Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgical operation done to remove damaged disk or bone spurs in your neck.

How is ACDF surgery done?

Your doctor will use general anesthesia to help you remain unconscious throughout the entire surgery. Discuss with your doctor about the possible complications of surgery before you have ACDF surgery.

An ACDF surgery can take one to four hours depending on your condition and the number of disks to be taken out.

To perform an ACDF surgery, your doctor:

  • Makes a small incision on the front of your neck.

  • Moves your blood vessels, esophagus and trachea aside to see your vertebrae.

  • Identifies the affected vertebrae, disks, or nerves and takes X-rays of the area.

  • Uses tools to remove any bone spurs or disks that are damaged or pushing on your nerves and causing pain.

  • Takes a piece of bone from somewhere else in your neck, from a donor (allograft), or uses a synthetic compound to fill in any empty space left behind by the removed bone material.

  • Attaches a plate and screws made of titanium to the two vertebrae around the area where the disk was taken out.

  • Puts your blood vessels, esophagus, and trachea back in their normal place.

  • Uses stitches to close the incision on your neck.

Why is the ACDF surgery done?

ACDF surgery is mostly used to:

  • Remove a disk in your spine that has become worn out or injured.

  • Remove bone spurs on your vertebrae that pinch your nerves. Pinched nerves can make your legs or arms feel numb or weak. So treating the source of the compressed nerve in your spine with this surgical operation can relieve or even end this numbness or weakness.

  • Treat a herniated disk, sometimes called a slipped disk. This occurs when soft material in the center of a disk is pushed out through the firmer material on the outer edges of a disk.

How to prepare for ACDF surgery?

During the weeks before the surgery:

  • Attend any scheduled appointments for blood tests, X-rays, or electrocardiogram (ECG) tests.

  • Sign a consent form and discuss your medical history with your doctor.

  • Inform your doctor about any medications or dietary supplements that you’re currently taking.

  • Don't smoke before the surgical procedure. If possible, try to stop six months before your surgery, as smoking can slow down the healing process.

  • Don’t take any alcohol about a week before the surgery.

  • Don’t take any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) or blood thinners about a week before the surgery.

  • Take a few days off work for the surgical operation and recovery.

On the day of the surgery:

  • Don’t eat or drink for at least eight hours before the surgery.

  • Bath and dress in clean, loose clothing.

  • Don't wear any jewelry to the hospital.

  • Get to the hospital two to three hours before your surgical procedure is scheduled.

  • Ensure a family member or close friend can take you home.

  • Bring written instructions concerning any medications or supplements that you need to take.

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions as to whether to take your normal medication. Take any necessary medications with only a small amount of water.

  • Pack any essential belongings in a hospital bag in case you need to stay overnight after the surgical procedure.

What should I expect after surgery?

After surgical operation, you’ll wake up in the postoperative care unit and then be moved to a room where your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored. The hospital staff will help you sit up, move and walk around until you feel comfortable.

As soon as you’re able to move normally, your doctor will assess your condition and release you from the hospital with medications for pain and bowel management.

If you have problem with breathing or your blood pressure hasn’t returned to normal, your doctor might recommend that you stay in the hospital overnight.

See your doctor about two weeks after your surgery for a follow-up appointment. You should be able to do regular activities again in four to six weeks.

See your doctor immediately if you notice any of these:

  • high fever above 101°F (38°C)

  • bleeding or any discharge from the surgery site.

  • unusual swelling or redness.

  • pain that doesn’t go away with medication.

  • weakness that wasn’t present before the surgical procedure.

  • trouble swallowing.

  • intense pain or stiffness in your neck.

What should I do during recovery?

After you leave the hospital:

  • Take any medications that your doctor prescribes for pain and constipation.

  • Don’t use any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for at least six months.

  • Don’t lift any heavy objects.

  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

  • Don’t look up or down using your neck.

  • Don’t sit for a long time.

  • Get someone to help you with any activities that may strain your neck.

  • Wear a neck brace according to your doctor’s directions.

  • Attend regular physical therapy sessions.

Don’t do the following until your doctor tells you it’s okay:

  • Have sex.

  • Drive a vehicle.

  • Swim or take baths.

  • Do strenuous exercise.

Once your graft starts to heal, walk short distances, starting at about 1 mile and continuously increasing the distance every day. This light exercise can help in your healing process.


Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery is often highly successful and can help you gain control of your neck and limb movement again. Recovery can take a long time, but the relief of pain and weakness can let you to return to many daily activities that you love to do.

DisclaimerThe information provided herein is for patient general knowledge only and should not be used during any medical emergency, diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Duplication for personal and commercial use must be authorized in writing by

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