Skip to main content

Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion (ACDF)

What is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)?

If you have one or several damaged spinal discs, you may need an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This is a common surgical procedure we provide at NeuroSpine Plus, performed on the cervical spine.

It involves fusing two or more of your spinal vertebrae using a small disc spacer and bone graft, alleviating compression on your spinal cord and nerve roots, and reducing pain in your neck, shoulders, and arms. Compared to some spinal surgeries, which enter from the back, or posterior aspect of your neck, the anterior approach is a less invasive technique routinely practiced by our surgeons.

ACDF is a widely used surgery used to treat cervical radiculopathy, disc herniation, and other spinal conditions. If you have any of these conditions or are suffering from persistent neck pain, chronic headaches, mid-back, shoulders, or arm pain, then you may be a candidate for an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

With our specialized neurosurgeons, gain personalized advice about your neck pain with a comprehensive consultation, detailed diagnostic imaging review, and an individualized treatment plan addressing the root cause of your pain.


What symptoms are treated with an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF)?

When you have a compressed spinal disc, it adds pressure to the surrounding spinal nerves, causing neck pain. In addition to pain, you may experience:

  • Severe arm pain
  • Progressive weakness in your hands and arms 
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in your arms and hands on one or both sides
  • Worsening pain and ongoing weakness even after conservative treatments 
  • Progressive difficulty with balance
  • Daily headaches with neck pain
  • Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar neuropathy 

An ACDF procedure may be recommended for you if you suffer from spinal conditions that cause neck pain or involve a pinched nerve, such as:

At NeuroSpine Plus, we prioritize the patient-centered approach. Our providers will address your every concern, prepare you for the appropriate treatment path, and work with you to relieve your pain.

How is anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) performed?

Before your surgery, your doctor will provide you with instructions to include but are not limited to:

  • No eating or drinking after midnight the night prior to your procedure
  • Stop taking certain medications such as anti-inflammatories or blood thinners
  • Wash the surgical area with antibacterial soap the night before, and the morning of, your procedure

You will be given general anesthesia by a trained anesthesiologist. You will be completely asleep before the procedure begins. Once you are anesthetized, our team of experienced neurosurgeons and physician assistants will perform the following procedure:

  1. Incision is made: A horizontal incision around 1-2 inches will be made on either side of your neck. If several discs need to be removed, the incision may be vertical for easier access. Once the incision has been made, your anterior neck muscles, ligaments, trachea, and esophagus will be gently moved to access the compromised disc.
  2. Disc is excised: Using fluoroscopy, x-rays are taken to confirm the compromised disc space. With the use of a microscope, our surgeons then remove the disc material, ensuring safe decompression of the spinal cord and exiting nerve roots.
  3. Replacement: A disc spacer packed with a bone graft is inserted to replace the damaged disc.
  4. Fusion: After the graft is placed, a small metal plate may be used to stabilize that area of your spine further. Complete fusion may take up to one year, or more, depending on your condition.
  5. Closure: The incision will be closed with multiple layers of dissolvable sutures and covered with a dry, sterile dressing.

What to expect following an anterior cervical discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

Your postoperative healing progress will be closely overseen by our team of providers, ensuring a routine recovery. A member of our team will contact you within the first 48 hours of your procedure to monitor your progress. Your initial post operative appointment will be scheduled within two weeks of your surgical date. A member of our team is always available to answer questions or address your concerns during your recovery period. General postoperative recommendations include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Use of postoperative pain medications as prescribed

  • Over-the-counter Tylenol for pain

  • Advance your diet as tolerated based on your comfort with swallowing

  • Do not strain your voice

  • Avoid excessive neck movement

  • Wear a cervical collar as instructed by your provider

  • Do not smoke

  • Do not drink alcohol

  • Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments

  • Do not use NSAIDs until cleared by your surgeon (Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, etc)

  • Incision care to include washing your incision with gentle antibacterial soap 48 hours after your procedure. No scrubbing, submerging, or soaking the incision(s). No lotions, creams, oils, or ointments atop the incision(s).

When to contact your doctor's office following an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion?

If you have concerns during your postoperative period to include, but not limited to the following:

  • High fever greater than 100.4F
  • Change in urinary or bowel habits
  • Swelling or discoloration of one or both calves
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Incisional compromise

If you have a question regarding your initial postoperative period, a member of our team is always available to answer and address your concerns at 201-399-3388.


On average, bony fusion can take up to  12 months and a 4-6 week recovery period to return to normal daily activities. To learn more about this procedure, book a consultation with one of our spinal specialists.

Many patients self-report significant improvement and success, around 85%-95%, 10 years following their initial surgery. Learn more about this surgery in detail and how our spinal specialists can help reduce your neck pain

ACDF surgery is typically recommended when various conservative measures have been ineffective or your spinal compression is severe.

If you believe you may be a candidate for an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, call our office today to book your consultation at 201-399-3388.

Schedule an Appointment