Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a surgical procedure used to treat neck pain and other symptoms of a slipped or herniated disc in the cervical (upper) spine. Herniated discs are not as common in the neck as they are in the lower back, however, they can still occur as a result of wear-and-tear to the neck area (which is likely caused by the many twisting and rotating movements the neck is responsible for on a daily basis), or as an effect of the aging process.
A cervical herniated disc can have symptoms that include sharp and chronic pain in the neck that lasts more than a few days. Patients also often feel traveling pain, a tingling sensation, numbness, and muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms, and hands. The severity of the symptoms depends largely on the amount of material that has “slipped” or expelled from the intervertebral disc and is pressing against nerve roots and the spinal cord.
The aim of a cervical discectomy is to relieve symptoms of a herniated disc by removing any displaced disc material obstructing the nerve. This can include partial disc removal (sometimes called a microdiscectomy) or removal of the entire disc. Because intervertebral discs are situated at the anterior (front) part of the spinal column, cervical discectomies are often performed through an incision in the front of the neck (or throat). Depending on the amount of disc material removed, it may be necessary to perform a spinal fusion to stabilize the vertebrae surrounding the removed disc. A fusion uses a bone graft and in some cases hardware such as screws and rods to force two vertebrae to grow together.
It’s important to know that most herniated disc cases do not require surgery. In fact, they are usually treatable with a few months of conventional therapy, such as bed rest, a neck brace, over-the-counter medication, and physical therapy. If you try conservative treatment for a few consecutive months but still feel no relief, you may consider an anterior cervical discectomy.
If you’re considering a discectomy as a treatment for your herniated disc, Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers an alternative procedure that minimizes damage to surrounding tissues and muscles and only leaves a tiny scar. LSI’s revolutionary endoscopic microdiscectomy procedure is performed in an outpatient setting and provides relief in the vast majority of cases within weeks of the procedure. We can review your MRI or CT scan for free to assess whether your cervical disc problem is treatable with an outpatient procedure, so contact us today.