Anterior Cervical Discectomy

What is it?

Pain in the neck and extremities, among other symptoms, may occur when an intervertebral disc herniates - when the annulus fibrosus (tough, outer ring) of the disc tears and the nucleus pulposus (soft jelly-like center) squeezes out and places pressure on neural structures, such as nerve roots or the spinal cord. Bony outgrowths, called bone spurs or osteophytes, which form when the joints of the spine calcify, may also cause these symptoms.

Anterior cervical discectomy is an operation that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or bone spurs (bony growths on normal bone) - a condition referred to as neural compression.

First, the surgeon will make a small incision made near the front of the neck (i.e., the anterior cervical spine). After pulling aside the soft tissue - fat and muscle, your surgeon exposes the source of the neural compression.

Then, the surgeon performs a discectomy, which involves removing the disc material and/or a portion of the bone around the nerve roots and/or spinal cord to relieve these compressed neural structures and to give them additional space.

After the disc is removed, your surgeon may either replace the disc space with an artificial cervical disc through a procedure called cervical disc replacement, or the disc space may then be stabilized with a device, such as a plate, to serve as a brace while fusion occurs through a procedure called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF).


Your surgeon will have a specific post-operative recovery/exercise plan to help you return to normal life as soon as possible. The amount of time that you have to stay in the hospital will depend on this treatment plan. You will normally be up and walking in the hospital by the end of the first day after the surgery.

As you read this, please keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of spinal surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results, and other important medical information.


Published: March 08, 2007
Updated: October 03, 2014