The objective of this systematic review was to use evidence-based medicine to identify the best techniques for anterior cervical nerve root decompression.
The National Library of Medicine and Cochrane Database were queried using MeSH headings and keywords relevant to techniques for the surgical management of cervical radiculopathy. The guidelines group assembled an evidentiary table summarizing the quality of evidence (Classes I–III). The group formulated recommendations that contained the degree of strength based on the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines network. Validation was done through peer-review by the Joint Guidelines Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
Both anterior cervical discectomy (ACD) and anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF) are equivalent treatment strategies for 1-level disease with regard to functional outcome (Class II). Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion may achieve a more rapid reduction of neck and arm pain compared to ACD with a reduced risk of kyphosis, although functional outcomes may be similar. Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is not a lasting means of increasing foraminal or disc height compared to ACD. Anterior cervical plating (ACDF with instrumentation) improves arm pain (but not other clinical parameters) better than ACDF in the treatment of 2-level disease (Class II). With respect to 1-level disease, plating may reduce the risk of pseudarthrosis and graft problems (Class III) but does not necessarily improve clinical outcome alone (Class II). Cervical arthroplasty is recommended as an alternative to ACDF in selected patients for control of neck and arm pain (Class II).
Anterior cervical discectomy, ACDF, and arthroplasty are effective techniques for addressing surgical cervical radiculopathy.