Awake Spinal Fusion is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require general anesthesia. Instead of a lengthy hospital stay, you’re up and about in just a few hours.
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What is an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion (ACDF)?
ACDF is a surgical procedure of the spine used to correct the following conditions:
- Bulging and herniated disc: The gel-like material within the disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the surrounding wall (annulus). Irritation and swelling occurs when this material squeezes out and painfully presses on a nerve.
- Degenerative disc disease: As discs naturally wear out, bone spurs form and the facet joints inflame. The discs dry out and shrink, losing their flexibility and cushioning properties. The disc spaces get smaller. These changes lead to canal stenosis or disc herniation.
Discectomy literally means “cutting out the disc.” A discectomy can be performed anywhere along the spine from the neck (cervical) to the low back (lumbar).
Dr. Sharan reaches the damaged disc from the front (anterior) of the spine through the throat area, moving aside the neck muscles, trachea, and esophagus, and exposing the disc and bony vertebrae. Surgery from the front of the neck is more accessible than from the back (posterior) because the disc can be reached without disturbing the spinal cord, spinal nerves, and the strong neck muscles. Depending on your particular symptoms, one disc (single-level) or more (multi-level) may be removed.
After the disc is removed, the space between the bony vertebrae is empty. To prevent the vertebrae from collapsing and rubbing together, a spacer filled with bone graft is inserted to fill the open disc space. The graft serves as a bridge between the two vertebrae to create a spinal fusion. The bone graft and vertebrae are fixed in place with screws.
Following ACDF surgery, the body begins its natural healing process and new bone cells grow around the graft. After three to six months, the bone graft should join the two vertebrae and form one solid piece of bone. The instrumentation and fusion work together, similar to reinforced concrete.
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