Neck Pain Relief: Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a procedure for neck pain treatment that involves going through the front of the neck with a small incision and removing the intervertebral disc. The intervertebral disc is the cushion between two vertebral bodies. We remove that cushion, replace it with a piece of bone and get the two vertebral bodies to fuse together into one.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is used in the treatment of either a radiculopathy or a nerve root injury, which will manifest as pain, numbness or tingling down the arm. It can also be used to treat myelopathy – a compression of the spinal cord itself – which will manifest as balance and coordination issues or trouble with fine motor skills.
The advantage of the ACDF approach, if you compare it to the posterior approach, is it’s typically much better tolerated by patients. They report less pain. The hospital stay is much shorter. Blood loss is much less, and the recuperation from the surgery itself in general is much less.
Following ACDF, the recovery typically means a hospital stay of 1-2 days. Physical therapy typically isn’t initiated until three months down the road. We are trying to get the bones to fuse together to heal into one, so in that three-month timeframe we don’t want you doing anything much more rigorous than possibly going up and down stairs, just to give those bones time to heal together.
The one thing I always make sure to tell patients who are undergoing an ACDF is the problem with swallowing that can occur after surgery. Most patients say it does resolve and it does improve with time, but I’ve found that to be the thing that’s most surprising to patients following neck pain relief surgery.