Learn About ACDF Surgery

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery allows surgeons to access the cervical spine through the throat area. This portion of the spine is more accessible through the front since the spinal cord, and neck muscles do not need to be disturbed.

Video Overview

Common Causes and Symptoms


Cervical radiculopathy involves irritation or compression of the nerve roots in the neck. This may be caused by degenerative changes due to age, herniated disc, or spinal instability. The first symptom is typically pain or muscle stiffness in the neck region. This can be followed by pain in the arms, shoulders, back, and chest and may cause weakness or numbness in the hands, arms, and shoulders.


Cervical myelopathy involves compression of the spinal cord in the neck. This may be caused by a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease (DDD), tumors, osteophytes (bony projections), fracture, or trauma to the cervical spine.

Symptoms may include:

  • Problems with fine motor skills
  • Pain or stiffness in the neck
  • Loss of balance
  • Trouble walking
  • Weakness in arms or hands
  • Numbness or tingling in arms and hands
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination of the hands
  • Difficulty handling small objects

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal starts to narrow. When the spinal canal narrows, the open spaces between the vertebrae may also start to get smaller and this tightness can pinch the spinal cord or the nerves around it. For most, the stenosis results from changes due to arthritis, but may also be due to ossification (bone formation), osteophytes (bony projections), herniated discs, injuries, or tumors. Symptoms may include pain, tingling, and numbness.


Depending on the issue, an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery may be an option when non-surgical techniques do not relieve symptoms.

The primary goal of an ACDF surgery is to reduce symptoms by relieving pressure on the compressed nerves of the neck. The surgery should maintain adequate space in the region to allow nerve roots to exit, restore alignment, and limit motion across segments with degenerative issues. This will improve neck pain, maintain stability of the spine, improve spine alignment, and preserve the range of motion in the neck.

Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms or for more information.

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Possible Risks

There are possible risks involved with any surgical procedure. Reasonable expectations and compliance with the surgeon’s pre and post-operative instructions are vital. All aspects of any potential surgery should be thoroughly discussed with your healthcare provider.

Risks associated with anterior cervical procedures include:

  • General adverse effects related to surgical procedures, such as bleeding, infection, blood clots, or allergic reactions
  • Failure of adequate fusion to occur
  • Damage to laryngeal nerve, esophagus, or trachea

It is important to discuss these and all other aspects of any potential surgery with your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions for this procedure. 

What is the difference between anterior and posterior cervical fusion?

It’s how you approach the spine. An Anterior Cervical Fusion approaches the spine from the front (anterior) of the body, while a Posterior Cervical Fusion approaches from the back (posterior) of the body. Click here to learn more about these approaches.

What is cervical fusion vs. discectomy?

In an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) surgery, a herniated or degenerative disc is removed in the cervical spine. This can relieve arm pain and weakness from a pinched nerve root. Click here to learn more.

What is a spinal cage?

A spinal cage, also known as an interbody, is used in procedures that remove intervertebral discs from the spine. The cage is placed in the disc space to help fuse the spine for stability and/or to restore curvature of the spine. The shape of the cage differs based on the procedure and location on the spine. Click here to learn more.

What are spine biologics?

Spine biologics provide mechanisms for bone growth. They help in the healing and fusion process during spine surgeries and may include scaffold, signaling, or cell elements for bone formation. Click here to learn more about the types of spine biologics.

What is the difference between PEEK and 3D printed implants?

Poly-ether-ether-ketone (PEEK) implants are comprised of a synthetic material that is “bioinert”, meaning it does not interact when introduced to biological tissue. 3D printed implants are comprised of titanium alloy (Ti-6AL-4V ELI) and are created through additive manufacturing. Click here to learn more about PEEK and 3D printed implants.


Important Note: This information is intended as an educational resource to provide an overview of the procedure. The information should, in no way, be used as a substitute for informed discussions between the patient and physician regarding possible and eventual course of treatment. Medical treatment is individually specific to each patient’s symptoms. The information contained herein may not apply to you, your condition, treatment, or expected outcome. Surgical techniques and practices vary. Complications may occur. It is important to talk with your physician about all indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, clinical results, and other important medical considerations as pertain to this procedure. For further information on product contraindications, warnings, precautions, and possible adverse effects, click here.

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