Millions of people suffer from pain in their necks or arms. A common cause of cervical pain is a rupture or herniation of one or more of the cervical discs. This happens when the outside of the disc (or annulus) tears and the soft inside (or nucleus) squeezes out. As a result, pressure is placed on the nerve root or the spinal cord and causes pain in the neck, shoulders, arms and sometimes the hands. Cervical disc herniations can occur as a result of aging, wear and tear, or sudden stress like from an accident.
An anterior cervical discectomy is the most common surgical procedure to treat damaged cervical discs. Its goal is to relieve pressure on the nerve roots or on the spinal cord by removing the ruptured disc. It is called anterior because the cervical spine is reached through a small incision in the front of the neck (anterior means front). During the surgery, the soft tissues of the neck are separated and the disc is removed. Sometimes the space between the vertebrae are left open. However, in order to maintain the normal height of the disc space, the surgeon may choose to fill the space with a bone graft.