In coccyx removal, a surgeon will operate on a patient under general anesthesia to completely remove the coccyx, also known as the tailbone. This procedure, known formally as a coccygectomy, is usually used for the treatment of chronic pain that does not respond to other treatments or in the treatment of cancers of the tailbone. Recovery can take months, and the patient may experience significant pain during recovery.
Before a coccyx removal surgery can be performed, the patient is carefully evaluated. Medical imaging studies of the coccyx are performed, and the surgeon meets with the patient to see if the patient is a good candidate. In the case of cancers where the cancer has penetrated into the bone, the removal procedure may be medically necessary to proceed with cancer treatment. For chronic pain conditions, coccyx removal is generally regarded as a treatment option of last resort and the surgeon will want to meet with the patient to confirm the patient has tried other means of treatment and they have not worked.
On the day of the surgery, patients will be advised to fast. At the hospital, they change into gowns and may be asked to wash the area around the tailbone, although it will be wiped down again in the operating room. Intravenous lines are inserted to secure access to the patient's veins and introduce medications, and the patient is placed under anesthesia. The coccyx removal surgery takes around an hour.
After surgery, patients usually cannot sit up or lie on their backs without severe pain. Supportive pillows and other aids may be used to help patients feel more comfortable and they will be encouraged to adopt a position associated with minimal pain. Analgesic medications can also be offered as the patient recovers. This back surgery carries a risk of infection and the patient must care well for the surgical site, being especially careful to avoid fecal contamination of the site caused by poor hygiene.
For the first few months after coccyx removal, patients may notice an increase in pain and discomfort. After the initial healing phases, a substantial improvement should be experienced. Pain levels should go down and the patient will be able to sit and lie comfortably in addition to engaging in normal activities. Patients with chronic pain that did not respond well to other treatments may find their quality of life is much improved after the surgery.