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Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery is a procedure in which a cervical herniated disc is removed by making an incision in the front of the neck. The procedure is also sometimes carried out in patients suffering from degenerative disc disease.

ACDF surgery seeks to eliminate the pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness that results from spinal-cord and nerve-root pressure. Also referred to as anterior cervical decompression, ACDF is a procedure that allows 92 percent of all patients to attain very favorable outcomes. It is also generally carried out as an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home on the same day if you do not suffer complications.

The Procedure

A small incision is made in the front of the neck, after which muscles and prevertebral fascia are moved out of the way. Once the problematic disc has been located, the majority of it will be removed.

Once your offending disc is out, it will be replaced by a bone graft. Such bone grafts can consist of man-made materials, come from cadavers, or be taken from your own body. A metal plate supports your spine while you are healing.

Recovering From ACDF Surgery

You may be able to go home on the day you have surgery if you are not suffering from blood pressure fluctuations or breathing difficulties, but your recovery process is fully expected to take between two and four weeks.

You will be sore and will typically experience a sore throat and some pain while swallowing and talking in the immediate aftermath of your ACDF surgery. Those patients whose bone grafts were taken from their hip will also feel discomfort in that area. To help alleviate that initial discomfort, patients will be prescribed narcotic pain relief for a period of between two and four weeks. Walking is another integral part of your initial recovery period, as it helps speed up healing and prevent complications.

In the post-surgery period, it is crucial to follow your surgeon's instructions to the letter. They will include:

  • Not smoking! Smoking increases your risk of complications from ACDF surgery greatly while reducing your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Refraining from bending your head, for the purpose of which you may be provided with a neck brace.
  • Not sitting too long.
  • Not engaging in any kind of vigorous physical activity or heavy lifting.
  • You may not take over the counter pain killers after your surgery.

A follow-up appointment will typically take place two weeks post-surgery. An X-ray will be performed to check whether fusion is occurring, you will undergo a physical examination, and you will have the chance to ask questions.

After you receive the green light, you may resume normal physical activity and switch to over the counter pain relief to manage your discomfort.

Risks Of ACDF Surgery

All surgical procedures come with a level of risk. Besides all the general complications of surgery and general anesthesia itself, ACDF surgery can resuly in:

  • Failure to fuse.
  • The bone graft moving out of its position.
  • "Transitional syndrome", in which the adjacent vertebrae suffer so much extra stress that it results in pain and degeneration.
  • Nerve damage and resulting pain.

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