The Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion (ACDF) surgery has 2 parts:
Anterior cervical discectomy: The spine is approached through the front of the neck. The disc is then removed from between two or more vertebral bones. To reach this area, the surgeon needs to retract and compress a number of neck structures (muscles, nerves, pharynx/oesophagus).
Fusion: A cervical fusion is done at the same time as the discectomy operation in order to stabilize the cervical spine. A fusion involves placing bone graft and/or implants where the disc originally was in order to provide stability and strength to the area, and stabilizing the neck with screws.
Dysphagia is one of the most common complications following ACDF surgery. Most ACDF patients fully recover their ability to swallow within a few days after surgery. However, sometimes the dysphagia lasts for weeks, months, or even longer.
Post-surgical edema can impact epiglottic inversion, pharyngeal wall movement, decrease superior hyolaryngeal excursion, and cause dysfunction of the upper esophageal sphincter. Studies estimate that about 10-30% of ACDF patients have some degree of swallowing difficulty for up to 2 years after surgery.