Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
What is ACDF Surgery?
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) is a surgical procedure in which one or more cervical discs are removed and replaced a fusion device, known as a spacer. As we age, our spinal discs will begin to degenerate, and no longer be able to act as the shock absorbers we need. Therefore, in order for the spine to have its adequate support, fusion is a common option.
The addition of the spacer, in place of the intervertebral disc allows for multiple vertebra to fuse across the spine, in order to create additional stability in the event of some type of accident, injury, degeneration or other spinal condition. This is similar to other types of fusion surgery; however, it is performed on the cervical spine, through an anterior approach.
Why Do You Need ACDF Surgery?
Cervical Discectomy surgery is one of the more common spinal procedure amongst patients suffering from neck issues. Considering that our spinal discs are composed of mainly water, as we age, they will slowly begin to dry out over time. As this happens, they begin to flatten, and can no longer act in the shock absorbing capacity we need them to. In order to provide the spine with the support and structural integrity it needs, the disc must be removed and often, the vertebra in the area must be fused.
Generally, ACDF is performed due to some form of disc degeneration or damage. Some common conditions addressed through ACDF surgery include:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Other conditions affecting the spinal discs in and around the neck area.
Benefits of ACDF
As with most any disc removal and fusion procedure, there are a number of benefits for the area in which the damaged disc is located, most commonly in terms of pain relief, and restored function of certain parts of the upper body – as a damaged disc can cause compression of the spinal column and the nerves. This will cause pain, numbness, loss of feeling and movement issues – all can be addressed once the damaged disc is removed and compression is reduced.
However, what truly sets this procedure apart from others like it, is the anterior or frontal approach to reaching the cervical spine. Some benefits of this approach include:
- Frontal approach allows direct line of site to a damaged disc.
- This approach provides your surgeon access the entire cervical spine.
- Incisions are usually less painful from this approach.
- Fewer major organs or arteries in the way.
The ACDF procedure is done first by creating a horizontal incision, only a few inches long, on the front portion of the neck. For men the incision is placed immediately left of the “Adam’s Apple”. The muscle tissue within the neck is carefully moved aside, and retractors are used to create an opening to the spine. Once the surgeon gains access to the spine, he will remove the disc between the vertebrae, and any herniated discs, bone spurs, or overgrown tissue, is pulled away from the nerves and removed, alleviating any nerve root compression.
Then a fusion device is usually placed in place of the damaged/diseased disc, between the vertebrae, and affixed with screws, rods or some type of anchoring. A small metallic plate is sometimes used to cover the vertebrae and hold the spacer in place. The instruments are removed, and the incision is closed.
Patients will generally be discharged that day, unless there are some adverse complications during the procedure. You may require the use of a soft neck brace or soft collar to protect the neck from moving. Patients will generally be able to resume normal activities within 2-4 weeks, however for the full fusion to take place, it will likely take over 4-6 weeks. For more information on this procedure, any other spinal concerns, or to schedule a consultation, please feel free to contact Dr, Arutyumyan.