I had an ACIF neck fusion about two years ago. Everything is going well. I know I might need another fusion later if there's breakdown at the spine above or below the level of the original problem. If it hasn't happened by now, am I home free?

ACIF refers to anterior cervical interbody fusion. This is a way to fuse two cervical (neck) vertebrae together from the front of the spine (anterior). The disc is taken out from between two vertebral bones. A bone graft is used to hold the bones together. During the healing process, the vertebrae grow together forming a solid piece of bone out of the two vertebrae.

Eighty-five to 90 percent of all patients with an ACIF have good results during the first five years. This figure drops to around 84 percent by 10 years and 67 percent at 17 years. Not everyone who has a return of symptoms needs surgery. Most patients get better with conservative care.

A recent study of this problem reports only seven of 112 patients (about six percent) had another fusion at the next level. The authors of the study say it's likely these patients already had disc disease at the next level. Over time it just got worse and needed fusion.