Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF): Planning and
Preparing for Surgery
This handout will review anterior cervical
discectomy and fusion (ACDF), planning
and preparing for surgery.
What is an ACDF?
ACDF is a front neck surgery that is used to
remove either a disc material or overgrown
bone that is putting pressure on a spinal
nerve or less likely, the spinal cord. This
pressure can cause arm pain, numbness,
tingling, and weakness.
The surgery removes the disc between the
vertebral bodies above and below it. Then,
something is put into that space in place of
the disc. Usually the graft used is machined,
pre sized, company processed no longer
living bone. Rarely, graft is used from the
patient. the front iliac crest. Over the graft a
plate is placed. 2 small screws are placed in
the vertebral body above, and 2 small screws
in the vertebral body below secure the plate.
Preparing for Surgery
Please refer to your booklet “Having Surgery
at UW Hospital” for general instructions
To prevent constipation after surgery
read these instructions:
ξ Please begin taking a stool softener
two days before surgery. We
recommend the stool softener called
Docusate with Senna-take this with
at least 8 ounces of water.
ξ Do not take any fiber or stool
softener on the morning of surgery
Most people who have an ACDF will leave
the hospital the same day or the next
morning. You will need to arrange to have
someone spend 24-48 hours with you when
you return home.
What to Expect After Surgery
Cervical (neck) brace
You may need to wear a brace. If your
doctor orders a brace, you will wear your
brace even during a shower. Do not drive
until you no longer wear the collar. The
collar will restrict your driving ability.
To help decrease pain in your neck/between
your shoulder blades:
ξ Change positions often
ξ Use heat or ice. If you use ice cover
the ice pack with a cloth and apply
for 20 minutes per hour
ξ Take pain medicines as prescribed
ξ Your sore or hoarse throat will go
away over time. Each person varies,
but it may take weeks for it to feel
ξ Your incisional pain should improve
over time. As this happens, you will
need to decrease the amount of pain
pills you take.
ξ If you are still feeling severe pain or
more pain, numbness, tingling or
weakness, call your doctor.
ξ Do not take any non-steroidal anti-
inflammatory medicines for six (6)
weeks. Taking these will slow the
Examples: ibuprofen, Advil ,
Aleve , Naprosyn or Naproxen ,
ξ You should never start a new drug,
even those you can buy over-the-
counter, without talking with your
doctor or pharmacist first.
ξ Do not lift more than 10 pounds.
Your doctor will tell you when you
can lift more
ξ No pushing or pulling motions
ξ Sexual activity can be resumed after
ξ You may drive when you are no
longer taking narcotic pain pills and
you are not wearing a cervical brace.
Limit driving to short trips and
slowly increase your driving time.
You may need to make plans to be off 2-6
weeks depending on the work you do. Heavy
lifting may not be allowed for 12 weeks.
Check with your doctor before returning to
When you are home, you may take Docusate
with Senna twice a day while you are on the
narcotic pain medicine. If you do not have a
bowel movement within two days or beyond
your normal routine, take Milk of Magnesia
(6 teaspoons two to three times a day) until
you have a bowel movement. Use food like
prunes or prune juice instead of the Milk of
Magnesia. Be sure to drink several 8- ounce
glasses of water or juice daily. This ensures
that your body has enough fluids with the
Your incision may be closed with plastic
strips of tape called Steri- Strips, or
Dermabond skin adhesive (clear glue).
You should remove the dressing that was
placed in surgery, 3 days after surgery.
Under the dressing you will have the Steri-
Strips, skin glue, sutures or staples.
Please follow the instructions in your
discharge packet for incision care.
Do not take tub baths until instructed to do
Once the incision is healed, use sun screen
for the next year to avoid the incision
turning dark in color.
Check your incision daily. Call your doctor
if you notice any of these signs of infection.
ξ Increased redness, swelling, or
ξ Large increase in pain
ξ Fever greater than 100 θF for two
readings, 4 hours apart.
Reasons to Call Your Doctor
ξ Severe or increasing pain
ξ New weakness
ξ Concerns with your incision such as
increased redness, swelling, or
Important Phone Numbers
Neurosurgery Clinic, is open Monday-
Friday, 8:00- 5:00pm, and can be reached at
After hours, this number will be forwarded
to the paging operator. You will need to ask
for the doctor who is on call for your doctor
If you live out of the area, please call
1-800-323-8942 and ask for the
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4454