Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF Surgery)

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery removes a herniated or diseased disc. The procedure replaces it with a bone graft to relieve neck and radiating arm pain caused by parts of the disc pressing on nerve roots.

What You Need To Know About an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

What is ACDF Surgery?

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion is a surgical procedure involving the removal of a damaged cervical spinal disc and a bone fusion to replace the damaged bone. Damage to these bones may occur due to symptomatic cervical herniated disc, or due to cervical degenerative disc diseases. Sometimes ACDF is done to eliminate bone spurs and alleviate symptoms from degenerative conditions.

This procedure has a high success rate. Between 73-83 percent of people who have had ACDF reported positive results, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Book an appointment with a Resurgens Spine Center physician today! They will be able to provide you with more information about ACDF and diagnose your condition.

Why is ACDF Surgery Performed?

There are many reasons your doctor may recommend ACDF surgery. Removal of the cervical disc can treat the following issues:

Your doctor will only recommend surgery if other less intensive options do not help. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend alternative treatment options like physical therapy or medications and injections.

Even if these treatment options are not productive, your doctor may not recommend Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. Your doctor will assess you based on your condition.

How to Prepare for ACDF Surgery

You will need to consult with your physician before your procedure. Make sure to disclose any allergies you have or prescriptions you're taking. Tell your doctor of any conditions involving your kidneys, lungs, or heart. Make sure they understand your pre-existing conditions before surgery. You must self-advocate as much as possible and disclose all relevant information to your doctor. If you are a smoker, you will need to stop at least two weeks before surgery.

Plan to take at least six weeks to recover from ACDF. During your recovery, you will not be able to do routine household activities. You will need to improve at home for at least six weeks, so make arrangements with your employer. Find a friend or loved one to assist your home recovery.

What Happens During an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Procedure?

After being anesthetized, your surgeon will make an incision at the front of the neck. This incision will help them access your damaged disc. Then your surgeon slowly removes the disc by cutting through it and detaching it from the spine. Following the disc removal, the first part of the procedure is complete.

Next, your physician will fuse the bones. This process will keep your bones in alignment. Bone graft replaces the area where the disc used to be. A metal plate keeps the bone graft in place. Over time your bone graft will fuse to your vertebrae. The solidified bone will stabilize your spine.

Are There Risks Associated with ACDF Surgery?

Although there are many complications and risks for ACDF surgery, these risks are rare. However, there are some potential dangers, including:

  • Failure to provide symptom relief

  • Bone graft not adhering correctly and failing to create a fusion

  • Damage to the esophagus and trachea

  • Infection

  • Disruption in the laryngeal nerve.

  • Development of a seroma or hematoma compromising the airway

  • Significant blood vessel injury leading to excessive bleeding

  • Dural tear causing leakage of spinal fluid

  • Damage to the nerve roots

One of the most common side effects of the surgery is dysphasia. This side effect can also cause speech disorders characterized by persistent or temporary difficulty swallowing. Dysphasia happens as a reaction to having your esophagus restrained during surgery. Many people find this condition resolves itself within a few days following surgery. However, other people may experience conditions that last days, weeks, months. In rare cases, permanent dysphasia.

Your doctor will be able to give you a more comprehensive breakdown of your risks.

Post ACDF Surgery and Recovery

You will need observation in a hospital setting as you recover. The hospital staff will monitor your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Once you can move normally, your doctor will clear you for release. Your doctor will prescribe you medication to help you recover at-home. Make sure you attend all follow-up appointments your surgeon schedules.

Your surgery is a major procedure, and you will need to take it easy during your recovery. However, if you are unable to do daily activities within 4-6 weeks of your appointment, you should see your surgeon right away.

If you exhibit any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

  • Fever above 101°F (38°C)

  • Discharge or bleeding from the surgery site

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Debilitating pain in your neck that doesn't go away with medication

  • Increased weakness

  • Abnormal swelling or redness

After your surgery, you will need to keep some things in mind as you heal:

  • Avoid lifting object over five pounds

  • Don't sit for long periods

  • Avoid alcohol or smoking

  • Wear a neck brace according to your doctor's instructions

  • Attend regular sessions with a physical therapist

Avoid the following activities until your doctor gives the all-clear:

  • Sexual intercourse

  • Driving a car

  • Swimming or taking baths

  • Strenuous exercise

As your graft finishes healing, you should start walking short distances. Start at about one mile a day, as you heal increase your duration. Light exercise will help promote your healing.

Your doctor will be able to give you a thorough run-down of your recovery limitations. Schedule an appointment with a Resurgens Spine Center Physician now to learn about your spine health!

ACDF Procedure

In preparation for the cervical discectomy procedure, you are positioned on your back. You are anesthetized. The surgeon creates a small incision in the front of your neck. The structures within your neck are gently moved aside to create a path to your spine. The surgeon carefully removes the damaged disc. This leaves a space between the vertebrae.

The surgeon inserts a bone graft into this space. The graft may be made from a piece of bone taken from your hip. It can also be made from donor bone, or from a synthetic material. The graft fills the open space. It holds the vertebrae in the proper position. The surgeon may secure the graft with a metal plate and screws.

When the cervical discectomy procedure is complete, the incision is closed. As your spine heals, new bone will grow. The graft will become permanently attached to the vertebrae. This is called a "fusion."

Learn more about the Resurgens Spine Center.