recovery time once you are released from the surgical facility typically lasts four to six weeks. You will visit with your spine surgeon again four weeks after surgery for your initial follow-up appointment. At that time, your surgeon will check to make sure fusion is occurring and answer any questions you may have about the recovery process.

As you heal, you will be instructed to wear a cervical collar to limit motion and provide support. Once your neck has healed, your surgeon will prescribe physical therapy. It is imperative that you complete your physical therapy as designated by your doctor to help ensure the best possible outcome from your cervical spine surgery.

Once you’re fully healed, you may notice a slight decrease in the range of motion of your neck.

Is Anterior Discectomy and Fusion Surgery Successful?

ACDF surgery is successful in relieving arm and neck pain in a majority of patients. As a general rule of thumb, those with arm pain will benefit more from an ACDF procedure than those with neck pain.