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ACDF Surgery FAQ Every Patient Should Know

Triangle Region / 12 Apr 2023

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by EmergeOrtho
ACDF Surgery FAQ Every Patient Should Know

If you have been experiencing continuous back pain and discomfort, you may be on the hunt for an orthopedic spine surgeon. Or perhaps conservative treatment methods have failed to treat your cervical spine symptoms. If this sounds familiar, consulting with an experienced, skilled, and board-certified surgeon is a step in the right direction.

At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, our team of orthopedic specialists is dedicated to treating conditions of the back, spine, and neck. Our fellowship-trained surgeons are skilled and practiced in several types of surgical spine procedures, including anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery.

How Do You Know if You Need ACDF Surgery?

ACDF surgery is a procedure used to treat various problems that can arise in the neck. The most common indications for this surgery are medical conditions like cervical disc herniations, myelopathy, and osteoarthritis-related spinal canal narrowing (spinal stenosis). In this procedure, a surgeon performs a cervical discectomy by removing part or all of a disc between two vertebrae using an anterior (front) approach, replacing it with bone graft material while applying rigid fixation with screws and metal plates or cages to immobilize the vertebrae. This process stimulates healing between the vertebrae to form a single unit called cervical fusion.

A surgeon points to a model of the cervical spine.

An orthopedic spine specialist recommends ACDF surgery only when conservative, nonsurgical methods have not effectively addressed intolerable symptoms or neurological dysfunction. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Neck pain
  • Arm pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms and hands
  • Weakness in the arms and hands
  • Difficulty walking or standing due to neck pain

Cervical spine surgery is intended to offer benefits like:

  • Reduce and eliminate symptoms
  • Decompress the pressure affecting the nerves in the neck
  • Offer pain relief
  • Reinforce stability of the spine
  • Improve alignment of the spine

Ultimately, a consultation with an orthopedic spine surgeon will determine if you are a candidate for neck fusion surgery.

How Long Does Cervical Spine Surgery Take?

Many patients are curious about how long it takes for a spine surgeon to perform ACDF surgery.

The answer varies based on what type of surgery.

Here are some of the more common surgical procedures our Triangle Region surgeons perform:

  • Minimally invasive spinal surgery
  • Discectomy
  • Disc replacement
  • Foraminotomy
  • Laminectomy
  • Laminoplasty
  • Spine fusion

Several of the procedures listed above take 1 to 2 hours to complete. More extensive cervical spine surgeries may take longer.

What to Expect After Cervical Spine Surgery

To maximize your ACDF surgery recovery, it is imperative to follow the recovery instructions provided by your surgeon. The recovery time depends on each individual and the intensity of their cervical spine surgery. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the days following your cervical spine surgery:

  • Many cervical spine surgeries may be performed as an outpatient or require less than a 24-hour stay. A few more extensive surgeries may require several hospital recovery days.
  • Most patients can do simple activities like eating, drinking, and walking on the day of surgery.
  • You will have a scar from ACDF surgery of about 1 to 2 inches.
  • A supportive “cervical collar” may be prescribed to wear for a designated period, depending on the type of surgery.
  • A full ACDF surgery recovery varies, with less invasive surgeries requiring 6 to 12 weeks and some requiring 6 months or more for maximum healing and benefit.
  • Physical therapy typically is not necessary following cervical spine surgery but may depend on your surgeon’s recommendation.
  • Most patients can return to light-duty work within days or a couple of weeks of cervical spine surgery. More extensive surgeries may require several months for heavy-duty work.
  • The full fusion healing may take around 3 to 4 months.

How Do I Choose a Surgeon?

At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, our board-certified, fellowship-trained back, neck, and spine surgeons are the leading experts in providing state-of-the-art treatments with the highest possible level of care. Our surgeons are dedicated to taking the time to ensure you feel safe, comfortable, and confident in your care.

To meet with one of our specialists, request an appointment, self-schedule an appointment, or call (919) 220-5255 so we can help you Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.

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