All surgical procedures that affect the spinal column are risky and complicated. However, the procedure known as Corpectomy is perhaps one of the most advanced and complex surgical procedures in modern medicine. The procedure is performed only when patients already have severe damage to the spinal cord.
Corpectomy is the process of accessing a particular region of the spine to remove pressure being placed on the spinal column. This pressure could result from bone spurs, tumors, spinal stenosis, swelling, infections, fractures or degenerative disc disease.
Due to the elevated risk associated with Thoracic Corpectomy surgery, extensive pre-operative measures must be taken. It is not uncommon for patients to be hospitalized before the date of the procedure so that the team of physicians can monitor their health.
What To Expect For Your Corpectomy
On the day of the surgery, the patient is put under general anesthesia. The duration of a typical corpectomy averages around six hours, although the time varies in more advanced cases degenerative disease. Post-surgery, the patient is placed into the intensive care unit for close monitoring. This is done as a preventive measure based on the nature of the surgery.
During the corpectomy itself, the patient is placed on his or her back with both shoulders secured against the operating table. The surgical team then proceeds to clean and prep the area to be operated on, and an incision is made on the side of the neck for a cervical corpectomy or the abdomen for a thoracic corpectomy. All pertinent muscles, organs, and tissues are carefully moved aside until the spinal column is cleared and easily accessible.
Once the spine is cleared, the surgical team will take an X-ray in order to locate the exact vertebrae that need to be operated on. After accurately identifying the diseased vertebrae and its accompanying intervertebral tissues are excised. By removing the diseased vertebrae, the surgeon is able to dramatically decrease the levels of compression upon the spinal cord and associated nerve roots.
Once the spinal decompression has been successfully executed, a highly specialized surgical mesh is inserted in the cavity, or cavities, where the damaged vertebrae were. The mesh is then secured by a metal plate, and a vertebral fusion is performed to minimize movement and promote stability. Further metal screws and plates may be inserted to increase the structural integrity of the fusion if needed.
Rehabilitation for such a complicated procedure can be long and thus the potential for setbacks is present. Post-operative patients should limit their activity in order to reduce the risk of complications and to promote the body’s natural healing. In all cases, physical therapy is necessary as a means to recover full range of motion and increase the success rate of the surgery. Patients should adhere to all doctor recommendations for their unique timelines for recovery and returning back to normal activities such as unassisted walking and work.
Complications Of A Corpectomy
As with all major surgeries, common complications from a corpectomy include continued pain, bleeding, infection, nerve damage, and in cases of a cervical corpectomy, damage to the esophagus and or trachea.
However, considering that corpectomy is only recommended in patients with severe spine damage, it is extremely rare that any side-effects of surgery will outweigh the benefits.