Anterior Cervical Decompression
This is an operation performed through the front of the neck on the cervical (neck) spine. Whilst this may sound counter-intuitive, it is the main way of accessing the discs & vertebrae of the neck.
It is usually offered if there is a problem with the discs of the neck which are causing pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. If the nerves are being squashed the commonest symptom is arm pain (brachalgia), arm or hand numbness or weakness of the arm. If the spinal cord is being squashed the symptoms may include loss of fine movement in your hands (such as doing up your buttons), arm weakness, unsteadiness of gait, sexual dysfunction and urinary dysfunction.
The exact nature of the operation is unique to each individual, and Mr Cass would explain exactly what operation would be performed for your problem.
The commonest operations performed are removal of one or more of the discs and restabilising your spine by fusing the vertebra together (ACDF or Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion) or replacing the removed disc with a prosthetic one (ACDR Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Replacement). Occasionally a combination of these techniques may be used. Again, each person is unique and your operation will be tailored to your underlying problem.
Occasionally a complete vertebra will need to be removed in order to decompress the nerve tissues. This is called a vertebrectomy or corpectomy.
The operation is performed through the left side of the neck, and a cut is made across the neck. The skin usually heals very well in this area and most patients find the scar is barely visible within a few months. The windpipe, gullet and voice box nerve are pulled to one side and protected, and this gives access straight onto the front of the spine.
After the operation is completed you would usually spend a short time in the recovery area before typically returning to the ward. A drainage tube is left in the neck overnight to allow any blood or bruising to drain away. The vast majority of patients spend less than 24 hours in hospital following the operation and go home the following day. Typically no neck brace or collar is required.