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A corpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes bones and discs to relieve pressure on the patient’s spinal cord and nerves. As part of this surgery, a doctor removes a portion of the bony sections that make up the spinal column as well as discs that are adjacent to the removed section of bone and keep the bones from rubbing together. To fill in the space left by the bone and disc removal, a surgeon reconstructs the spinal column using a bone graft, which is a procedure used to replace missing bone tissue with other bone or a bone substitute.
This surgical procedure may be used to a treat patient whose cervical spinal canal has been rendered too narrow by bone spurs, but it may also be performed on other parts of the spinal column and to treat other conditions. The cervical spinal canal is in the neck and is the canal through which the spinal cord is threaded. Also referred to as osteophytes, bone spurs are sections of bone that develop and stick out from the edges of normal bone. When they make contact with nerves and other bones, they can cause such symptoms as pain, numbness and tingling. Some people also experience the sensation of pins and needles and weakness of the arms and hands as a result of a narrowed cervical spinal canal. In severe cases, patients may also lose control of their bladders and bowels and have trouble keeping their balance.
A corpectomy is typically performed with the patient under general anesthesia and unable to feel pain from the operation. With the patient lying on his back, a surgeon makes a small cut on the patient’s neck to begin the corpectomy. Another incision may be necessary if part of the patient’s own bone tissue will be used for the bone graft. Then, the surgeon removes the discs that are above and below the bones that are to be removed, followed by part of the vertebrae. Finally, the surgeon uses a bone graft to fill in the empty space and support the spine; sometimes metal plates and screws are used for additional support.
After a corpectomy, some people feel a low level of pain or discomfort, but oral painkillers help to relieve it. Some patients also experience a temporarily sore throat after the surgery. In-hospital recovery doesn’t take very long, and patients are typically released from the hospital within a day or two of surgery. Symptom relief may be immediate in some patients while others may notice a gradual improvement in symptoms. It’s important to note that smoking cigarettes may interfere with optimal bone healing after surgery.