ACDF, or Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion is a minimally invasive neck procedure where a degenerative or herniated disc is removed from the neck. After the disc is removed, a graft is used to fuse the two vertebrae above and below the damaged disc.
What does ACDF stand for?
A stands for Anterior – This procedure is done from the front or anterior part of the body. In ACDF surgery, a small, minimally-invasive incision is made in the front of the neck.
C stands for Cervical – The cervical spine consists of the top 7 vertebrae (C1-C7) which is most commonly referred to as the neck.
D stands for Discectomy – A discectomy means to cut out, or remove, the disc. A discectomy can be performed anywhere on the spine.
F stands for Fusion – The final stage of the procedure involves inserting a bone graft to replace the empty spaced caused by the missing disc and fuse the two vertebrae together for stability.
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Complications
Some of the most common complications following Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion include:
Intermittent difficulty swallowing, following surgery but this usually resolves over the first few weeks.
- The nerve to the voice box can be injured during surgery with the nerve being stretched causing the patient to be hoarse for a few days or weeks after surgery. In rare cases if the nerve is actually cut, patients may have residual problems of hoarseness and voice fatigue.
Problems with the graft- nonunion
A cervical disc, in the neck, absorbs impact and trauma.
Normal wear and tear of a cervical disc can result in disturbance of normal alignment of vertebrae and can result in abnormal bone growth or spurs.
This can cause foraminal cervical stenosis, or the narrowing of nerve root canals in the neck.
Encroachment on the nerve root by mal alignment, herniated discs or spurs may cause pain, numbness or muscle weakness in the hand and/or arm.
What are the benefits of ACDF surgery?
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion can be both an outpatient or in hospital procedure with a 92-100% success rate in alleviating symptoms.
The post surgery recovery time is 4-6 weeks and the procedure has a low complication risk.
This creates a safer, less invasive procedure with a shorter recovery time.
ACDF Recovery Time
Most ACDF patients are discharged from the hospital the day after surgery, but your physician will determine the best postoperative course for you, depending on your recovery and any other health concerns.
Patients are able to return home when their medical condition is stable and to monitor their activities as the graft heals.
Your physician will discuss your pain medication requirement, wound care instructions, exercises, physical therapy, use of a collar and any activity restrictions, if applicable.
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Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) effectively treats pain numbness, and weakness in the neck, arm, and hand.
These symptoms are often caused by herniated or degenerative disc disease, Cervical stenosis, Cervical myelopathy or pressure on the spinal cord.
A small incision is made on the front, of the neck and under fluoroscopy the ruptured disc tissue is removed, relieving pressure on the nerve root and spinal cord and creating the space for the fusion.
In more severe cases, bone spurs are removed and nerve canals are enlarged (foraminotomy).
The space between the vertebrae is prepared to prepare for a healthy fusion with the bone graft, ensuring neck stability and decreasing the chance of further deterioration.
A metal plate is used to ensure good fusion alignment and the vertebrae fully fuse 3-6 months after surgery.