Cervical Disc Removal Surgery
discectomy and fusion (ACDF)
At some point in your life, you may suffer from pain in the neck or shoulders. Sometimes, this pain is minor and goes away after a little rest or medication. In other cases, medical intervention may be necessary.
Severe or long-lasting neck and shoulder pain may stem from an injury or condition affecting the discs in your spine. Conservative treatment methods can be used to reduce this pain or any loss of strength and range of motion, but they do not always work. When this happens, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) may be the best treatment option.
What is ACDF?The objective of ACDF is to remove the damaged discs from your spine. The discs are supposed to support the vertebrae in your spine. Once they’re removed, the surgeon will fuse the affected vertebrae together, so they can grow into one solid piece. This eliminates friction and other issues that can develop from vertebrae rubbing against one another without discs between them. The surgeon will fuse the vertebrae with bones from an organ donor or your own body, or they will use an artificial man-made plate. After a few months of being held together, the bone tissue in the vertebrae will grow together into a solid piece. ACDF is a beneficial surgery because it eliminates a lot of the more invasive steps involved in a posterior approach. Accessing the discs from the posterior involves cutting through muscles and soft tissue and puts the nerves in your spine at more risk. ACDF requires a small incision through the front of your neck, while your throat and muscles can be gently moved aside without any cutting, so the surgeon can access the spine.
Who needs ACDF?You may be a good candidate for ACDF if you have:
- Herniated disc — The discs are made up of a jelly-like material that makes up much of the cushioning structure of the discs. A rupture in the wall of the disc can cause this material to leak out and put painful pressure on the spine.
- Osteophytic spurs (bone spurs) — Worn down discs or an injury to the spine can cause looseness and too much movement between the vertebrae. When this happens, the body tries to compensate for lost structural support by hardening ligament tissue in the spine. Eventually, these tissue can calcify and develop into painful bone spurs.
- Degenerative disc disease (DDD) — DDD is a condition in which the discs begin to grow stiffer and flatter. This can happen as the result of an injury and is also a part of the natural aging process. It affects everyone at a different rate, so some people never suffer from DDD symptoms while others may experience them earlier in life.
- Persistent pain or symptoms — You may not have any of these conditions, but if neck and shoulder pain persists, ACDF may provide relief.