Question:What is a corpectomy? My mother tells me her surgeon has suggested this operation for her neck pain.
Answer:Corpectomy refers to the removal of a vertebral body in the spine. Usually the disc is taken out too. This step is called a discectomy. Discectomy and/or corpectomy are done to decompress the spinal cord. This means the disc and bone are removed to take pressure off the spinal cord as it travels through the opening for the cord called the spinal canal.
Changes in the cervical spine (neck) that come with aging cause stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal. Symptoms of neck and arm pain are common. Patients also report numbness, weakness, and other neurologic signs.
Treatment for this condition is usually nonoperative at first. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are tried along with physical therapy. The goal is to reduce any swelling and realign the soft tissues as much as possible. Strengthening the neck and arm muscles can also help maintain motion and function.
Corpectomy isn't usually considered until the patient has had at least six months of conservative care. Once the vertebral body is removed, then bone graft or some other means of stabilizing the spine must be done. The procedure is safe and effective for properly selected patients.Joshua E. Medow, MD, et al. Surgical Management of Cervical Myelopathy: Indications and Techniques for Surgical Corpectomy. In The Spine Journal. November/December 2006. Vol. 6. No. 6S. Pp. 223S-241S.
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