For the properly selected patient, one- or two-level ACDF is a safe and reasonable option to address cervical disc pathology.
Learn more: ACDF: Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
At one time, there was significant concern about potential post-operative complications associated with this technique. Several studies have documented the efficacy and safety of ACDF in the outpatient setting, however.1
While the ACDF technique has multiple steps, there is minimal dissection of the tissues.
- The incision is typically 1 to 2 inches long
- After the incision to the front of the neck, the rest of the dissection is performed bluntly, with no more cutting
- The muscles and tissues are gently pushed away from the front of the spine bone
- There is usually minimal blood loss, and the targeted discs are readily identified and visualized
Because the dissection is performed in a tissue-splitting instead of tissue-cutting fashion, the postoperative neck pain is tolerable. With resolution of the pre-operative arm radiculopathy symptoms in the recovery area, many will experience less pain than immediately before the operation. (Radiculopathy is pain caused by irritation of a spinal nerve root.)
As long as the patient can tolerate the pain and there is no concern about breathing issues or with difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), most patients can go home from the recovery area within a few hours of the surgery.
Within the past few years, cervical disc replacement procedures have also been performed on an outpatient basis. Using the same exposure techniques, there is no difference in terms of immediate postoperative pain from the ACDF surgery.