Anterior cervical discectomy: to graft or not to graft?

S Konduru, G Findlay
British Journal of Neurosurgery 2009, 23 (1): 99-103
The debate regarding whether to perform an interbody fusion after anterior cervical discectomy (ACD) has been going on for the last 50 years. Several prospective randomized clinical trials have been performed to evaluate the clinical outcome following anterior cervical discectomy with and without interbody fusion. None of these studies show a significant difference between the two techniques in terms of relief of arm pain or neck pain. The operative time, in-hospital stay and time for return to work seem to be slightly longer following anterior cervical discectomy with interbody grafting (ACDF) compared to ACD alone. However a temporary increase in postoperative axial pain seems to be a common complication following ACD. There is also no difference in the clinical outcomes between ACD and ACDF with plating and ACDF with interbody spacers. However, if a fusion procedure is undertaken, the use of interbody spacers does have the advantage of avoiding donor site complications. There is also some evidence to suggest that plate fixation can lead to increased fusion rates. There is a significant risk of a degree of segmental kyphosis following ACD. These radiological features, however, do not correlate with the clinical outcome. Radiological and clinical studies fail to show a significant difference in recurrence of foraminal narrowing or the rates of reoperation following ACD or ACDF. The available body of evidence suggests that the addition of a fusion procedure following anterior cervical decompression may give improved radiological results but does not necessarily result in improved clinical outcomes.

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