Anterior cervical discectomy is a surgical procedure that is used to treat spinal cord and nerve root compression by decompressing the spinal cord and the roots of the cervical spine. This procedure is done in order to stabilize the corresponding vertebrae. This surgical procedure is thought to be extreme in some cases and is usually performed as last resorts after all non-surgical treatment have failed.
This procedure is done in the front of the spine where a herniated or degenerative disc is removed and the vertebrae above and below the removed disc area is fused together. A discectomy (cutting of the disc) can be performed anywhere along the spine but in this case the procedure is done in the neck. The vertebrae are granted access when the trachea, esophagus, disc, vertebrae and neck muscles are moved aside. Surgeons prefer to perform this procedure from the front of the neck as to not disrupt the spinal cord, spinal nerves and back neck muscles.
The bone graft that is used to fuse the remaining disc together is usually immobilized being held together with screws and metal plates. Though this procedure is quite invasive, it is an outpatient procedure that has a typical recovery time of about 4 to 6 weeks. After surgery the body begins to heal and new cells begin to form around the graft. If typically takes about 3 to 6 months after surgery for the bone graft to join the vertebrae above and below it creating a single, solid piece of bone. There are cases when the bone grows around the plates and screws used to immobilize the graft.
There are a few types of bone grafts to choice from. An autograph comes directly from your body (typically the hip). This type of graft naturally has bone growing proteins and cells so there is a higher rate of fusion using this type of graft. However, removal of the graft from the hip usually means an experienced hip pain after the surgery is complete.
Allograft bone comes from a donor. This type of bone graft does not have bone growing proteins and cells as the bone was likely extracted from a dead body. The advantage of this type of graft is that it eliminates the extraction of bone graft from the hip thus eliminating the potential pains associated with hip bone extraction. Living bone tissue that is extracted from the living bone tissue taken from the spine during surgery is packed into the center of this graft.
A bone graft substitute is man-made using materials such as plastic, ceramic, and bioresorbable compounds. Much like the allograft, this bone graft is also packed with shavings of living bone tissue taken from the spine during surgery.
Range of motion loss is to be expected after surgery but in some cases if only one level is fused there may be better range of motion than before the surgery. If more than one level is removed limited range of motion is often the result.
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Written By: Updated: June 23,2011