What Is an Anterior Cervical Corpectomy?

Anterior cervical corpectomy is a surgery performed to take pressure off the nerves both within in the spinal cord and exiting the spinal column. Nerves experiencing compression (often due to bone spurs on the vertebrae causing the spinal column to narrow) can result in neck pain, arm numbness, weakness, or other related symptoms. An anterior cervical corpectomy decompresses the spinal cord and affected nerves within the spine, helping to relieve the symptoms.

Procedure

To perform an anterior cervical corpectomy, the surgeon must make an incision adjacent to the midline of the front of the neck in order to gain access to the spine. He then exposes the vertebral body and discs at the location where the spinal cord is being compressed. The entire vertebral body plus the discs above and below are removed, allowing for decompression of the spine.

Once the spinal cord and nerves are decompressed, a graft is used to replace the vertebral body and discs, restoring the normal height of the spinal column. A titanium plate is added over the graft to increase support. This additional stability allows the graft to fuse with the adjacent vertebrae. A continuous, stable length of bone in the spinal column will be formed once the fusion is complete. This usually takes about 3 months.

Benefits

Most people who undergo an anterior cervical corpectomy experience reduced pain, although improvement may take longer for some patients. The surgery may also prevent further loss of nerve and spinal cord function.

Risks

As with any surgery, there is the potential for complications. For example, there is the possibility that the graft does not fuse with the vertebrae properly. This can result in continued pain and may require further surgery. Problems can also arise with the hardware used to support the graft. The plate or screws can loosen or break, press against the structures of the neck (such as the esophagus), and lead to difficulty swallowing.

Other potential complications include infection, poor wound healing, excessive bleeding, stroke, blood clots, nerve damage, or paralysis. There could also be a negative reaction to the anesthesia and the possibility that the symptoms persist despite the surgery.

Surgery is a big decision, so it is important to discuss the risks and benefits of anterior cervical corpectomy with the surgeon before undergoing the procedure. He should be able to answer all of your questions and provide you with an understanding of what to expect after the surgery is complete. Dr. Wascher has performed this procedure on cervical corpectomy patients from all over the globe with unsurpassed results.

Tom Wascher M.D. will review your imaging studies free of charge or, if needed, provide you with a second opinion. He has performed over 1,800 cervical surgeries during his career and wants to see that you receive the best treatment possible. He is a competent and caring surgeon who has your best interests in mind.