Anterior Cervical Discectomy And Fusion

Doctor Talking To Senior Couple On Ward

What is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure?

The primary goal of an anterior cervical fusion (ACDF) surgery is to relieve pressure on either the nerve roots or spinal cord and/or treat an unhealthy disc in the cervical spine.

Anterior Cervicle Fusion

Cervical spine

The unhealthy disc is removed (discectomy) and replaced with an interbody fusion implant. A plate, spacer, and screws construct, or an integrated plate-spacer with fixation (i.e. screws, or other anchors), may be used to hold the vertebrae in place while fusion (joining of two bones) occurs.

Spacer with Cervicle plate and screws

Plate, spacer, and screws

Plate spacer with screws

Integrated plate-spacer with fixation

How is an ACDF procedure performed?

A small horizontal incision (a surgical cut made in skin) is made in the anterior (front) of the neck to either the left or right of the center. The soft tissues of the neck are gently separated to allow access to the surgical site. Surgical instruments are used to remove the disc and decompress (relieve pressure on) the nerve structures.

To fill the vacant disc space and join the vertebrae together, an interbody fusion implant is used. If a combination of a spacer and a plate are used, the spacer is placed into the disc space with the plate placed on top of the spine for stability. Screws are then inserted through the plate into the upper and lower vertebrae.

Or, if an integrated plate-spacer implant is used, the implant is placed into the disc space and fixation hardware, screws in this example, are inserted to secure the implant in place.

Over time, the vertebrae can grow together through fusion. This process varies between patients and can take anywhere from a few months up to a couple of years to completely fuse.

ACDF spacer with cervical plate and screws

Placing the plate and screws

ACDF integrated plate spacer with screws

Placing screws into the implant

Frequently asked questions about ACDF

What Should I Expect from Surgery?

Treatment with an ACDF may help you return to normal activities. Patients may notice improvement of some or all symptoms, and pain from surgery may diminish between 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. However, recovery time varies between patients.

It is the surgeon’s goal for the patient to eventually return to his/her preoperative activities. A positive attitude, reasonable expectations and compliance with your doctor’s post-surgical instructions may all contribute to a satisfactory outcome.

When Will I Be Able to Return to Work?

The amount of recovery time needed prior to returning to work will vary depending on the surgery, your job, and you as an individual. Please consult your surgeon for an individual recommendation.

How Long Will I Have Restricted Activities?

As with any surgery, the duration of time between procedure and return to normal activities is different for every patient. Your surgeon may provide a list of activities you should avoid during the first six weeks after surgery.

The material on this website is intended to be an educational resource only and is not meant to be a warranty or to replace a conversation between a patient and their physician or member of their health care team. Please consult a physician for a complete list of indications, contraindications, precautions, warnings, clinical results and other important medical information that pertains to this procedure. The decision to receive medical treatment is individualized to the patient and the patient’s symptoms. The information presented on this site may not apply to your condition, treatment or its outcome, as surgical techniques vary and complications can occur. It is important to discuss the viability of any surgical procedure with a physician to decide the right treatment option.