Home Care After Your ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion with and without plate)
ACDF is a front neck surgery that is used to remove either a herniated disc or overgrown bone that is putting pressure on the spinal cord, or most likely, a nerve root. This pressure can cause arm pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
What to Expect after Surgery
You may need to wear the collar. It will help to keep your neck straight and prevent you from bending it forward or turning it side to side while the fusion is healing. If your doctor orders a collar, you may need to wear the collar for several weeks or until the neck x-rays show a healing fusion. Wear your collar even during a shower or while bathing. The collar should fit snugly, but comfortably, around your neck and prevent you from bending your chin to your chest and from turning your head side to side.
Do not drive until you no longer wear the collar. The collar will restrict your driving ability. You cannot drive while taking narcotic pain pills.
Talk with your doctor about when you can return to work. Most often, you will be off 2-8 weeks. This depends upon the nature of the work that you do. If you have an active, physical job, you may need to be off work longer.
Things to Remember
- Be sure you are wearing your collar as instructed. Be aware of safety risks. Your collar restricts neck movements and lessens visibility.
- Do not lift more than 10 pounds (about 1 gallon of milk). Be conscious of how much things weigh.
- No pushing or pulling.
- No strenuous activities.
Your incision may be closed with sutures, staples, Steri-Strips®, or Dermabond® skin adhesive.
- Dermabond® Skin Adhesive is often used. It works like glue.
- Do not scratch, rub, or pick at the glue.
- Keep a dry bandage over it.
- Do not place tape on the glue.
- Do not soak or scrub your incision. Cover it with plastic wrap before a shower. The Dermabond® must not get wet for the first 5 days.
- After bathing, gently pat dry.
- The adhesive will fall off on its own in 10-14 days.
- Do not put lotions or creams on the Dermabond®.
- Steri-Strips® are thin pieces of tape over the incision. They slowly fall off in about 10 days.
- If you have sutures or staples, they will have to be removed in 10-14 days.
- Do not take tub baths.
- Avoid being exposed to the sun. Do not use tanning beds.
Check your incision daily. Call your doctor if you notice any of these signs of infection. This includes:
- Increased redness, swelling, or drainage
- Large increase in pain
- Fever greater than 100°F for two readings, 4 hours apart.
After two weeks, you may resume your sex life as soon as you feel comfortable enough to do so.
What to do for Constipation
You may begin taking a stool softener two days before surgery. Take docusate with senna with at least 8 ounces of water. This will help to prevent constipation caused by pain medicine. Do not take any fiber and stool softener the morning of surgery.
When you are ready to go home, take docusate with senna twice a day while you are taking narcotic pain pills. 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. You may eat prunes or drink prune juice instead of taking Milk of Magnesia®. Be sure to drink several 8-ounce glasses of water or juice daily so that your body has enough fluids.
The first week, you will have a sore throat. Eat soft foods and chew your food well until you can eat regular food. Then you can resume the diet you were on before surgery.
- Your sore or hoarse throat will go away over time. Each person varies, but it may take weeks for it to feel normal.
- You may have some pain at the hip (graft) site. Don’t be alarmed; it is quite common. The pain pills you have been given should relieve pain at both sites.
- Your incisional pain should improve over time. As this happens, you will need to decrease the amount of pain pills you take.
- If you are still feeling severe pain or more pain, numbness, tingling or weakness, call your doctor.
- Do not take any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines for six (6) weeks. Taking these will slow the healing process
Examples: ibuprofen, Advil®, Aleve®, Naprosyn® or Naproxen®, aspirin, Celebrex®
- You should never start a new drug, even those you can buy over-the-counter, without talking with your doctor or pharmacist first.
If you have any questions or concerns, call:
Neurosurgery Clinic at 608-263-7502
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this phone number will reach the paging operator. Ask for the Neurosurgery Resident on-call. Give the paging operator your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/11/2011
Copyright © 08/11/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4454
Print Health Fact For You