A herniated disc, also known as a ruptured or slipped disc, is a damaged spinal cushion between two bones in the spine (vertebrae). Normally, the gelatinous discs between the vertebrae hold the bones in place and act as shock absorbers, permitting the spine to bend smoothly. A herniation can occur when a disc protrudes beyond its tough outer lining leading to potential pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve root(s).
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing in one or more areas of the spinal canal as a result of injury or deterioration of the discs, joints or bones of the spine. Most cases of spinal stenosis develop as a result of the degenerative changes that occur during aging. Osteoarthritis is the main cause of spinal stenosis, since this condition causes deterioration of cartilage in the area that leads to the bones rubbing against each other. As bones make repeated abnormal contact, bone spurs form, narrowing the spinal canal.
Other causes of spinal stenosis are traumatic injury, herniated disc, ligament thickening and, in rare cases, spinal tumors, any of which can damage the alignment of the vertebrae. A subtype of spinal stenosis is foraminal stenosis. This condition is caused by a narrowing of the foramen, the opening within each of the spinal bones that allows nerve roots to pass through.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a combined surgical procedure to decompress spinal nerves and stabilize the cervical spine. This surgery is performed to relieve pain, numbness and weakness in the neck and upper back and to provide stability in this portion of the spine. As the name indicates, this procedure is performed through an incision at the front, or anterior, of one side of the neck. With this surgical approach, the disc can be accessed without disturbing the spinal cord, the neck muscles and uninvolved spinal nerves. The operation is performed under general anesthesia.
The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull and consists of seven vertebrae with discs between them. One of the most important parts of the body, the neck is also the most articulate portion of the spine, moving more freely and in more directions than the other sections. Beyond that, the cervical spine is also responsible for protecting the spinal cord and providing support to the skull, which in turn protects the brain. Because of the neck's vital functions, injury or disease of the cervical spine is a very serious condition.