Anterior Cervical Discectomy With Fusion (ACDF)
What is anterior cervical discectomy with fusion?
An anterior cervical discectomy with fusion combines two procedures into a single surgery:
- Cervical discectomy
- Spinal fusion
In a cervical discectomy, the surgeon accesses the cervical spine through a small incision in the front of the neck (anterior) and removes all or part of the disc – and/or in some cases bone material – that’s pressing on the nerves and causing pain.
In a spinal fusion, the surgeon places a bone graft between two or more of the small bones that form the spine (called vertebrae). As the body heals, the bone graft and vertebrae grow together into one longer bone, stabilizing the spine.
Why is my doctor recommending an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion?
Herniated discs and bone spurs can put pressure on nerve roots, ligaments, or the spinal cord, causing symptoms that may include:
- Pain in the neck and arms
- Lack of coordination
- Numbness or weakness in the arms, forearms, or fingers
A cervical discectomy can ease pressure on the nerves, relieving these symptoms.
An anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is typically recommended only after nonsurgical treatment methods fail. Your surgeon will take a number of factors into consideration before making this recommendation, including:
- The condition to be treated
- Your age, health, and lifestyle
- Your anticipated level of activity following surgery
Please discuss this treatment option thoroughly with your doctor.
How is an ACDF performed?
Through a small incision made near the front of the neck, the surgeon:
- Removes the intervertebral disc
- Relieves the pressure on the nerve roots by removing the source of the compression
- Places a bone graft between the adjacent vertebrae
- In some cases, places metal plates or pins that will provide extra support and help ensure proper fusion
How long will it take me to recover?
Your surgeon will give you a specific postoperative recovery plan to help you return to your normal activity level as soon as possible. Work closely with your spinal surgeon to determine the appropriate recovery plan for you, and follow his or her instructions to optimize the healing process.
The amount of time that you have to stay in the hospital will depend on this treatment plan. You typically will be up and walking in the hospital by the end of the first day after the surgery. You may return to work in three to six weeks, depending on how well your body is healing and the type of work or activity level you plan to return to.
Are there any potential risks or complications?
Every surgical procedure carries some risk. Talk with your doctor about potential risks and complications of spinal surgery, such as:
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Blood loss
- Bowel and bladder problem
- Complications associated with anesthesia
- Failure of the vertebral bone and graft to properly fuse
All treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise
Summit’s spine care team is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you
- Visit our Spine Exercise Library for options to help ease neck and back pain
- See Summit’s treatment options for neck, back, and spine care
- Check out additional information on Summit’s approach to spine care
Although nonsurgical treatment can resolve 90 percent of spine pain cases, research shows us that surgery provides the best outcome in some specific circumstances. Dr. Strothman explains how to know when herniated disc surgery can provide a better outcome.
Ask the Expert: Spine Video Series
There’s cachet in describing surgical techniques as “minimally invasive.” But what does this phrase really mean? Spine surgeon Dr. David Strothman describes how the benefits of this surgical approach can vary with the surgeon performing it.