Most herniated disc conditions, such as neck pain or pain from a pinched nerve will resolve after a few months of conservative therapeutic treatment. However, patients who continue to have disabling pain or weakness in limbs may be recommended for surgery. 

A Cervical Discectomy Surgery, also known as an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF), is performed to remove herniated or degenerative discs in the neck.

The Operation

In a Cervical Discectomy, the vertebrae and discs are removed from the front of your neck, beside your trachea, using a 2-inch incision. During surgery, your windpipe, neck muscles, esophagus, and arteries are moved to the side to protect them while the discs are exposed for the surgery.

Once the damaged disc is identified with an X-ray, it is removed and the pressure on the spinal nerves is eliminated. If present, bone spurs pressing on nerve roots or the spinal cord will be targeted for removal. The foramen (the canal through which the spinal nerve exits) may be enlarged to give your nerves more room inside the spinal canal. 

The damaged disc is completely removed and replaced with a PEEK (plastic) spacer or a bone graft.

To keep the spacer and vertebrae in alignment, a metal plate is added to the front of the cervical spine. It is attached to the vertebrae with titanium screws.

Post Surgery

After surgery, you will temporarily be unable to drive for about 10 days. Lifting will likely be limited to 10 pounds for a period of 2-6 weeks. You may wish to wear a cervical collar at times for comfort, but it isn't typically necessary for support.


You can expect to resume your normal daily activities within 6-12 weeks. Walking short distances (up to 2 miles) daily is highly encouraged. A physical therapy program will often be suggested to teach proper lifting techniques and posture. You will also learn new strengthening and flexibility-supporting exercises.