How to Deal with Anterior Cervical Discectomy

November 12, 2012

How to Deal with Anterior Cervical Discectomy

People who experience chronic neck pain and other disorders related to the cervical spine might need an anterior cervical discectomy.

Cervical Pain

Unfortunately, a lot of people experience neck pain or arm pain because of cervical disc ruptures or herniations. Ruptures usually occur when the disc annulus tears and soft nucleus comes out. When this happens, pressure is put on the spinal cord or the nerve rood, causing neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and hand pain. Herniations, on the other hand, usually occur because of wear and tear, sudden stress or aging. The majority of cases related to cervical pain won’t really require surgery, but can be treated with non-surgical methods instead, like medicine, bracing or physical therapy. However, if a patient experiences extreme weakness and pain that doesn’t seem to get better with time, anterior cervical discectomy might become a necessity.

During the Surgery

The most common kind of surgery to treat cervical discs that are damaged would be anterior cervical discectomy. In general, the goal of this particular kind of surgery is to remove the ruptured discs in order to relieve the pressure placed on the spinal cord or on the nerve roots. This surgery entails separating the neck’s soft tissues and removing the disc. Sometimes, the vertebrae spaces will be left open, as well. However, the surgeon has the option to fill those spaces up with bone grafts to maintain the regular disc space height. Sometimes, instruments like screws or plates might be used to stabilize the spine, too.

After the Surgery

After the anterior cervical discectomy, some patients tend to feel some pain where the incisions were made. Whenever this is the case, they will be given pain medications. If the doctor recommends it, frequent repositioning and moist heat might provide relief, too. Although it is also common for patients to experience numbness or tingling sensations after the surgery, which will get better as time goes by, the doctor should be told about them, as well. Most of the time, patients will have to stay in the hospital until they are ready to walk. Then, they can be discharged. Before their discharge, though, they will also have to meet with their doctor to get the directions that they need to follow regarding the physical activities that they can do and the ones that they have to avoid. Usually, patients will have to maintain a low-impact exercise plan that needs to be followed on a daily basis. Ideally, this should include walking, wherein the patient slowly increases their distance every day. Although some discomfort would be normal during these exercise sessions, pain should be a sign to stop and rest.

If there are any signs of infection where the incisions were made during the anteriorcervical discectomy, such as swelling, draining or redness, a doctor has to be seen immediately. Also, remember that every patient will be different in terms of recovery time, but the overall discomfort should get better every day. Lastly, keep in mind that increases in activity and energy are signs of a good recovery, while maintaining a healthy diet, a positive attitude and getting lots of rest would be the best ways to hasten recovery.

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