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.