It’s Time For Surgery
Back pain can go beyond the aches and pains most Americans will experience at some point. Many of these cases are due to serious spinal conditions involving the intervertebral discs. Discs separate the vertebrae, providing shock absorption and some flexibility. Should a disc become damaged or compromised, a spinal surgeon may suggest minimally invasive back surgery. ACDF is one of the more common and effective types of surgery. While surgery helps, the procedure is only as effective as the recovery timeline.
Why choose ACDF?
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, or ACDF, involves removing a damaged disc and fusing the nearby vertebrae. A patient with long-term neck or spinal pain may have a herniated disc. Herniated discs happen when the outer disc layer tears and the inner nucleus protrudes through the space. The herniated disc presses on surrounding nerves, causing pain, numbness, and discomfort. Degenerative disc disease, a gradual breakdown of the disc, can also be addressed with ACDF.
Why go minimally invasive?
A cervical herniated disc can cause neck pain, numbness, and weakness. In some cases, the disc can cause nerve pain in the shoulder and arm. Thanks to technology, ACDF uses minimally invasive techniques, which involve an arthroscope and small surgical tools. Thanks to these tools, the surgeon only needs 2 or 3 buttonhole incisions instead of a large surgical incision. Opting for minimally invasive surgery means less pain, smaller scars, and faster recovery. Today, patients can even visit a surgical center that specializes in minimally invasive surgeries.
Under the knife
ACDF takes a few hours, and thanks to minimally invasive means, the patient should be able to leave the hospital the same day. A spinal surgeon will approach the surgery from the anterior or front of the neck. This approach allows full access to the disc while impacting the least amount of tissue. With the arthroscope and micro tools, the surgeon will remove some or all of the diseased disc. From there, a bone graft or artificial implant goes into the disc space. Over time the bones will grow or fuse to form one solid piece. Recovery starts in the coming days after surgery.
Time for recovery
In the days after surgery, ACDF patients will feel some pain and discomfort in the surgical site. Since the surgery happens near the throat, ACDF patients need a liquid diet for 2-3 days. Throat pain and difficulty swallowing can occur for up to 4 weeks. If the surgeon used a bone graft from another part of the body, there would be some localized pain. Pain management is critical during the first 4 weeks of surgery, which includes rest and medication. The surgeon will suggest light stretches and exercises, like walking, to improve blood flow and encourage healing.
Improving day by day
After the first 4 weeks, the pain will improve significantly, and movement will become easier. However, the temptation will be there to start rigorous activities. There will still be pain, weakness, and fatigue after long periods of movement. At this point, the surgeon may suggest physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and improve the range of motion. This recovery timeframe can go up to 12 weeks.
Back to business
Full recovery is expected after 12 weeks. However, there are some cases where recovery complications can extend this timeline. For instance, sitting for long periods, standing, or lifting heavy objects can cause more pain. There are also surgical risks such as fever, infection, difficulty swallowing, and nerve pain. These complications are rare, and everything should go as planned. Upon the doctor's approval, ACDF patients can enjoy everyday activities, light sports, and resume work. The bone will fuse completely over 12-18 months. Overall, ACDF has a reported success rate of up to 95%.
Minimally invasive surgery works
For back pain patients suffering from herniated discs and other spinal conditions, ACDF may be a solution. Using small incisions and tools, a surgeon can remove the diseased disc and fuse the bones. Without complications, recovery should happen within 3 months and total fusion after 12 months. Taking self-care steps can significantly improve the recovery timeframe. Speak with a surgeon about ACDF surgery or any recovery concerns after surgery today.