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When Anterior Cervical Corpectomy is the Appropriate Surgical Option

Do you have neck pain and weakness that extends into your shoulders and down your arms into your hands? Nerve compression is likely the root of your pain and could be caused by bone spurs, herniated discs, fracture of the cervical spine or even an infection or tumor. If you are experiencing this type of pain, your doctor might suggest a surgery called anterior cervical corpectomy. This procedure’s primary purpose is to eliminate or reduce the factors that may be causing the pain.

Defining this Procedure

If you pick apart the surgical term “anterior cervical corpectomy,” you should be able to guess what this procedure entails. “Corpectomy” is derived from Latin words – corpus meaning body and ectomy referring to removal. Anterior is the location which is the front and cervical refers to the neck. Putting it all together, your surgeon starts the procedure on the front of the neck in order to access the cervical spine.

What to Expect in the Operating Room

In most cases, spinal fusion is required because some amount of disc material or vertebral bone has to be removed in order to relieve compression of the nerves. A bone graft or a substituted graft material is used between two or more vertebral affected areas. You may wonder why this is necessary.

Imagine an extra growth of bone (a spur) from one of your vertebrae pressing into a nerve or a degenerative disc between two vertebrae causing them to narrow and compress against a nerve. Only a physical graft of bone material during an anterior cervical corpectomy can separate the vertebral bone far apart enough to alleviate pressure on the nerves. The bone graft also serves as a connective medium so that eventually your vertebral bones heal back together to offer spinal stability. Of course, if you have a bone spur, the surgeon will remove it.

A bone graft can be from a cadaver bone but most often is harvested right from your own body. Often times, a small incision is made near your hip and a small amount of bone is incised away. There is little chance of your body rejecting bone material from your own body.

Your doctor will perform a number of tests before determining that you require an anterior cervical corpectomy for lasting pain relief. To assist you in making any surgical decisions, your doctor will also advise you on recovery times, rehabilitation and expected pain relief.

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