What is a Corpectomy?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A corpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes bones and discs to relieve pressure on the patient’s spinal cord and nerves. As part of this surgery, a doctor removes a portion of the bony sections that make up the spinal column as well as discs that are adjacent to the removed section of bone and keep the bones from rubbing together. To fill in the space left by the bone and disc removal, a surgeon reconstructs the spinal column using a bone graft, which is a procedure used to replace missing bone tissue with other bone or a bone substitute.

Smoking following a corpectomy can interfere with the healing process.
Smoking following a corpectomy can interfere with the healing process.

This surgical procedure may be used to a treat patient whose cervical spinal canal has been rendered too narrow by bone spurs, but it may also be performed on other parts of the spinal column and to treat other conditions. The cervical spinal canal is in the neck and is the canal through which the spinal cord is threaded. Also referred to as osteophytes, bone spurs are sections of bone that develop and stick out from the edges of normal bone. When they make contact with nerves and other bones, they can cause such symptoms as pain, numbness and tingling. Some people also experience the sensation of pins and needles and weakness of the arms and hands as a result of a narrowed cervical spinal canal. In severe cases, patients may also lose control of their bladders and bowels and have trouble keeping their balance.

A corpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes bones and discs to relieve pressure on the patient’s spinal cord and nerves.
A corpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes bones and discs to relieve pressure on the patient’s spinal cord and nerves.

A corpectomy is typically performed with the patient under general anesthesia and unable to feel pain from the operation. With the patient lying on his back, a surgeon makes a small cut on the patient’s neck to begin the corpectomy. Another incision may be necessary if part of the patient’s own bone tissue will be used for the bone graft. Then, the surgeon removes the discs that are above and below the bones that are to be removed, followed by part of the vertebrae. Finally, the surgeon uses a bone graft to fill in the empty space and support the spine; sometimes metal plates and screws are used for additional support.

A patient will be under general anesthesia and free from pain during a corpectomy.
A patient will be under general anesthesia and free from pain during a corpectomy.

After a corpectomy, some people feel a low level of pain or discomfort, but oral painkillers help to relieve it. Some patients also experience a temporarily sore throat after the surgery. In-hospital recovery doesn’t take very long, and patients are typically released from the hospital within a day or two of surgery. Symptom relief may be immediate in some patients while others may notice a gradual improvement in symptoms. It’s important to note that smoking cigarettes may interfere with optimal bone healing after surgery.

Patients may experience a sore throat after a corpectomy.
Patients may experience a sore throat after a corpectomy.
Located in the neck, the cervical spinal canal is the structure through which the spinal cord is threaded.
Located in the neck, the cervical spinal canal is the structure through which the spinal cord is threaded.
The presence of bone spurts may narrow a person's spinal canal.
The presence of bone spurts may narrow a person's spinal canal.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon295705

I feel bad for you. It was 2010 when I had the same thing done. I was 53 and it isn't any 'joy ride' like the doctors try to make it sound.

I just found some very interesting reading though, and would like to point it out to you. It was in Wilkepedia under 'Failed Back Surgery." Of course, we would never hear of this! Never! Those surgeons are absolute gods in their own minds, so if they can't fix you then there was never anything wrong. They make me sick.

I hope things get better for you and wish you the very best. Pray is all we can do. --Tatz

anon174845

In 2003, I had a ACDF with a corpectomy done at C-5-6-7 with two metal plates and five screws. then they turned me over and did a laminectomy at the same levels. now i have worse problems and tons of bone spurs and need to have major reconstructive neck surgery which i refuse to do at aged 55 now.

it was a horrendous operation that doctors don't tell you the truth on how painful it is posterior. anterior is OK but posterior is a nightmare. i wish i never had it done.

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