Anterior Cervical Discectomy

What is Anterior Cervical Discectomy?

The tissues between the bones in your neck is called intervertebral discs. The discs are composed of a soft gel-like center and a tough outer lining. The intervertebral disc creates a joint between each of the bones in the spine that allows them to move. When the outer lining that surrounds a disc tears, the soft center can squeeze out through the opening, creating a herniated disc.

Neck pain and the symptoms caused by a herniated disc are common problems for many adults. The neck is composed of many different anatomic structures, including muscles, bones, ligaments, and joints. Each of these structures has nerve endings that can detect painful problems when they occur. You may need to have an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery.

Conservative Care

Not all patients with neck pain require surgery. In fact, more than 95% find symptom relief through non-surgical therapies such as exercise, medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. Other methods include ACDF treatment, which includes therapeutic and rehabilitation methods to ease the pain sensation without surgeries.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Traditionally, a procedure called a spinal fusion (anterior cervical discectomy) has been the gold standard for surgically treating degenerative conditions in the cervical spine. Using bone grafts and instrumentation such as metal plates and screws, this procedure fuses, or creates a bond between, two or more adjacent vertebrae. This will ideally stabilize the spine and provide pain relief. Many patients have achieved excellent results with anterior cervical discectomy. However, a potential disadvantage associated with this type of spine surgery is the loss of motion and flexibility in the treated vertebral segment.

Causes of Herniated Discs

As we age, the discs in our spine can lose their flexibility and elasticity. The ligaments surrounding the discs become brittle and are more easily torn. When a herniated disc occurs, it can put pressure on nearby spinal nerves (radiculopathy) or the spinal cord (myelopathy), causing painful symptoms.

Symptoms of Herniated Discs

A herniated disc in the neck can cause neck pain, radiating arm pain, shoulder pain, and numbness or tingling in the arm or hand. The quality and type of pain can vary from dull, aching, and difficult to localize to sharp, burning, and easy to pinpoint.
Pain in your arms as well as in your neck is usually the first sign that your nerve roots are irritated by a problem in your neck. Symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and especially weakness in the muscles of your arms, are warning signs that your problem may be more serious. Weakness in your arms is a definite sign that you should see a doctor about your neck pain.

Diagnosis of Herniated Discs

The diagnosis of a herniated disc begins with a complete physical examination of the neck, arms, and lower extremities. Dr. Moza, a Ventura County spine surgeon, will examine your neck for flexibility, range of motion, and signs that suggest that your nerve roots or spinal cord are affected by a herniated disc. You may be asked to fill out a diagram that asks where your symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness are occurring. X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered.
Although it’s a normal part of the aging process, degenerative spinal conditions, such as a herniated disc, can cause neck pain and other symptoms. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options, such as artificial disc replacement, that help provide relief and keep you active.