Being active is one of the best things you can do for your body. Regular exercise has a positive impact on brain health, maintaining a healthy body weight, and keeping disease at bay. Keeping the body strong is the best way to fight against injury and sickness, and it also contributes to the health of your spine.
A thoracic corpectomy is a surgical procedure performed in order to relieve pressure that is being put on a nerve in the middle of the back, or the thoracic region. During this procedure, a surgeon removes the element that is putting pressure on the nerve (for example, bone spurs, tumors or fractures) to relieve pain, weakness or numbness in various parts of the body. Too much pressure on a nerve can cause enough pain to hinder one’s mobility. During a thoracic corpectomy, damaged vertebrae and/or vertebral discs that put pressure on the nerve are removed.
What is a Thoracic Corpectomy?
A thoracic corpectomy is a surgical procedure that is performed in order to remove infected or damaged vertebral discs or bones, in order to stabilize the spine after a trauma or injury. This will relieve the pressure on the spinal cord that causes pain.
Some common conditions that can require a thoracic corpectomy are: degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, tumor, fracture and infection leading to spinal compression, all of which can cause pain, numbness or weakness.
What are the Benefits of a Thoracic Corpectomy?
Restoring Spinal Stability
There are several instances where stability in the spine may need to be restored, such as after an accident or trauma. The spine can also become unstable with the presence of infection or disease in the bone, or from the presence of a tumor.
Alleviating Pain and Discomfort
Thoracic corpectomy surgery aims to relieve too much pressure being put on the spinal cord. This pressure causes pain and discomfort.
Enhancing Mobility and Function
Patients with herniated discs can experience pain in everyday movements. This pain is due to pressure being forced onto the spinal cord in the spinal canal. Once this happens, a patient may experience a limit in mobility and function. A thoracic corpectomy surgery can improve the body’s ability to regain natural movements.
Improving Overall Quality of Life
Some patients experience degenerative changes in the cervical spine that result in the formation of bone spurs. These changes can take up space that the spinal cord needs within the spinal canal. This compression within the spinal canal can make everyday movement painful and impact one’s quality of life. A thoracic corpectomy surgery can alleviate this pressure and help you return to pain-free life.
Preparation & The Thoracic Corpectomy Procedure
How do you prepare for a thoracic corpectomy in Orange County, CA?
At Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., we believe in getting a thorough diagnosis first, so that we can fully support you in making the best decision for the best outcome for your condition. Your doctor will perform a series of assessments in order to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for a thoracic corpectomy. If you are preparing to have a thoracic corpectomy, your doctor will want to be made aware of whether you are allergic to latex and if you are a smoker. Inform your doctor if you are a smoker - nicotine interferes with the bone fusion that is needed in order to achieve long-term spinal stability.
What does a thoracic corpectomy procedure look like?
A thoracic corpectomy is a minimally invasive surgery that is performed over two stages:
An incision is typically made on the side of the body in order to access the damaged vertebrae and disc.
During the decompression phase, the nerve is relieved of pressure. This is done by removing any bone spurs, tumors or fractures.
During the fusion phase, a diseased, deformed or damaged vertebrae is removed. The accompanying intervertebral disc is also removed. A metallic cage is fit for the space that was created and bone graft is inserted into the cage to assist with new bone formation. A metal plate with screws may also be used to provide added support.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
Immediate Postoperative Care
The procedure typically takes 2-4 hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the case. Following surgery, you may remain in the hospital for 2-3 days.
Pain Management Strategies
There are a number of medications and physical therapy treatments available to patients in order to manage their post-operative pain. Ask your doctor which pain management strategy is best for you.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Exercises
Your doctor will inform you as to when you are able to return to normal activities. In the meantime, you can help your body heal and regain strength, by committing to physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises as prescribed by your doctor.
Long-Term Outcomes and Follow-Up Care
Typically 2-4 weeks after surgery your doctor will want to perform a follow-up exam. During this time, s/he will be able to assess the success of the surgery and what to expect in both the short and long-term. While there are short-term movement restrictions during the recovery period, long-term restrictions are typically minimal and are discussed on a case by case basis.
Choosing the Right Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Surgeon in Orange County
Selecting the right spinal surgeon is one of the most important decisions you may ever make - your spine health affects the rest of your body. A spinal surgeon must not only have the right qualifications and schooling, but also experience with the specific procedure you need to have performed. Ask about a surgeon’s medical team and the quality of the hospital that your doctor works in.
Questions to Ask Your Surgeon
Some important questions to ask your surgeon include:
What are my limitations going to be post-surgery?
What is the pain management plan for me after surgery?
When will I be able to return to normal activities?
How do I keep my spine safe and healthy going forward?
Dr. Smith has hope for every patient to live a pain-free life, and the positive changes that are possible with a thoracic corpectomy begin with relief from constant pain. Thoracic corpectomy surgery can allow you to regain your range of movement, spinal function and stability, so that you can return to the activities of everyday life with confidence.
At Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., there is hope for healing and relief so that you can return to an active lifestyle. Find out more about how to return to your normal routine, by finding the right treatment for your condition. Our team is here to answer your questions. Book a consultation with Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., and start your journey to a pain-free future today.