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Thoracic corpectomy is a procedure which involves removal of damaged vertebrae and intervertebral discs in the upper and mid back region (thoracic spine). It is performed to provide pain relief in cases of spinal nerve compression in the thoracic spine region. Spinal nerve compression may occur due to several factors including degenerative spinal conditions, bone spurs, herniated discs, spinal fractures, tumors, infections etc.
Thoracic corpectomy is a form of decompression surgery, generally followed by spinal a fusion procedure. Different approaches may be used to access and visualize the thoracic spine and the approach may be decided by the surgeon based on the patient’s specific condition and targeted area within the thoracic spine. Surgical intervention to relieve compression is considered when patients fail to respond to conservative treatment methods.
Thoracic corpectomy in indicated in the following conditions:
Thoracic corpectomy is performed under general anesthesia, hence the patient remains unconscious during the procedure and would not feel any pain. The procedure takes place in two steps: the first step involves decompression and second step involves fusion. The surgeon first makes an incision on one side of the abdomen to expose the thoracic vertebrae and surrounding discs. Now, the damaged vertebrae and discs in the spinal column are removed, thereby relieving the pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. This completes the first step.
Next, spinal fusion is performed to stabilize the spinal column. During this procedure, bone graft is placed to promote fusion with the adjacent healthy vertebrae. The bone graft may be obtained from the patient itself or a donor. Additionally, the surgeon inserts screws and rods to support the spinal stability. This completes the second step. The incision is finally closed with sutures and dressed with a bandage.
Most patients experience symptomatic relief from back pain immediately after the procedure. Hospital stay may range from 5-7 days, although it may vary from patient to patient. Patients are provided with a recovery plan involving physical therapy and exercises which are gradually increased over time. Follow-up appointments are scheduled 4-6 weeks after surgery to evaluate the healing progress.