Between each bone of the spinal column is a cushion called an invertebral disc. These discs prevent the bones from grinding against one another and act as shock absorbers during falls, exercise, and daily activities. Sometimes these discs become damaged, causing pain that can range from moderate to intense. An ACDF procedure may be carried out on any of the discs in between the seven cervical bones.
It is easier for the surgeon to reach the spinal column through the throat because entering through the back of the neck can harm the neck muscles and spinal column. The surgeon then moves the tissue inside the neck and throat aside to access the spine and removes any damaged discs.
To ensure that the spine is aligned and to prevent the bones of the spine from rubbing against one another, the surgery typically includes fusion of at least two bones. It is at this point during the procedure that the surgeon replaces the disc.
There are a few options for disc replacement:
- Bone graft: A bone graft is when the surgeon attaches bone to the area to replace the disc. The bone may come from somewhere else in the person’s own body, or from a bone bank.
- Bone graft substitute: Similar to a bone graft, this approach uses human-manufactured materials that contain shavings from the person’s bones.
- Arthroplasty: This is when the surgeon replaces the disc with an artificial disc.Once the replacement disc is in place, the surgeon uses a titanium plate and screws to attach the bones. When the surgery involves a bone graft, the bones will eventually grow together. Until that happens, the plate and screws provide stability.An X-ray machine helps the surgeon ensure the replacement disc is in the right place. After the procedure, the surgeon moves the tissue of the neck and throat back to its original location and seals the wound with stitches.