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An ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion) is usually only carried out when conservative measures to help resolve a patients symptoms have failed. Some symptoms that are commonly reported by patients include a worsening of symptoms like pain, a burning sensation which does not go away as well a loss of fine motor skills.

Any surgical procedure comes with the risk of complications as well as a period of healing which in itself can be quite a harrowing experience for patients.

Some common complications that are seen after an ACDF surgery are:

  1. Since the operation takes place close to some of the major blood vessels of the body, there is a chance that they can get injured during the procedure. Bleeding from the carotid artery or the vertebral artery as a result of the operation can even lead to a stroke or death.
  2. Some people complaint of pain in the throat and a difficulty in swallowing food. This indicates damage to the superior laryngeal nerve which is close to the site of surgery and therefore at risk of getting injured.
  3. There can also be damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Hoarseness as well as a choking sensation may also be experienced by affected individuals.
  4. One of the more common complications post surgery is the formation of a wound hematoma or bleeding at the site of injury. This will result in a slight swelling at the site of surgery and will be painful to touch.
  5. The esophagus and the trachea are also in close proximity to the site of surgery and can thus be damaged.
  6. Infection of the wound can also occur, however with currently followed asepsis protocols and post operative medication, this is most likely to occur in patients who are immuno-compromised or diabetic.

If after undergoing an ACDF procedure, patients feel that they have one or more of the above mentioned symptoms then it is advisable to opt for an immediate consultation with the surgeon.

More often than not, it is nothing serious and just a part of the healing process, however if there are any complications then it is better to start treatment for them as soon as possible.

Some things to remember during post-op care after undergoing an ACDF procedure are:

  1. Pain and discomfort in swallowing may be cause of some necessary manipulation of the esophagus and takes a few days to resolve.
  2. Pain management by use of the over the counter medication is minimized as there some inhibitory effect on the bone formation. This means that there will be more discomfort earlier on after the surgery, however the overall result and outcome might be better.
  3. If a bone graft has been placed then some amount of pain and swelling at the site is to be expected as it takes a little time to get incorporated in the tissues.
  4. Bone healing is notoriously slow and can be associated with a dull pain during that time. On average, bone healing (fusion) will take around four to six months to get completed.

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