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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion in patients with cervical disc degeneration: a prospective outcome study of 258 patients (181 fused with autologous bone graft and 77 fused with a PEEK cage)

Bjarne Lied123*, Paal Andre Roenning2, Jarle Sundseth1 and Eirik Helseth123

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurosurgery-Rikshospitalet, Oslo University Hospital, N-0027 Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Neurosurgery-Ullevål, Oslo University Hospital, N-0407 Oslo, Norway

3 Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Surgery 2010, 10:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-10-10

Published: 21 March 2010



Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF) is challenging with respect to both patient selection and choice of surgical procedure. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical outcome of ACDF, with respect to both patient selection and choice of surgical procedure: fusion with an autologous iliac crest graft (AICG) versus fusion with an artificial cage made of polyetheretherketone (PEEK).


This was a non-randomized prospective single-center outcome study of 258 patients who underwent ACDF for cervical disc degeneration (CDD). Fusion was attained with either tricortical AICG or PEEK cages without additional anterior plating, with treatment selected at surgeon's discretion. Radicular pain, neck-pain, headache and patient satisfaction with the treatment were scored using the visual analogue scale (VAS).


The median age was 47.5 (28.3-82.8) years, and 44% of patients were female. 59% had single-level ACDF, 40% had two level ACDF and 1% had three-level ACDF. Of the patients, 181 were fused with AICG and 77 with a PEEK-cage. After surgery, the patients showed a significant reduction in radicular pain (ΔVAS = 3.05), neck pain (ΔVAS = 2.30) and headache (ΔVAS = 0.55). Six months after surgery, 48% of patients had returned to work: however 24% were still receiving workers' compensation.

Using univariate and multivariate analyses we found that high preoperative pain intensity was significantly associated with a decrease in pain intensity after surgery, for all three pain categories. There were no significant correlations between pain relief and the following patient characteristics: fusion method (AICG or PEEK-cage), sex, age, number of levels fused, disc level fused, previous neck surgery (except for neck pain), previous neck trauma, or preoperative symptom duration. Two hundred out of the 256 (78%) patients evaluated the surgical result as successful. Only 27/256 (11%) classified the surgical result as a failure. Patient satisfaction was significantly associated with pain relief after surgery.


ACDF is an effective treatment for radicular pain in selected patients with CDD after six months follow up.

Because of similar clinical outcomes and lack of donor site morbidity when using PEEK, we now prefer fusion with PEEK cage to AICG.

Lengthy symptom duration was not a negative prognostic marker in our patient population.

The number of patients who returned to work 6 months after surgery was lower than expected.