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Addressing a Damaged Disc May Be the Solution to Your Neck Pain

Published on September 20, 2018

Experiencing neck pain is common problem that a lot of people have to deal with. When the nagging pain debilitates your daily activity, it is a grave sign of something amiss. A possible solution for a persistent neck pain is through addressing a damaged disc through ACDF surgery.

ACDF or Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion surgery is an operation performed to excise the herniated or degenerated disc from the neck region. Not everyone who experiences a nagging neck pain is in need of ACDF surgery, but when the neck trauma manifests as numbness in the legs or arms, surgery is the only relief.

ACDF is an amalgamation of two individual procedures: the first is the removal of the damaged vertebra through the dorsal and ventral approach followed by fusion of the gap created by vertebrae excision.

ACDF Surgery In Detail

The spinal cord is made up of individual vertebrae cushioned by intervertebral discs. These discs ensure that the vertebra doesn’t wither under the constant grinding imposed by neck movement. A sign of damage in these discs is manifested as pain, ranging from severe to moderate, along the neck.

The only solution to relieve such pain is through the removal of the damaged disc. The disc is commonly accessed through the throat to avoid unwarranted damage inflicted by entering through the back.

After the incision, the underlying tissue is separated to expose the damaged disc. Once the disc is removed, the gap created must be closed or the neck will lose its structural integrity.

There are two options to fill the gaps: one is through the use of a bone graft – where the bone from one region is excised and attached; second, is through through a bone graft substitute where instead of the whole bone, bone shavings are used. In both cases, the source of the graft is either from the patient or sourced from a local bone bank.

A third option, which is sparingly used, is arthroplasty where the disc is replaced by an artificial disc. After successfully placing the graft, the structure is enforced by titanium screws and plates. The grafted structure is then positioned to the right place and the tissue is moved to its original position. The incisions made are closed with sutures.

Recovery From ACDF Surgery

There is no standard recovery timeline for ACDF surgery. While some patients are comfortable to resume driving after two weeks, there are others who take as long as four weeks to overcome the first phase of healing.

Two factors, age and overall health, establish the pace of healing. Physical therapy sessions commence when healing is satisfactory in order to restore the normal range of neck motion. Getting back into shape is accelerated by an active lifestyle.

You should remember to take it slow for the first few days immediately after the surgery. Precise aftercare instructions are provided by the surgeon to help facilitate a fast recovery. Don’t panic if you experience a sore throat and have trouble swallowing for a few days. You may also experience pain along the shoulder blades which subsides with time.

Contact Our Office

Contact Advanced Spine and Orthopedics to learn more about ACDF surgery with skilled orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin James.