Cervical Discectomy with Fusion
Why is a cervical discectomy with fusion performed?
A cervical discectomy with fusion is a surgery typically performed from the front (anterior), in response to disc herniation. When the surgery involves an anterior approach, it is called an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion.
The surgery can resolve issues associated with degenerative disc disease, alleviating pressure, pain, weakness, and other symptoms.
What is the procedure like?
The procedure for a cervical discectomy with fusion involves every aspect of a cervical discectomy, with the added element of fusion.
First, the doctor makes a small incision in the neck. Depending on the direction a disc herniated, or where the pain stems from, the surgery can be performed from the front (anterior) or back (posterior). Once the incision has been made, the doctor gently removes or pushes aside any muscle or tissue that prevents visualization of the spine.
After the surgeon confirms that he or she is operating on the right disc, the pressure-inducing parts of the disc are removed. In some cases, the entire disc needs to be taken out. The removal of the disc decompresses the spine, allowing it room to heal. However, the removal of the disc leaves an empty space between vertebrae. A bone graft is used to fill that space. The bone graft can be an “autograft,” meaning it comes from you, or an “allograft,” meaning it comes from a donor. Once the graft is in place – sometimes using metal plates or screws – the muscles and tissues are returned to their proper place, and the incision is closed.
What is recovery like?
After an anterior cervical discectomy, most patients go home either the same or next day. Most patients recover fully within four to six weeks; in some cases, it can take up to 18 months for the fusion to completely set. Patients are encouraged to follow the directions of their surgeon to ensure a full recovery and prevention of future injury.
Every surgical procedure comes with risks. To learn about these risks and how to minimize them, talk to your spinal specialist.