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Anterior Cervical Corpectomy Spine Surgery

Procedure for anterior cervical corpectomy spine surgery

When the cervical disease encompasses more than just the disc space, the spine surgeon may recommend removal of the vertebral body as well as the disc spaces at either end, to completely decompress the cervical canal. This procedure, a corpectomy, is often done for multi-level cervical stenosis with spinal cord compression caused by bone spur (osteophytes) growth.

The general procedure for anterior cervical corpectomy surgery is as follows:

Potential risks and complications of anterior cervical corpectomy surgery

Technically, a corpectomy is a more difficult spine surgery to perform. Similar to a discectomy, the risks and possible complications include:

However, a corpectomy is a more extensive procedure than a discectomy so the risks are statistically greater, especially with respect to neurologic issues, bone grafting and bleeding.
The risk that spine surgeons worry about the most is compromise of the spinal cord that can lead to complete or partial quadriplegia. Bear in mind that corpectomy surgeries are most often undertaken in circumstances of significant spinal cord problems, which place the cord at greater risk for problems during surgery, independent of the skill and finesse with which the procedure is performed. To help manage this risk, the spinal cord function is often monitored during surgery by Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SSEP’s). SSEP’s generate a small electrical impulse in the arms/legs, measure the corresponding response in the brain, and record the length of time it takes the signal to get to the brain. Any marked slowing in the length of time may indicate compromise to the spinal cord.

There is also a slight risk that while removing the vertebral body, the vertebral artery that runs on the side of the spine may be injured, which can lead to a cerebrovascular accident (stroke) and/or life-threatening bleeding. This particular risk will be more significant in certain instances of tumor removal or vertebral infections.

Strut graft to achieve a spine fusion

After a corpectomy has been performed, the surgeon needs to mechanically reconstruct the defect created and to provide long-term stability of the spine with a spine fusion. A strut graft is a piece of bone (1-2 inches) that is inserted into the trough created by the corpectomy(ies) that supports the anterior vertebral column. The graft may be either an allograft or an autograft, and is usually then followed by anterior instrumentation to help hold the construct together. Alternatively, ‘cages’ made of titanium or other synthetic materials may be employed as an alternative to strut grafts. Such cages are used in combination with morsels of bone graft, which are commonly the ‘local’ autograft bone obtained from the patient as the vertebrae are removed. If multiple levels are fused, a supplemental poster fusion and instrumentation may be recommended to help stabilize the spine.

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