Coexisting symptoms such as pain in the neck and extremitiesmay occur when an intervertebral disc herniates i.e., when the tough, outer ring (annulus fibrosus) of the disc breaks and the soft jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus) protrudes out and puts pressure on neural structures, such as nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. Bone spurs or osteophytes, bony outgrowths, which occur due to the calcification of spine joints, may also lead to these problems.
Anterior cervical discectomy is a surgical procedure which relieves compression on the nerve roots and/or the spinal cord because of a herniated disc or a bone spur. This procedure involves making an incision in the front side of the neck (anterior cervical spine), followed by the removal of disc material and/or a portion of the bone around the nerve roots and/or spinal cord to relieve the compression of neural structures and provide them with additional space.
Discectomy implies removing the total or a part of an intervertebral disc. The term discectomy originated from the Latin words- discus (flat, circular object or plate) and -ectomy (removal).
Compression or pressure on the neural structures- nerve roots or spinal cord- due to herniated disc or bone spur may irritate the neural structures and cause pain in the neck and/or arms; numbness or weakness in the arms, forearms or fingers; and lack of coordination. As most of the nerves to the body pass through the neck region from the brain, pressure on the spinal cord in the neck region (cervical spine) can be problematic. Patients with these symptoms are potential candidates for this surgical procedure.
An overview of what happens during anterior cervical discectomy is as follows:
The surgical procedure will be performed with you laying flat on a table on your back. A minor incision is made at the front of your neck to the side.
Your surgeon exposes the region of neural compression by spreading apart the soft tisses- fat and muscle, in the neck region.
The disc material or a portion of the bone compressing the nerve roots and/or spinal cord will be removed, to relieve the pressure on nerve structures and to provide them enough space.
After the removal, your surgeon closes and dresses the incision.
A specific post-operative recovery/exercise plan will be designed by your physician to help you return to normal activity at the earliest possible. The duration of hospital stay depends on this treatment plan. You will be able to wake up and walk by the end of the first day after the surgery.
All surgeries carry risk and it is important to understand the risks of the procedure in order to make an informed decision to go ahead with the surgery. In addition to the anesthetic complications, spinal surgery is associated with some potential risks such as infection, blood loss, blood clots, nerve damage, and bowel and bladder problems.
Talk to your surgeon about any concerns you have about Anterior Cervical Discectomy surgery.