Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion

What is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion?

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is an operation relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by herniated disc material- a common condition known as neuroforaminal or cervical stenosis. Pain, numbness and weakness in the neck and extremities, among other symptoms, may occur when a disc herniates – when the tough, outer ring of the disc tears and the nucleus which has a soft, jelly-like center squeezes out and places pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord. Bony outgrowths, called bone spurs form when the joints of the spine calcify, may also cause these symptoms.

What is done during a Cervical Discectomy with Fusion?

An understanding of what anterior cervical discectomy with fusion involves will help you to approach your operation and recovery with confidence. Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is an operation that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or bone spurs – a condition referred to as nerve root compression. Pressure placed on the spinal cord as it passes through the neck (cervical spine) can be serious since most the nerves for rest of the body (e.g., arms, chest, abdomen, legs) have to pass through the neck from the brain.

The operation is performed with you lying on your back. A small incision is made to one side of the front of your neck. After pulling aside the soft tissue – fat and muscle, your surgeon exposes the disc between the vertebrae. The intervertebral disc – and, in some cases, a portion of the bone around the nerve roots and/or spinal cord – is then removed to relieve the compressed neural structures and to give them additional space.

The disc is replaced with either a piece of your own bone removed from your hip (iliac crest) or with a bone from a bone bank or a synthetic graft. The graft is placed in the disc space, where it helps the adjacent vertebrae to fuse. A metal plate may be implanted on the front of the cervical spine to increase the stability of the spine immediately after the operation. Surgeons use these implants to decrease the amount of time that you have to wear a cervical collar after surgery and to increase your chances of developing a solid fusion. The operation is completed when your surgeon closes and dresses the incision.