In this post, we will look at the effectiveness of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) as a surgical option for the treatment of chronic back pain. ACDF is a special type of back surgery in which a spinal disc is actually removed in order to relieve nerve root pressure and eliminate chronic pain.
ACDF surgery involves 2 steps: (1) anterior cervical discectomy; and (2) fusion. The anterior cervical discectomy involves the surgical removal of the targeted spinal disc in the cervical region of the spine. The discectomy is “anterior” because the surgical entry point is done in the front of the neck instead of through the back of the neck like in most back surgeries.
This frontal approach offers 2 key benefits. First, it gives the surgeon direct visualization of the cervical discs involved in the back pain and full access to almost the entire cervical spine. It also gives the surgeon a clear, uncomplicated pathway for the removal. Second, the anterior approach tends to result in far less post-operative pain and complications compared to a posterior operation.
In the first part of an ACDF procedure, the spinal disc is removed. The second part of an ACDF involves a fusion surgery done immediately after the removal of the disc. The fusion involves the surgical placement of an implant or bone graft into space where the spinal disc was removed. The graft or implant will replace the disc and provide strength and stability.
What is ACDF Surgery Used For?
ACDF back surgery is generally used for the treatment of disc herniations in the cervical region of the spine. A herniated disc occurs when one of the spinal discs ruptures allowing the inner jelly-like tissue to come out causing painful pinching or pressure on nearby nerves. ACDF can relieve the chronic pain of a cervical herniated disc by removing the disc.
Although most commonly used to treat disc herniations, ACDF is also a treatment option for degenerative cervical disc disease. It is also occasionally used to eliminate symptoms related to cervical spinal stenosis and bone spurs caused by arthritis.
ACDF Surgery Risks and Complications
ACDF is not considered a particularly risky surgical procedure, but like any surgery, it does involve some level of risk and various complications can arise. The primary complications and risks that most frequently occur with ACDF surgery include:
- ACDF surgery does not successfully relieve pain symptoms
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphasia)
- Bone graft or implant fails to heal properly and create a fusion
- Injury to vocal cord nerves
- Nerve root damage
Aside from these specific risks, ACDF surgery also comes with the same general risks inherent with all surgical procedures.
Is ACDF Effective at Relieving Pain?
While other types of back surgery can be performed in an outpatient setting, ACDF is a major surgical operation so many people are reluctant to attempt it. Studies have shown, however, that ACDF surgery can be more effective at eliminating chronic back pain and related symptoms.
A 2018 study on the effectiveness of ACDF and other back surgery procedures found that patients who underwent ACDF procedures had some of the highest success rates with very few complications. Neck and back pain reduction was reported by 69% of the study participants who underwent ACDF. Arm and shoulder pain was reduced in 75% of the ACDF participants.
Settlement Compensation Amounts for ACDF Surgery in Personal Injury Cases
ACDF surgery is a common treatment for the types of back injuries we often see in auto accidents and other types of personal injury lawsuits. As long as the plaintiff can show that the ACDF surgery was medically necessary treatment for injuries caused by the defendant’s negligence, they can get financial compensation for the surgery. Below are examples of actual personal injury cases in which plaintiffs received compensation for ACDF surgeries.
- Holland v. State Farm (Idaho 2018) $112,500 Verdict: Plaintiff was hit in a low-speed collision. Prior to accident she had undergone 2 prior ACDF surgeries for pre-existing injuries. She sued the at-fault driver alleging that the collision required her to undergo a third ACDF surgery. Jury awarded $112,500.
- Sala v White (New Jersey 2014) $550,000 Settlement: Defendant ran a stop sign and struck plaintiff’s vehicle causing aggravation of plaintiff’s pre-existing back injury. Plaintiff underwent ACDF surgery to treat multiple cervical disc herniations and surgery to repair torn rotator cuff injury from accident.
- Larsen v Slutter (Indiana 2014) $205,000 Verdict: 68-year-old plaintiff suffered cervical spine and shoulder injuries in auto accident requiring ACDF surgery and 9 days in the hospital.
- Koon v Auto Owners Ins (Michigan 2010) $115,000 Settlement: Plaintiff alleged that he suffered progressive injuries to his cervical spine in auto collision and that ACDF surgery was necessary treatment. Insurance company disputed whether surgery was necessary but eventually agreed to settle.
Contact Miller & Zois About Your Back Injury Case
If you injured your back in an auto accident or other incident caused by the negligence of another, contact the personal injury lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free case evaluation.A