Knowing The ABCs Of Cervical Spine Surgery

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Back and neck pain are among the most common ailments in the US. Among adults, 60-80% experience back pain, and 20-70% experience neck pain. While the causes of neck and back pain vary, treatment options can sometimes include surgery. When considering cervical spine surgery, candidates should know the differences between the two primary options: ACDF and CTDR.

What happens during ACDF surgery?

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery is used to treat herniated discs that cause neck and back pain. During the procedure, a spine surgeon makes a small incision in the front of the neck. The surgeon then removes the damaged disc and performs a fusion of 2 or more bones in the cervical spine. This provides stability for the spine, although the fusion can reduce the range of motion.

What happens during CTDR surgery?

Cervical total disc replacement (CTDR) is another spine surgery used to treat neck or back pain. In this procedure, the surgeon also uses a minimally invasive approach and makes a small incision at the front of the neck. In CTDR surgeries, the surgeon inserts a mechanical device in place of the disc. This helps preserve the range of motion.

Which operation is better?

Both cervical spine surgeries provide treatment for patients suffering from a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. The procedure the surgeon recommends will depend on the individual circumstances of the patient. For example, patients who are younger and only have one damaged disc may prefer total disc replacement. Patients with specific conditions such as arthritis may benefit more from discectomy and fusion.

Good surgical candidates

For most people, the spine has adequate cushion to allow for pain-free range of motion. However, due to age, arthritis, or degeneration, sometimes the cushioning between vertebrae decreases. This can be the result of spinal discs drying out, thinning, swelling, or bulging. When discs break open, this is called herniation. Many patients with these conditions experience chronic neck pain, back pain, headaches, or shoulder pain.

Treatment for neck and back pain

Surgery is not the first line of treatment for neck or back pain. Patients who consult with a physician will often start with less invasive treatments. Some of these may include stretching, massage, steroid injections, or certain medications. When pain does not improve, however, a healthcare provider may recommend surgery.

Find a spine surgeon today

While surgery is not always necessary, sometimes a minimally invasive spine surgery can be the best treatment for a herniated disc or degeneration. A spine surgeon can help patients understand the differences between ACDF and CTDR surgeries and which is the right treatment option.

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