Cervical corpectomy is a surgical procedure to remove damaged or degenerated vertebral bone from the neck (cervical spine) to relieve neck or back pain.
The cervical spine is comprised of the first seven vertebrae in the spine, starting just below the skull and ending just above the thoracic spine in the midback. Each vertebra has two parts, a vertebral arch that surrounds and protects most of the spinal cord and a vertebral body that faces the front of the spine. Soft cushioning discs are present between adjacent vertebral bodies to provide support during spinal movements.
Degenerative changes of the cervical vertebrae or the discs between the vertebrae can lead to spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. This can cause compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves leading to neck or back pain, as well as other symptoms such as numbness and weakness. Cervical corpectomy is the surgical removal of one or more vertebral bodies and the associated discs in the neck area to relieve the symptoms.
Cervical corpectomy is indicated for people suffering from severe neck or back pain due to cervical spinal stenosis who cannot find adequate relief with conservative treatments. It is also recommended if you have progressive neurological symptoms such as numbness, weakness or loss of coordination or if the cervical vertebrae are damaged by trauma, deformity or tumors.
The procedure is performed under general anesthesia while you will lie on your back during the procedure.
Your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your neck next to the windpipe or trachea. The nerves and arteries in the neck are protected and the muscles are slightly displaced to access the damaged vertebral bones.
X-rays help identify the degenerated vertebrae and discs as well as any bony overgrowths or spurs causing compression. The vertebral bodies along with the affected discs and bone spurs are surgically removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
Following corpectomy, a bone graft is usually placed in the space left behind so that the adjacent vertebrae are fused into one bone. Internal hardware such as screws and plates may be placed to stabilize the cervical spine as it heals.
The entire procedure is performed with the utmost precision to ensure that the spinal cord and nerves are not damaged.
You will be advised to have plenty of rest following a cervical corpectomy for proper healing and fusion of the spinal bones. You will be instructed not to smoke which adversely affects healing and bone fusion. Your neck will be immobilized in a brace for a few weeks. Once proper healing has taken place, a physical therapist will instruct you on strengthening your neck muscles with an exercise routine and you will gradually be able to increase your activity level.
Risks and Complications
As with any surgery, cervical corpectomy may also carry certain complications which include:
- Injury to the spinal cord or nerves
- Post-surgical pain
- Need for additional surgery
Cervical corpectomy is a surgical procedure to treat neck or back pain due to spinal stenosis. When performed by a skilled and experienced surgeon, the chances of success are high. To learn more about this surgery, its risks and complications, please consult your doctor.