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ACDF Surgery – Back Pain Treatment

Are You Suffering From Back Pain? It Could Have Serious Causes.

Roughly 70 to 85 percent of people have experienced back pain at some point in their lives. For most people, it might just be a simple strain causing their problem. However, if the pain persists for more than three months, it is considered chronic and might mean a more serious cause- like a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease.  

Herniated Discs

Herniated discs can be caused by various things, including excessive strain (from lifting heavy objects or lifting things improperly) or trauma (like sports injuries or car accidents).

Degenerative Disc

Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs naturally wear out over time. Over the years, the joints inflame, bone bursts form, and the discs dry and flatten out, compressing the spinal cord’s nerves, causing pain, weakness, or other neurologic problems.

If you have chronic back problems, you may want to consider seeing a back or spine specialist.

This could be neck or back pain, but it could also include radiating arm pain. Some people describe pretty severe shooting pains down their arms and numbness, tingling, or sometimes weakness. In more complicated situations, spinal injuries might manifest as balance difficulty, dropping things, falling, or other weaknesses.

MRI

When you first visit a doctor, they will usually try to pinpoint the cause of the pain. This may include a series of tests like an MRI (taking a picture of the cervical spine). In some extenuating circumstances, your doctor may do a CT Myelogram (which is slightly more invasive and includes injecting dye into the spinal column) or take additional x-rays to help with a diagnosis.

After diagnosis, your doctor usually will have you do a series of non-surgical treatment options to see if surgery can be avoided.

If none of those work and symptoms persist, most doctors would recommend surgery.

ACDF Surgery

An Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion (ACDF) is a neck surgery that treats many back and spine conditions, including bulging or herniated discs and degenerative disc disease, with the goal being to decompress the nerves in the spinal cord. 

It can be performed anywhere along the spine from the neck to the lower back area. In an ACDF surgery, the disc is cut out from the front so that the spinal cord, nerve, and strong neck muscles in the back are left undisturbed.

An ACDF surgery usually lasts about 1-3 hours, depending on how many discs are being removed and other problems.

The surgery starts with the discectomy. As the disc is removed, the surgeon encounters the spinal cord and the nerves. Once this happens, they will begin to decompress the spinal cord nerves by removing bone spurs and removing the disk that has bulged backward. There’s also a ligament behind the disc that is sometimes removed to help decompress the nerves in the spinal cord.

Once the surgeon feels they have achieved an adequate decompression, the surgery’s fusion part (which is essentially putting everything back together) begins. The goal is for the bones to grow back together so that they’re not mobile on one another and do not cause any further problems in the future. That is achieved by inserting a disc spacer where the disc used to be.

After surgery, most patients are in the hospital overnight and sometimes two nights. Usually, patients have a sore throat and muscle spasms in their back and neck, but it doesn’t last longer than a few days.

Every patient recovers differently, but most people are “back to normal” 6-8 weeks after surgery, depending on the surgery’s extent. During that time, your doctor may restrict sporting activity and gradually increase and advance their activities starting at six weeks.

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