Discectomy translates to “cutting out the disc”, and is a form of surgical decompression. The process involves removing a herniated or degenerated disc, and placing a spacer bone graft in the open space.
A fusion surgery is usually performed at the same time as a discectomy, in order to stabilize the cervical segment. Together, these services are called an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, or ACDF.
Though Discectomies can be performed anywhere along the spine from the neck (cervical) to the lower back (lumbar), an ACDF is performed from the front of the spine, through the throat area.
Performing the surgery in a minimally-invasive, suture-less method, through the front of the neck (anterior) versus the back of the neck (posterior) allows us to access the discs without disturbing the spine and spinal nerves. This also allows for improved function after surgery, less blood loss, and more complete decompression of spinal nerves.
The goal of an ACDF is to remove a herniated or degenerated disc in the neck area of the spine.
The discs in your spine consists of 80% water. When you grow older, the discs begin to dry out and shrink, causing small tears in the annulus (the surrounding wall) and inflammation in the nerve root. The nucleus pulposus (the jelly-like center) of the herniated disc bulges out through the annulus and presses on the nerve root next to it, causing inflammation and serious pain.
ACDF procedures are used if and only if other non-surgical treatments have failed in treating the pain.
Not all patients and procedures are the same. The above is an example of what the typical patient can expect from some minimally invasive procedures.