Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I'm scheduled for surgery to fuse my neck at the C67 level. The surgeon is planning an operation called an ACDF. I don't worry about the surgeon's skills as much as I worry about my body cooperating. How often do people my age (67 years old) end up in a nursing home after an operation like this?

Answer:

ACDF is one of the most common surgical spine procedures in the U.S. In this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the anterior (front) of the neck, performs a discectomy (removes the disc) and fuses the two vertebrae together. A fusion simply means that two bones grow together. Usually, when two vertebrae are fused together, a small piece of bone called a bone graft is inserted between the two vertebrae where the disc has been removed. This bone graft serves to both separate the vertebrae and to stimulate the two bones to grow together - or fuse. The fusion procedure usually involves the use of hardware, such as screws, plates, or cages to keep the bones from moving. In a recent study, national trends in anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) were reported. Using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the following trends were observed:
  • Use of the anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) remains more popular than ever.
  • There's been an overall increase in the number of ACDF procedures done each year. In fact, since the start of the year 2000, there have been eight times more ACDF surgeries done.
  • Older adults (65 years old and older) make up the greatest number of patients having this procedure. But the increased use of the procedure has affected younger patients (ages 46 to 64) more than the older age groups.
  • Hospital stays have been cut in half for patients having this surgery.
  • Most people go home from the hospital. Only a small number of patients are discharged to short- or long-term care facilities. Results remain good-to-excellent with fewer complications than ever before for this procedure. Not only that, but it looks like better medications has gained improvements in pain control. Postoperative physical therapy has speeded up recovery and reduced the length of hospital stay. Satyajit Marawar, MD, et al. National Trends in Anterior Cervical Fusion Procedures. In Spine. July 1, 2010. Vol. 35. No. 15. Pp. 1454-1459.

    *Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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