Cervical Surgery Animation
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is one of the most common cervical spine surgeries. It's sometimes abbreviated to ACDF. This short video aniamtion will show you what happens during an ACDF, and SpineUniverse also has plenty of other quality articles on this type of cervical spine surgery. As always, though, your doctor and his/her medical team are going to be the best resource for you when deciding if you should have this surgery.
Why Is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Needed?
In between each of the 7 vertebra in your cervical spine (your neck), you have a disc called the intervertebral disc.
These discs help cushion your movements and make it easier for you to nod and shake your head, but they can herniate: the gel-like interior of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) can push into the outer layer (the annulus fibrosus) that's made out of fibrous cartilage.
A herniated disc may be caused by general wear and tear on your spine, or it may be caused by trauma. Regardless of what causes the disc herniation, it can be painful. The disc bulge can press on the spinal nerves or spinal cord, and that nerve compression (or cord compression) is what leads to your pain (or other symptoms).
It's also possible for your intervertebral discs to become thinner. Again, this is generally a process of wear and tear on the spine; as with other joints in your body, some parts of the spine can start to "wear out." For the intervertebral discs, this means that they can become thinner as the cartilage wears out.
When the discs become thinner, the bony vertebrae are squeezed closer together, giving less room for the spinal nerves. They may become pinched, and that may also cause pain.
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion may be needed to address these disc-related problems.
The Procedure: How an ACDF Is Done
An anterior procedure is done from the front of the spine. Therefore, in an ACDF, a small incision is made in the front of the neck. The surgeon retracts (moves to the sides) the muscles and other soft tissues until he/she reaches the spine.
The damaged disc is removed, and to maintain the separation between the vertebrae (necessary to give the spinal nerves plenty of room to exit the spine), the surgeon may fill the space with bone graft or other surgical material. For example, he or she might use a titanium cage, which is a special product for the spine made to provide stability in between the vertebrae.
When the procedure is done, the surgeon will sew up the incision, and then your healing process will begin. The bone graft will help re-growth of the bone; that is fusion.
To learn more about anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, read our ACDF article written by a leading spine surgeon.