Anterior Cervical Microdiscectomy with or without Fusion

Pain in the neck, arms, and hands may occur when a cervical intervertebral disc bulges or herniates. Bulging discs are a common occurrence, and everyone has discs that bulge from time to time. Sometimes the disc bulges so much that it compresses a nerve or the spinal cord itself. Occasionally, the tough outer covering of the disc (annulus fibrosis) will tear, and disc material will actually come out of the disc space. This may result in pinching of a nerve or compression of the spinal cord. Sometimes the bulging disc or piece of herniated disc will become calcified, or bone-like. This is the body’s natural way of healing. This extra calcium is often called a bone spur, or spondylosis.

One option for treatment of this disorder is surgical removal of the disc or bone spur. Anterior cervical discectomy is an operation that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. Through a small incision made near the front of the neck, the surgeon will remove almost the entire intervertebral disc to access the compressed neural structures. After the disc is removed, the tunnels where the nerves exit the spine (neural foramen) are widened using specialized surgical instruments. Next, the surgeon places a bone graft to fuse or a disc replacement (arthroplasty) to maintain motion. If a fusion is performed, a small metal plate is placed on the front side of the vertebrae to stabilize the spine while it heals.

Discectomy involves removing all or part of an intervertebral disc. Spinal fusion involves placing bone graft between two or more opposing vertebrae to promote bone growth between the vertebral bodies. Arthroplasty involves placing an artificial disc to maintain spinal motion.