Neck pain from a damaged disc is often treated with anti-inflammatory medications and treatments that include heat and ice applications and exercises to increase muscle strength and naturally ease nerve root pressure. If these types of conservative (non-surgical) treatment options aren’t effective, you may need anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Los Angeles surgeons commonly perform ACDF surgery, and it may ease or eliminate discomfort by preventing movement in the affected area.
How ACDF Is Performed
ACDF is a two-part surgery. The first part of the procedure is an anterior cervical discectomy, a type of surgical decompression that relieves nerve pressure. Performed from the front (anterior) part of the cervical spine (neck) with visual guidance with a special instrument (fluoroscope), this part of the procedure involves the removal of the damaged disc. Additional disc material that may have separated from the damaged disc is also removed.
The second step is fusion surgery. Performed at the same time as disc removal, fusion involves the use of bone graft material or implants (sometimes both graft material and implants are used together) and special hardware to stabilize the cervical spine until vertebrae on each side of the space left by the removal of the damaged disc join together.
Why ACDF Surgery May Be Recommended
The most common reason for ACDF surgery is to ease nerve root pressure from a herniated disc in the neck. The procedure may also be recommended to relieve nerve pressure caused by cervical degenerative disc disease (age-related wear and tear) or if a progressive condition like arthritis has contributed to the development of bone spurs that are pressing on nerve roots. The general purpose of ACDF surgery is to relieve symptoms that often include:
- Neck and/or shoulder pain
- Radiating pain in shoulders, arms, or fingers
- General weakness
- Numbness and tingling sensations
Steps to Take Before ACDF Surgery
Patients are encouraged to get as much information as possible prior to their procedure. It can be helpful to schedule an appointment just to ask questions and get clarification on details such as potential risks, whether there are other non-surgical remedies available, how many levels will be treated with the procedure, and what types of materials will be used for the bone graft or implant.
Benefits of an Anterior Approach
A front approach to neck surgery allows for direct access to the damaged disc and almost all levels of the cervical spine. Since there is direct access to the affected part of the neck, there are fewer muscles and other structures in the way. Many procedures today are also performed with less invasive techniques to further minimize trauma to other tissues. Additional benefits may include:
- Less pain around the incision
- Shorter post-surgery healing time
- Less postoperative pain
- A more productive recovery period
ACDF has a high success rate for patients who are ideal candidates for the procedure, with recovery typically taking about 4 to 6 weeks, although it may take up to a year or more for the fusion to fully become solid bone. Cervical artificial disc surgery is an alternative to ACDF involving the use of an artificial disc to replace the damaged one. An accompanying fusion isn’t usually necessary, so natural range of motion is retained. The doctor can help you determine which procedure makes sense for your situation.
In addition to ACDF, there are various treatments available for chronic neck and back pain, including XLIF surgery. Los Angeles patients who need treatment for damaged discs in their necks should contact The Spine Institute right away. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons can diagnose the source of the pain and suggest an effective form of treatment for relief. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.