Anterior Cervical Discectomy

Anterior cervical discectomy can be performed with fusion, or without, and is a procedure to remove part, or the whole, of a disc in the vertebral spine which has become problematic. This may be a bulging neck disc or may have herniated, which in turn causes compression on the nerves and blood vessels in the spine and can lead to symptoms of neck pain. Patients may also be suffering from paraesthesia, numbness, weakness, and radicular pain due to a pinched nerve. The disc in the spine may have become dry, brittle, and compressed and requires either removal and decompression, or replacement with an artificial disc.

How a Discectomy Helps

Discectomy relieves irritation and inflammation of the compressed nerve and is usually carried out from the anterior (front) of the neck with a small incision made to allow access to the vertebrae and the disc. The surgeon is likely to remove any bone spurs which have formed around the problematic disc to further reduce compression on the spinal cord and nerves. An anterior cervical discectomy leaves the space resulting from the removal of the disc open for the nerve roots to have optimal space. However, the operation may be combined with a bone graft, or metal plate attachment, encouraging fusion of the spine at that intervertebral level; this minimizes movement of the spine, but may provide stability, whereas leaving the area open can sometimes result in a forward curve of the spine. An artificial disc replacement presents a more recent advance in spinal surgery, and may allow for more natural movement to be returned to the spine.

Proceed with Caution

There are risks with any surgery, but anterior cervical discectomy carries further risks due to the location of the procedure in the front of the neck. There are several structures in this area that are susceptible to both short and long-term damage from an anterior cervical discectomy. The benefits of the surgery will be weighed with the risks for each individual patient. Surgery can provide welcome relief from neck pain, numbness, weakness, and all of the symptoms of a herniated disc and pinched nerve. Anterior cervical discectomy is the most common surgical procedure performed to remove damaged cervical discs.

Next read about: Preparing for a Discectomy