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Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion or Arthroplasty

What is Anterior Disc Surgery?

Pinched nerves, spinal cord compression and neck pain can be caused by many different conditions. Usually, these conditions are simply caused by the daily wear and tear that comes with aging.

This can produce discs, bones or ligaments that push on and irritate nerves producing pain, weakness, numbness or other neurological symptoms. Motion plays a role because these areas of compression occur in and around joints.

There is not just pressure on nerves, but a grinding effect along with it, even when motion is normal. Sometimes motion is excessive in these conditions, making things even worse.

Conditions that are often treated with anterior cervical discectomy in NJ include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Cervical Stenosis
  • Cervical Spondylosis
  • Cervical Spondyotic Myelopathy
  • Herniated discs
  • Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament
  • Bone spurs or osteophytes

To correct this problem, your doctor may perform an anterior cervical discectomy to decompress your nerves.

Sometimes, your doctor will recommend an additional step to stabilize the spine called a fusion. The complete name of this procedure is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Other times, your doctor will recommend placing an artificial disc in a procedure called a cervical arthroplasty.

Your NJ surgeon may explain to you that your condition is potentially treatable with either a fusion or an arthroplasty, and he or she should be able to discuss the pros and cons of each.

Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion vs. Cervical Arthroplasty

Once your doctor has recommended surgery, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding upon the exact surgical procedure that is right for your condition. Surgical treatment of discs from the front of the neck is popular because it is usually not very painful, low risk and usually followed by a rapid recovery.

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion in NJ is a time tested procedure with a very high success rate. The concern regarding this procedure has to do with the potential long term effects on the discs next to the fusion, what are called the adjacent segments.

For this reason artificial discs were invented, and it seems that for some patients, having an artificial disc instead of having a fusion may prevent future problems at the adjacent segments.

Disc replacement, however, is relatively new, and although they seem to work well, they haven’t been around long enough to know how they will hold up after 15-20 years of wear.

The Anterior Cervical Discectomy Procedure

Your procedure will take place in an accredited New Jersey hospital. The first part of the surgery, the anterior cervical discectomy is exactly the same, whether a fusion or a disc replacement will be performed.

This typically involves a small, lateral incision in a skin crease in front of your neck, careful dissection through a natural surgical corridor through the structures in the front of your neck down to the front of the spine and removal of one or more discs in their entirety to decompress your nerves.

After removal of the disc, the space left over is filled either with a spacer and material to promote bone growth, in the case of a fusion, or with a artificial disc.

If a fusion is performed, often a small plate and screws are often used to hold the bones together until the bone grows. You should understand that artificial discs are made of metal as well.

After your minimally invasive cervical spine surgery, you will be taken to the recovery area, and your NJ doctor will discuss with you and your family how your procedure went. Most patients can leave the hospital within 24 hours of the surgery.

Recovery after Anterior Cervical Discectomy

Once you leave the hospital after surgery, you can begin starting gentle exercise like walking. Virtually everyone that has minimally invasive cervical spine surgery experiences pain and difficulty swallowing often accompanied by some mild hoarseness for a couple of weeks after surgery.

You may have to avoid foods that are difficult to swallow for a period of time. Additionally, many patients have neck pain and stiffness. Your NJ surgeon may ask that you maintain appropriate posture and avoid heavy lifting or excessive bending while your neck is healing. Most patients are able to return to sedentary work within a week or two of the surgery.

Most patients feel recovered from the pain related to their surgery within 2-4 weeks. Every person heals differently, so be sure to discuss your specific recovery course with your doctor so you understand what to expect.

Resumption of most activities is permitted after 6 weeks. If you have had a fusion, your doctor may advise to avoid certain high stress activities or work tasks until your fusion has solidified. This may take a few to several months.

You may benefit from a short course of physical therapy to help you regain flexibility and strength after fusion surgery in NJ. This active rehab program should focus on regaining normal mobility and independence.

Risks of Fusion or Arthroplasty Surgery

No surgery is without risks, and minimally invasive cervical spine surgery in NJ is no different.

Risks of the procedure include:

  • Prolonged difficulty swallowing
  • Prolonged hoarseness
  • Failure of the bones to fuse (also known as “non-union” or “pseudoarthrosis”)
  • Hematoma
  • Infection
  • Failure to relieve all of your symptoms
  • Postoperative shoulder weakness

While negative outcomes are rare, they do happen.

Having an open discussion with your doctor about the surgery is an important step in understanding the risks and benefits of anterior cervical surgery in Bergen County, Essex County and all areas of NJ & NY.

Is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion or Cervical Arthroplasty Right for Me?

It is normal to have some anxiety about minimally invasive cervical spine surgery in NJ. You may be concerned about your job or caring for your family.

These feelings are natural, and most people feel better when they learn more about the procedure and how it can help them return to normal pain free activity.

Meeting with one of our professional doctors in our New Jersey offices is the best way to decide if spinal fusion surgery is the right choice for you.