Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion


What are Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Surgery?

ACDF is considered for patients with intractable neck pain and/or arm pain from a prolapsed disc or cervical degenerative disc disease. Herniated disc material or bony spurs (osteophytes) cause pain by exerting pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. ACDF may also be indicated after neck injuries (fractures, dislocations) resulting in cervical spine instability.

The procedure is carried out from the front of the neck to help relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. In addition, the surgery is done to stabilise the spine further. Together with adjacent bone, the intervertebral disc is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves. As a result, the spine is aligned better this way. Generally, spinal surgery is carried out to treat degenerative spine disease, spinal instability, spinal tumours, and spine trauma.

Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Anterior Cervical Fusion Surgery

Decompression means freeing the nerves and spinal cord from impinging disc material, hypertrophied bone and ligaments. Anterior Cervical Decompression is performed on the cervical spine with anterior surgery (from the front of the neck). Dr Szabo uses an operating microscope which allows for ample light and magnification for a complete decompression.

The purpose of the fusion is to restore the collapsed intervertebral space to the original height and stabilise the segment. A bone block (graft) or implant (cage) is placed in between the vertebral bodies to cause them to fuse together. A small titanium plate is often placed on the two vertebrae to provide further stability.

The procedure carries minimal risk of bleeding, and the meticulous surgical technique provides rapid recovery and an excellent cosmetic outcome.

Recovery Time

One level of cervical decompression and fusion takes about three hours. The patients require two to three nights of hospital stay. An initial two weeks of rest and relaxation are needed to ensure proper healing and adequate pain relief. Postoperative rehabilitation starts on the third week after surgery with a course of physical therapy and a stretch exercise regimen. Most patients are able to resume their routine activities by four weeks after the surgery.


1How do I know something is wrong with my neck?
The spinal canal, including the intervertebral foramina, is a tunnel made up of bone that provides a path for the spinal cord and nerves to run through. But when the size of the tunnels becomes smaller, there is less room for the spinal cord and nerves to travel. As a result, pressure on these structures increases. Nerve and spinal cord compression lead to pain, stiffness, and neck weakness.
2What degenerative conditions can lead to spinal cord compression and nerve root compression?
The following conditions lead to increased pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots:
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bone spurs (osteophytes)
  • Spinal arthritis (spondylosis)
3What surgery can fix chronic neck pain?
The most common cause of persistent neck pain is a problematic disc found somewhere along the cervical spine. A cut is made at the front of the neck to access and remove a prolapsed disc. Spinal fusion is the last stage of the surgery to stabilise the weakened area in the cervical spine.