ACDF is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to relieve pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord that causes pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the neck and arm. Pressure on the nerves causes a radiculopathy or a myelopathy. ACDF is commonly performed to treat these symptoms, which stem from conditions including degenerative disc disease and disc herniation.
The aim of surgical treatment is to significantly improve your total well being. Spine doctor Dr. LaRocca may possibly endorse surgical treatment in case of significant fatigue, pain or any time all other treatment procedures have been explored.
What To Expect During and After An Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
During the Procedure
During the procedure, Dr. LaRocca will make a 1 to 1 ½ inch incision in the front of the neck and cut through one thin muscle and a layer of fibrous tissue covering the spine to access the cervical vertebrae.
Using an X-ray for guidance, a needle is inserted into the injured disc space to confirm the proper location. The discs as well as any disc material or bone spurs pressing on the spinal cord or nerves are also removed.
Next, to prevent the now-empty disc space from collapsing, a bone graft is put in place. The bone graft material is rarely taken from the hip but may also be donated from a cadaver or consist of various biologically active materials that promote bone growth. Cages of varying biologically compatible materials may also be used and filled with bone graft to be placed in the space. The graft is then reinforced with a screwed in metal plate to provide stability while the vertebrae fuse.
After the Procedure
Depending on the level of fusions, patients may go home the same or the following day after the surgery. While the majority of patients recover within four to six weeks, it may take 3-6 months for the fusion to fully take hold. However, early return to activity is encouraged.
Patients may be required to wear a neck brace and asked to avoid lifting, pushing, pulling or overhead reaching. Any bending or twisting may also be recommended as well as a gradual ease back into normal day-to-day activity.