Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion
A two part surgery, an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion aims to remove a damaged disc in order to alleviate pain due to compression of a spinal nerve. The two parts of an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion include an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and a Spinal Fusion. During an Anterior Cervical Discectomy, the surgeon enters the neck through the front. The surgeon then removes the affected disc. Once the surgeon removes the injured disc, the surgeon fuses the cervical segment. The surgeon fuses the cervical segment to promote stabilization of the vertebrae and reduce pain.
How to perform an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
Board-certified spinal surgeons perform Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusions with the patient under general anesthesia. Under general anesthesia, the patient remains fully asleep for the entirety of the procedure. While asleep, the patient cannot feel anything. To start the Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion procedure, the surgeon creates a horizontal incision within a natural neck crease. This reduces the appearance of the future scar. The surgeon cuts through the muscle layers and carotid sheath to access the spine. Once the surgeon has a visual of the spine and disc space, the surgeon locates the herniated disc. Referring to preop Xrays and the visual of the disc, the surgeon uses diagnostics to confirm the herniated disc. Once confirmed, the surgeon uses a scissor-like tool to cut away and remove the entire disc. The surgeon also removes cartilage to expose the bone of the vertebrae.
To perform the cervical fusion, the surgeon places a bone graft or implant into the open disc space to fill the space of the removed disc. The surgeon may also attach a plate to the front of the spine to add additional support. This process mimics a fracture to the body which causes the body to then heal the “fracture” resulting in one solid piece of bone.
Recovering from an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
Some surgeons may require that the patient stay in the hospital overnight. Most surgeons allow the patient to return home the same day following an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion. The spinal surgeon prescribes a physical therapy protocol to help aid in the recovery of the muscles surrounding the spine. The fusion takes 12-18 months to fully heal but most patients can return to daily activities after 6 weeks.