Patients that undergo anterior cervical decompression and fusion surgery have self-reported success rates between 85%-95% after 10 years of follow-up from the original surgery. This procedure reduces overall pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in your neck, arms, and hands. Patients have reported increased satisfaction following ACDF due to its immediate pain improvement.
Before surgery, the entire procedure will be discussed with the patient. The surgeon will walk the patient through everything that will happen during surgery, including the risks. This is all done so that the patient is aware and involved in their care decisions.
The patient will once again be asked if any allergies or medical conditions are present that could affect the surgical outcomes. Once the patient is cleared, they will head to the operating room.
The patient will be under general anesthesia throughout the entirety of the surgery. ACDF surgery involves two parts — the anterior cervical discectomy and the fusion.
The anterior cervical discectomy — or decompression — begins with a single incision in the lower front of the neck. The surgeon will carefully navigate the neck muscles to expose the front of the cervical spine. The esophagus and trachea are moved away from the midline for a better look at the affected area. Retractors are then inserted to protect the surrounding tissue of the neck.
Removing the affected disc completes the discectomy, and the fusion step immediately begins. Here, the surgeon will stabilize the surgical segment by inserting a Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) cage with a bone graft. A titanium plate and screws will then be used as structural support to hold the PEEK cage and bone graft in place as it fuses over time.
Following the procedure, the patient will be taken back to a hospital room and will stay for one to two days to remain comfortable and start working on daily tasks. Doctors will monitor the incision. Patients will wear a cervical neck brace to discourage turning and bending of the neck. The goal is for the patient to begin walking on the day of surgery to ensure there are no complications. To be discharged, the patient must be able to eat, drink and urinate on their own and only require oral pain medications.
The patient may initially have some trouble swallowing or have a sore throat due to the manipulation of the esophagus during surgery. This can resolve within a few days. If the feeling persists, call the doctor.
Yes, a neck brace is usually required following ACDF surgery. The patient may wear this from four to six weeks and should keep it on at all times until told otherwise, except when sleeping or showering.
Complete recovery times from ACDF can differ. It can take up to one year for the bone graft to be completely fused to the surrounding vertebrae.
It is recommended that patients wait two days before showering after surgery. Be careful when rinsing the incision with soap and water — do not scrub. Following the shower, gently pat the incision to dry it.
Baths and other types of submersion — like swimming pools or hot tubs — are not permitted until around two weeks after the surgery or after the incision has completely healed.