• London Spinal Partnership

ACDF- what does it mean and what is it?

We have asked Mr Bell about what happens when you get pain, weakness and tingling in your arms and hands. What does it mean and how can it be treated?

What does ACDF mean?

Anterior (front of the body) cervical (neck region of the spine) discectomy (cutting out of a disc) fusion (joining of two bones). This is a fusion surgery that is performed after a disc has been removed from the front of the neck.

Why might someone need ACDF surgery?

People will usually have ACDF surgery if they are experiencing radicular pain that radiates from the neck down to the arms and into the fingers. This is usually caused when one or more the nerves in the neck are compressed by a bulging or herniated disc. This can mean that the patient has pain, weakness, tingling or numbness down the arm into the fingers.


An incision is made in the front of the neck, tissues such as muscles, trachea (wind pipe), oesophagus (food pipe) are moved to the side so the surgeon has full view of the spine bones and the discs. The level that is causing the pain is located using X-ray guidance, the disc is then removed- this part of the surgery is called a discectomy. A spacer or cage is put in place of the disc, this is filled with bone graft to encourage new bone growth from the level above and below forming one motion segment- this is the fusion part of the surgery.

Patients tend to go home within a couple of days after the operation, it is expected for the recovery time to be around 4 weeks. After the operation, it is common for the patient to feel some stiffness but this should ease up by keeping mobile and doing some exercises that they will be shown by a physio therapist.

Postoperatively, the patient will be taken to recovery ward, where they will be looked after for a couple of days before they return back to their home. Some patients may experience hoarseness or sore throat after the surgery but these symptoms should not continue for a long period of time.

Within a few days the patient should be able to daily activities without any strenuous activities and also to aim to walk short distances. By having a good lifting technique, posture and an exercise programme will help with a speedy recovery.

As with all surgery, this does carry risks and which you will discussed at length with your consultant before making any decision about going ahead.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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