Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Surgery
What Is ACDF Surgery?
There are two major parts of the Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Surgery:
- The first being the bony portion of the fusion. This consists of a combination of bone from the bone bank and local bone from the area of the spinal decompression. In a majority of cases, Dr. Albert does not take a bone graft from the patient’s iliac crest (hip area) meaning you will not have a separate incision.
- The second component of the fusion is the instrumentation. This is a plate and screws that are then placed anterior to the vertebrae.
Is Fusion Surgery Painful?
Please keep in mind that pain is a very subjective experience and one’s reaction to surgery is affected by a variety of factors as mentioned above. After ACDF surgery, the most common concerns we hear from patients are a sore throat (similar to after a tonsillectomy) and a discomfort around their scapula (or shoulder blade). Both of these tend to resolve prior to the first post-operative appointment at 2-3 weeks after surgery.
It is not uncommon for patients to experience “reminder” pain after surgery. This is when a patient begins to experience the same symptoms as they had before surgery. While this is common in recovery from spine surgery we understand that this can be very concerning to our patients. We encourage you to call the office with any concerns you may have after surgery.
What To Avoid Before Surgery
We ask that you refrain from taking any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines 10 days before and 10 weeks after surgery such as:
- Any herbal supplements
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Fish Oil
If you have a physician who recommends that you do not stop Aspirin prior to surgery please be sure to discuss this with our office. You should also discontinue all exposure to nicotine, as well as nicotine-containing products, two weeks before and at least 6 weeks after your surgery.
ACDF Surgery Recovery
During the first 2-3 weeks, your activity will be limited to walking. We encourage you to walk as much as you are comfortable. During this time you may go up and down stairs, with the use of a railing, and you may also sleep in a normal bed. You will be limited to lifting 5 pounds for the first 2 weeks. After two weeks you will be able to resume low-impact cardiovascular activities and increase the amount of weight you are lifting. Within a reasonable amount of time, you will have very few restrictions on your activities. Please be sure to discuss any specific questions with us in the office.
The first visit is 2-3 weeks after surgery however if you have any questions or concerns please call the office. If we think we should see you in the office we will schedule an earlier appointment. Most patients do not have sutures that need to be removed after an Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Surgery. There are internal sutures that will dissolve with time. There will also be steri-strips (white pieces of tape) over the incision that will either fall off or we will remove them on the office.
Please keep in mind that the recovery from surgery is quite subjective and is affected by various factors such as patient age, comorbid illnesses, the degree of the spinal cord or nerve impingement, the length of illness prior to surgery as well as the degree of disability prior to surgery to name a few.
How long will I be out of work?
- The average length of time out of work after an Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion Surgery is between 2-4 weeks. Patients who perform labor intense jobs are more likely to be out of work closer to 4 weeks.
When will I be able to drive?
- Most patients are able to begin driving, short distances, between 2-3 weeks after surgery. You may be a passenger in a car as soon as you feel up to it.
How long will I be wearing the soft collar?
- The average amount of time patients wear the collar after an ACDF is 2-3 weeks.
Will I need physical therapy?
- We will provide you with isometric neck strengthening exercises that can be performed independently. If you are experiencing any motor weakness or balance changes before surgery we will likely recommend outpatient physical therapy after surgery.
Will I set off metal detectors?
- No, the titanium instrumentation does not currently set off metal detectors.
Will I be able to have I have an MRI after surgery?
- Yes, the titanium instrumentation does not react to the magnet in the MRI machine however you should still notify the MRI facility of the presence of the instrumentation.