Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a procedure used to treat a disc problem that occurs in the cervical or neck region.

Why Would a Person Need a Cervical Discectomy?

The spinal column consists of a stack of bones called vertebrae which rest, one on top of the other. This vertebral column makes up what is popularly called the backbone. The vertebral column also surrounds and protects the spinal cord. The vertebral column runs from the base of the skull to the tailbone.

Between the vertebrae are discs which help cushion the vertebrae and which act like shock absorbers when the body walks, runs, and jumps. Each disc is filled with a jelly-like substance called nucleus pulposus. If the disc is damaged in some way, it may bulge out of its allotted space (herniated disc) or it may break open (ruptured disc). When this happens, the damaged disc

  • May press on the nearby nerve root.
  • May compress or crowd out nearby nerves.
  • May cause the nerves to become inflamed.

Any or all of these conditions can cause great pain, which may be treated by a surgical procedure called a discectomy (or disc removal). When the disc to be removed is located in the neck region or cervical area, this is a cervical discectomy.

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

The ACDF procedure takes its name because the surgical approach is anterior (from the front) and the disc is removed (discectomy) and the vertebrae joined  together (fusion).
During the operation, the damaged disc is completely removed along with any osteophytes (bone spurs). The intervertebral foramen or canal formed by the vertebral column may be enlarged surgically, giving the nerves even more room. The space created when the disc was removed is then filled in with a bone graft so that the two vertebrae join or fuse together.
Fusion is accomplished by packing bone graft material around the area to be fused. The bone graft helps to stimulate the fusion process.
In some cases, instrumentation (such as a plate or a screw) may be needed to provide proper spacing and stability.

Considering ACDF

If you have a damaged disc in your neck, there may be many options to treat it. The University Spine Center will discuss treatment options with you. The surgical approach is generally considered when other options do not provide adequate relief or the problem is particularly severe.

Preparing for ACDF

The University Spine Center will discuss the ACDF procedure with you as well as the risks and benefits of this type of procedure. A short hospital stay is usually required and recovery is gradual. Many patients take four to six weeks to recover.