Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or ACDF is a minimally invasive, outpatient surgery that is designed to relieve the spinal pressure caused by a herniated or degenerative disc in the neck. It involves replacing a vertebral disc in the neck with a bone graft. Here’s how ACDF received its name:
- Anterior stands for the process of accessing the cervical vertebrae from the front of the neck.
- Discectomy refers to the removal of the disc which is a cushion between vertebrae.
- Fusion is the process of inserting a bone graft that will give the vertebrae the chance to fuse and heal.
When is an ACDF Necessary?
ACDF is intended for patients with a herniated or degenerative disc who experience pressure on the nerve roots, ligaments, or the spinal cord that causes neck and arm pain, a lack of coordination, and/or numbness or weakness in the forearms, arms, or fingers.
It is usually recommended when patients have tried conservative treatments such as pain medication, steroid injections, hot and cold therapy, and physical therapy and not found relief. Prior to recommending an ACDF procedure, a doctor will consider a number of factors including a patient’s age, current health, lifestyle habits, and their anticipated level of activity after ACDF.
What to Expect During an ACDF Procedure
During an ACDF procedure, Dr. Shanti will direct the patient to lie on their back. He will then make a small incision to the side of the midline of their neck. Next, he will move the esophagus and trachea neck soft tissue as well as muscle aside. Then, he will remove the damaged disc material and use a bone graft as well as a plate and screws to allow the fusion. Lastly, Dr. Shanti will return the tissue to its correct place and close the incision.
Recovering from ACDF
Recovering from ACDF varies from patient to patient. However, most patients are able to walk the day after their procedure and will need 3 to 6 weeks of recovery before they can return back to work. During this recovery period, patients should refrain from activities such as driving, lifting, bending, pulling, or pushing.
They may also be referred to a physical therapist who can help promote a successful recovery and ensure they are as mobile as possible after ACDF. Patients will likely enjoy immediate relief from the majority of their pre-procedure symptoms and find that other symptoms improve over a longer period of time.