Cervical corpectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove one or more vertebrae (bones) in the cervical spine (neck). A corpectomy involves removing the front part of the vertebra, the vertebral body. The portion of bone that surrounds and protects the spinal cord is preserved. Bone graft is inserted into the open space and stimulates new bone growth to occur that eventually joins the upper and lower vertebrae together. This is called fusion.
Cervical corpectomy is performed to decompress the nerve roots and/or spinal cord. To decompress (decompression) means to remove something that is compressing (exerting pressure on) a nerve root or the spinal cord. In extreme cases of cervical spinal stenosis, a condition in which bone thickens and produces bone spurs orosteophytes, neck pain and other symptoms that may radiate (spread) down the neck and into the shoulder, arm, and hand.
In most cases when surgery is warranted, an ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy with fusion) is done, in which only the disc is removed along with enough bone to decompress the nerves. Significant and advanced spinal cord problems must be present for corpectomy to be considered, including severe pain, extreme weakness, numbness, and loss of function of the fine motor skills of the hand.
Cervical corpectomy may also be performed during removal of a spinal tumor or significant trauma.
You must stop tobacco use before surgery. Nicotine hinders bone growth, slows healing, increases the risk for infection, and increases your risk of a failed fusion.
Tell your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take. In your list, include vitamins, herbal products, and other supplements. Some types of drugs and supplements, such as blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medications must be discontinued before your surgery. Your doctor will provide you with written instructions to avoid any confusion.
Your spine surgeon will provide other written instructions. These include do not eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery and make arrangements to have someone drive you home after hospitalization.
All medical procedures, nonoperative or surgical, have some risk of complication. Risks associated with this surgery are greater than with other cervical spine surgery procedures. Risks are particularly associated with neurologic issues, bone grafting, bleeding, and stroke. Carefully discuss your decision to have surgery, including risks and benefits, with your spine surgeon. The final decision is yours.
Wear loose-fitting clothing and flat-heeled, slip-on shoes with closed backs to the hospital. Consider wearing a front buttoning shirt in order to facilitate dressing prior to your discharge home.
If instructed, take medication the morning of surgery with small sips of water.
You are released from the hospital when your condition is stable. You are sent home with a prescription for pain medication. Some medications (narcotics for pain) are addictive and should be used for fewer than two weeks. Many patients find they no longer need pain medication after only a few days. Pain is then managed with acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Some patients experience a tingling or warm feeling in the arm on the side where surgery was performed. While this may present be present as the nerves heal, if symptoms worsen, please contact your spine surgeon.
Remember to keep all of your postoperative appointments and never hesitate to call your spine surgeon's office if you have questions or concerns.