Getting To The Root Of Neck Pain

Reading Time: 5 minutes Most people experience neck pain at some point. Nearly everyone can relate to the feeling of having a crick in the neck after starting at a computer screen for too long. However, sometimes neck pain is due to damaged discs in the spinal column. If this is the case, a minimally invasive surgery called ACDF may be an option.

What is ACDF?

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a surgery to remove a damaged disc from the neck. Usually, discs between the bones of the spinal column keep bones from rubbing against each other and act as shock absorbers. When these discs become damaged, a person can experience intense neck pain.

Reasons for disc damage

Intervertebral discs can become damaged due to age, injury, or degenerative conditions like arthritis. When a disc becomes worn or damaged, this is called degeneration. Sometimes, a disc can bulge or break open, also known as a herniated disc.

Why try MIS?

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) options are continuing to grow. Traditionally, surgeons had to make large incisions for full view during an operation. With MIS techniques, these specialists can make small incisions and use the assistance of flexible scopes and cameras to see inside the body while performing surgery. Minimally invasive procedures are associated with fewer, smaller incisions, shorter recovery, less pain, and the ability to return home more quickly.

Benefits of MIS

During minimally invasive ACDF surgery, the physician will make a small incision in the neck, typically at a natural skin fold where the scar will be almost imperceptible. ACDF surgeries use special instruments designed to avoid cutting into soft tissues in the cervical spine. This means less pain for the patient. Some other benefits of minimally invasive ACDF surgery can include:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Lower risk of tissue damage
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Shorter recovery period
  • Decreased likelihood of pain medication

What to expect during the surgery

After the damaged disc is removed, the surgeon places a spacer in place of the disc to avoid nerve compression and pain. There are a few options surgeons will choose from when placing spacers. From start-to-finish, a minimally invasive ACDF procedure takes under an hour, and often patients can go home the same day.

Who is a good candidate?

Minimally invasive ACDF surgery is typically recommended for people who have degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, a cervical spine fracture, or cervical spinal stenosis. In some cases, an open procedure may be more beneficial. A spine specialist can advise on an individual basis which procedure is recommended for each patient.

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Board Certified, Fellowship Trained Spine Surgeon

Dwight Tyndall, MD, FAAOS

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