Anterior cervical fusion surgery is commonly performed along with an anterior cervical discectomy. This is a process of fusing one vertebra to another to eliminate motion. This may be needed to treat cervical (neck) instability due to a herniated disc or trauma to the area.
Anterior cervical fusion surgery is an operation on the spinal cord accessed through the neck. It is done when the decompression of the spinal cord is on the front or anterior side of the cervical spine, which, according to allaboutbackpain.com is the most common approach.
According to spinalneurology.com, you can expect some pain when swallowing immediately following the surgery. Pain at the back of the neck is also likely. Most patients are required to spend up to two nights in the hospital.
A neck brace or supporting collar will be worn for up to six weeks after anterior cervical fusion surgery. Once x-rays indicate the neck is fused sufficiently, use of the collar can be discontinued.
Bone for the fusion may be harvested from the patient's hip (autograft) or obtained through a donor bank (allograft). Autograft bone has a high success rate for fusion at 90 to 95 percent. According to spine-health.com, the disadvantage is the need to have another incision and the possible complications such as bleeding, infection and chronic graft-site pain.
In some cases, internal fixation may be performed in which the neck is stabilized with metal plates or rods. This procedure may lessen the amount of time required to wear a brace or stabilizing collar.