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What is a C5-6 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure?

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A C5-C6 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion procedure is a surgery performed for the treatment of a herniated or degenerated C5-C6 disk, explains Mayfield Clinic. Anterior means that the disk is removed through an incision in the throat, rather than in the back of the neck. Fusion refers to the bone graft that is used to fuse the C5 and C6 vertebrae together.

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When conservative treatment fails to resolve pain, weakness or numbness after six to 12 weeks, a doctor may consider surgery, according to Mayfield Clinic. In this surgery, the surgeon moves the neck muscles, trachea and esophagus to access the vertebrae and disks. He performs surgery through the neck to avoid disturbing the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

After removing the disk, the surgeon places a spacer to prevent the vertebrae from collapsing or grinding against each other. This spacer is usually bone, either an autograft or an allograft, explains the Neuro Spine Center of Wisconsin. An autograft is a small piece of bone taken from the patient’s hip during the surgery, while an allograft is a piece of donated cadaveric bone. In some cases, the surgeon uses a synthetic material or titanium cage instead of a bone graft.

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