Anterior Cervical Corpectomy is a surgical procedure carried out to relieve pressure on your spinal cord and nerves. During this procedure, your surgeon will remove damaged vertebral bone and intervertebral discs responsible for the stress on the spinal cord that causes pain. Because this surgery is carried out by accessing the cervical spine from the front of the neck, it is termed an anterior procedure.
After an anterior cervical corpectomy is done, an adjoining procedure called a spinal fusion is typically required. This is because a significant amount of vertebrae material is removed during this procedure, and a replacement is necessary to retain balance.
This procedure is closely related to another procedure called a discectomy. However, while the latter only involves the removal of bone spurs and only the damaged part of the disc, a corpectomy goes beyond that to remove the vertebrae also. A corpectomy is generally recommended in cases where a discectomy is not sufficient for treatment.
Why Would You Need to Get an Anterior Cervical Corpectomy and Fusion?
An anterior cervical corpectomy is typically recommended in the treatment of degenerative cervical conditions. These are conditions that have resulted in extended damage resulting in the formation of bone spurs and herniated discs. When bone spurs and herniated discs form in the spinal canal, they narrow the canal, reducing the space meant to accommodate the spinal cord and nerves. This narrowing is called stenosis. When there is stenosis, the spinal cord and the nerves are compressed and injured, resulting in pain.
Some of the conditions that can result in spinal canal stenosis are metastatic tumours, spondylosis, and traumatic migrated disc herniations. If you have any of these conditions, your doctor will first recommend conservative treatment options such as pain medications and physical therapy. However, if those methods don’t work and the condition is placing your spinal cord at risk of damage, your doctor may recommend an anterior cervical corpectomy.
Generally, you may qualify for this procedure if:
● Non-operative methods don’t yield results
● You are in severe pain
● You have spinal cord compression resulting in neck pain
● Numbness in your arms and hands
● Pins and needles or a tingling feeling in your hands
● Loss of bladder and bowel control
● Difficulty walking
● Impairment of coordinated hand movements.
After your doctor diagnoses your condition and recommends this procedure, a date will be scheduled for surgery. This procedure will be carried out under general anesthesia, which means you will be unconscious for the duration of the surgery.
The first step during this procedure is the incision. Your surgeon will make an incision on the front of your neck and then move aside the muscles and other tissue to be able to access your cervical spine. They will then carefully remove the attached discs above and below the damaged vertebrae. In most cases, the discs would have also suffered some form of damage. The damaged vertebrae will also be removed to decompress the spinal cord and nerves.
After removing the damaged vertebrae, your surgeon will typically perform a spinal fusion next. This procedure involves replacing the space left by the removal with an implant in order to achieve stability. There are two common types of implants used for spinal fusions. The first is a strut graft. This is a piece of bone about one to two inches, typically taken from the patient’s body or a bone bank. The strut graft is implanted and fixed with titanium screws and plates.
Over time, the graft fuses with remaining bones to give long-term stability. The second type of implant commonly used is a cage. These implants are constructed entirely from materials like titanium, synthetic bones, or ceramic. They are also inserted into the space and fixed with screws and plates. Your surgeon will also use small bone grafts, often gotten from the removed vertebrae, to help achieve fusion between a cage implant and bones in the spinal column.
The incision is closed, and the wound is carefully dressed with a gauze bandage.
Total recovery from this procedure takes between six to eight weeks on average, and you will have scheduled follow-up meetings during this period to ensure you are healing properly.
Do you think you may qualify for an anterior cervical corpectomy? Book an appointment with Dr. Kotecha, a spine surgeon based in Houston, Texas, to get an examination and personalized treatment.