Anterior cervical spine surgery is a medical procedure performed on the neck region of the spine to alleviate various conditions that cause pain or compression of nerves. This guide, written by Dr. Priyesh Dhoke, aims to explain the key aspects of this surgery in simple terms, accessible to a layman. We will cover the purpose, procedure, risks, recovery, and frequently asked questions about anterior cervical spine surgery.

  1. What is Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery? Anterior cervical spine surgery is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon accesses the cervical spine (neck) from the front (anterior) of the body. The goal of this surgery is to treat problems such as herniated discs, bone spurs, or degenerative disc disease that may be causing neck pain or compressing the nerves in the neck region.
  2. Why is Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery Needed? Anterior cervical spine surgery is considered when conservative treatments like medications, physical therapy, or injections fail to provide relief from neck pain or nerve compression. The surgery aims to reduce pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, thus easing pain and restoring normal nerve function.
  3. What Happens During Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery? a. Anesthesia: Before the surgery, you will be given anesthesia, which will make you unconscious and pain-free during the procedure. b. Incision: The surgeon makes a small incision in the front of your neck to access the cervical spine. c. Disc Removal: If a herniated disc is causing compression, the surgeon removes the damaged disc. d. Bone Graft: To stabilize the spine, a small piece of bone (graft) is placed between the adjacent vertebrae. e. Fusion: The vertebrae are then fused together over time, which creates a solid bone mass. f. Instrumentation: In some cases, metal plates or screws may be used to hold the vertebrae together during the fusion process. g. Closure: The incision is closed with stitches or staples.
  4. What are the Risks and Complications? Anterior cervical spine surgery, like any surgical procedure, comes with potential risks and complications. Some of the common ones include:
  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Nerve or spinal cord injury
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes (hoarseness)
  • Graft failure or pseudoarthrosis (non-union of bones)
  • Hardware-related problems (if used)
  • Blood clots or excessive bleeding
  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia or materials used during surgery
  1. Recovery and Rehabilitation: a. Hospital Stay: After the surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a day or two for monitoring and pain management. b. Neck Brace: You may need to wear a neck brace to support your neck while it heals. c. Physical Therapy: Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help improve strength and flexibility in your neck. d. Returning to Activities: The recovery time varies, but it may take several weeks before you can resume normal activities, and more time for strenuous activities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  1. Will I be awake during the surgery? No, you will be under general anesthesia and will not feel any pain during the surgery.
  2. How long does the surgery take? The surgery typically takes around 1 to 2 hours, but it may vary depending on the complexity of your condition.
  3. Will there be a scar after the surgery? Yes, there will be a small scar on the front of your neck where the incision was made. Over time, the scar will fade but may remain visible.
  4. Is the surgery safe? Anterior cervical spine surgery is generally safe, but like any surgery, it carries some risks. Your surgeon will discuss the potential risks and benefits with you before the procedure.
  5. Will I be able to move my neck after the surgery? Yes, but you may need to wear a neck brace for support during the healing process. After recovery, most people experience improved neck movement and reduced pain.


Anterior cervical spine surgery is a medical procedure used to treat neck pain and nerve compression caused by various spine conditions. While it comes with risks, it has helped many patients find relief and improve their quality of life. If you are considering this surgery, it is crucial to discuss all aspects with your doctor to make an informed decision. Remember that every individual’s situation is unique, and outcomes may vary.

Dr. Priyesh Dhoke

Dr Priyesh Dhoke M.B.B.S., M.S. (Orthopaedics), F.A.O.S.(Australia) AO Spine...

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