How long does it take for anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery to fuse?

by Carl Spivak

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a surgical disk removal procedure through the front of the neck relieving pressure off the spinal cord and nerves.  After the neural elements are well decompressed and the endplates of the vertebrae are prepared a piece of bone is placed into the emptied disk space.   This bone may be from the patients body (usually the hip) or can be specially prepared from cadaveric bone.

The bone graft then must incorporate into the spinal vertebrae.   The bone from the upper and lower vertebrae slowly grow into the graft ultimately making one large “bone”.   This can be a slow process.  Fusion usually takes 6 to 12 months or more.   I wold not expect you to be fused in 3 months.  Initially the bone weakens and then slowly becomes stronger as the bone from the other vertebrae grow through it.  The healing is not complete until fusion is completed. I would recommend giving it more time.

Artificial disk replacement is a new option to cervical fusion.  The procedure is done in a similar manor to the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.  The disk is removed and the endplates are prepared.  An artificial disk is then placed into the neck instead of the bone graft.  Even though artificial disks are relatively new medical technology there may be significant advantages including early return to activity since you do not have to wait for the bone to fuse and less wear and tear at the adjacent disks spaces which may lead to further spinal disease after a fusion.

Endoscopic cervical discectomy is another fusion sparing option for removal of cervical disks.  The spinal cord and nerve are decompressed, spinal motion is maintain and no metal disk is placed into the neck.

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Good Luck!

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