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What Is a Coccygectomy?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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A coccygectomy is a surgical procedure in which portions of the coccyx are removed. The coccyx, also commonly referred to as the tailbone, is a set of approximately three to five small, triangular-shaped bones that are found at the end of the spine just above the anus. It may be necessary to remove pieces of or the entire coccyx region in the event of coccydynia, a condition in which there is pain in the coccyx region as a result of injury.

If the coccyx region is broken, inflamed, or otherwise causing pain, a surgeon may opt to perform either a partial or full coccygectomy. The partial version of the surgery typically involves removing just the injured piece of the coccyx, while in a full version, the entire coccyx is removed. Many surgeons feel that removing the entire coccyx may make a person less prone to further complications. To perform the surgery, a surgeon will generally make an incision near the spine above the anus, and then cut through the muscles and tissue to remove the coccyx.

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A doctor often will advise a person to undergo a coccygectomy as a last resort if other treatment methods, such as medication to relieve coccyx inflammation or physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the coccyx, have not been successful at relieving coccydynia. Coccydynia usually occurs if the coccyx breaks and is unable to heal properly. Common causes of coccyx injuries include falling, physical fights, complications after vaginal childbirth, tumors, or birth defects.

Prior to a coccygectomy procedure, a patient will generally be recommended to take certain precautions to help reduce the risks of complications during and after the surgery. He or she will typically be advised to eat a diet low in fiber for approximately one week leading up to the surgery. Since passing stool may be difficult when recovering from the surgery, reducing the amount of dietary fiber may help reduce bowel movements and prevent infecting the surgical wound with stool. A patient may also be advised to avoid aspirin, which may cause excessive bleeding during surgery. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to be taken before surgery to reduce the risk of infection.

Coccygectomy recovery time will typically vary depending on the age and health of the patient and the severity of the injury to the coccyx. One of the biggest risks after the surgery is infection of the incision; therefore, it is usually advised to take a course of antibiotics and follow any wound care instructions carefully. Symptoms of a post-coccygectomy infection may include fever, swelling of the arms or legs, redness or pus from the incision area, or difficulty breathing. If an infection is suspected, it is generally advised to seek immediate medical attention.

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