Anterior cervical fusion was initially described in the 1950s for cervical spondylotic radiculopathy. The indications for this procedure in the management of soft disc herniation have not been clearly defined. In addition, controversy exists as to whether a cervical soft herniation should be managed by an anterior approach or a posterior cervical laminotomy-foraminotomy. The authors report the results of a prospective study comparing anterior discectomy and fusion to posterior laminotomy-foraminotomy for the management of soft cervical disc herniation. Twenty-eight patients underwent anterior discectomy and fusion (Robinson horseshoe graft) while 16 patients underwent posterior laminotomy-foraminotomy. The disc herniations were classified into two types. Type I were single level anterolateral herniations (33 patients) while type II were central soft disc herniations (11 patients). Clinically, patients with type I herniations manifested signs and symptoms of radiculopathy while patients with type II herniations manifested signs of myelopathy or neck pain and bilateral upper extremity paresthesias in 4 patients. Confirmatory studies were myelography in 12 patients, myelography combined with computed tomography (CT) in 26 patients, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 6 patients. For type I herniations, 17 patients underwent anterior fusion while 16 patients had a posterior laminotomy-foraminotomy. The 11 patients classified as type II herniation all underwent anterior discectomy and fusion. There were 27 men and 17 women. The age range was 21 to 52 years (mean, 41 years). The follow-up was 1.6 to 8.2 years (mean, 4.2 years).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)