A small plate can be applied to the front of the spine. This relatively simple procedure can add considerable stability to the spinal construct.
Anterior plates were developed in the 1980s, and their use was initially restricted to long fusions (multi-level fusions). Now more surgeons are also using them for single level procedures.
The addition of an anterior cervical plate during surgery to protect the bone graft and add extra stability to the spine does not add that much to a cervical fusion procedure. The plates are expensive but help provide for earlier return to normal functioning after surgery. It has become much more commonplace for surgeons to use a plate as a routine addition to a cervical fusion.
Anterior cervical plates for single-level ACDF remains controversial, whereas plating has been shown to improve the results of multilevel ACDF. Plating may provide a useful salvage option for a cervical nonunion, especially if deformity or neurologic compression dictates an anterior approach. Hardware failures may occur with anterior cervical plating, but most remain asymptomatic and do not require operative intervention 1).
Anterior stabilization with combined plate and bone fusion was performed after neural decompression on ten patients for spondylotic cervical myelopathy, and for radiculopathy or trauma in three patients. Medial corpectomy was performed at one to four levels. Iliac crest or fibular bone grafts were secured by plates anchored to the graft and adjacent vertebral bodies. All patients were placed in Minerva braces postoperatively. There was successful fusion in all cases, and no graft dislodgement or kyphosis. Early initiation of rehabilitation was achieved. Morbidity occurred in patients with severe spondylotic cervical myelopathy. This include respiratory depression requiring reintubation in 2/13 procedures, dysphagia (2/13) from loosening of the screws or prominent hardware and graft, and screw loosening (2/13). Neurological improvement was present in 85% (11/13) of patients. There was no deterioration of neurological function in any case. We conclude from this early follow-up that anterior bone fusion with supplemental plates provides effective stabilization for the unstable cervical spine. Greater morbidity risk exists in patients with severe spondylotic cervical myelopathy and spastic quadriparesis who required multilevel medial corpectomies and fusion 2).