The cervical spine comprises of the first 7 vertebrae of the spinal column. The vertebrae are separated from one another by shock-absorbing pads called intervertebral discs. Over time, the discs can become worn out and can result in neck pain.
Treatment for Neck Pain
Neck pain can be mostly managed conservatively. However, surgery needs to be considered when the degenerative changes of the cervical spine exert excessive pressure on the spinal cord.
What is Cervical Corpectomy?
A cervical corpectomy is a surgical procedure aimed at relieving the compression on the spinal cord by removing the degenerated vertebrae and replacing them with a bone graft.
Indications for a Cervical Corpectomy
A corpectomy is indicated for compression of the spinal cord, leading to spinal stenosis or cervical myelopathy.
Cervical Corpectomy Procedure
- Your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your neck to reach the cervical spine. An X-ray is taken to ensure the affected vertebrae and discs are located. Once confirmed, the affected vertebrae and discs are removed along with any bone spurs around the vertebrae.
- A cervical fusion is performed after a corpectomy. In cervical fusion, the space left after the removal of the vertebral body is reconstructed with a bone graft to provide stability to the spine.
- The graft is usually taken from the small bone in the leg, either from your own body (autograft) or a donor (allograft). The graft holds the vertebrae apart while the healing occurs and allows the vertebrae to fuse.
- A metal plate and screws are used to hold the vertebrae and the bone graft in place.
Postoperative Care following Cervical Corpectomy
Following surgery, you will need to limit your activities to avoid strain on the healing vertebrae. You may be placed in a halo jacket to restrict the movement of the head during the healing process.
Physical therapy may be initiated to improve your neck strength and flexibility. The intensity of physical therapy may be increased after cervical fusion has healed sufficiently.
Risks and Complications of Cervical Corpectomy
Some of the potential complications associated with corpectomy include subsequent pain, impaired healing and a possible need for additional surgery.