Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion – removing cervical disc herniation through the front of the neck
An anterior cervical discectomy is generally performed to lessen or remove the pressure on nerves caused by disc herniation. A disc herniation is what occurs when the outer layer of a disc ruptures and some of the inner gelatinous layer spills out. The herniated or bulged disc pushes up against the spinal nerves and spinal cord, causing pain in the neck or arms. A discectomy removes the ruptured disc, thereby alleviating the pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord in order to relieve the resultant pain. In this procedure a bone graft is also typically inserted in order to keep the space between vertebrae at a normal height. The bone graft also serves to fuse the vertebrae below and above the removed disc for added stability.
To begin the anterior cervical discectomy, an incision is made on one side of the front of the neck. This incision provides exposure to the front of the cervical spine, and the bulged or herniated disc that is causing issues is located between vertebrae.
A portion of the bulged or herniated disc is removed using surgical instruments to alleviate the pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. Once this material has been removed, a specially sized bone graft is placed between the affected vertebrae to restore stability. A metal plate is then placed over the graft and attached via screw to the vertebrae in order to secure it and allow the graft to grow and fuse the vertebrae.
To complete the anterior cervical discectomy, the incision is closed and dressed. Some patients may require the use of a cervical collar for a limited period of time following surgery. The majority of patients experience a rapid reduction in arm pain.