CERVICAL CORPECTOMY AND STRUT GRAFT

Cervical Corpectomy and strut graft refer to a surgical procedure that relieves compression on the spinal cord by removing the degenerated bone and replacing it with a bone graft.

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Cervical Corpectomy and Strut Graft

Many cervical problems occur due to degenerative changes in the discs and joints of the neck. Unfortunately, these changes commonly take place as a natural part of aging and from the effects of daily wear and tear on the parts of the spine. Also, degenerative changes in the neck sometimes lead to a serious condition where pressure occurs on the spinal cord. Normally, doctors can relieve the pressure by removing the degenerative vertebrae and replacing them with a bone graft. Also, this refers to a procedure called a corpectomy and strut graft.

Learn about cervical corpectomy and strut graft including

  • The effects of the cervical spine
  • The reason for the procedure
  • Expectations from this procedure including possible complications
Cervical spine, illustration

Anatomy

In order to understand a patient’s symptoms and treatment choices, one should understand a basic understanding of the anatomy of the neck. Additionally, this includes becoming familiar with the various parts that make up the cervical spine and how they work together.

Learn more about the anatomy of the cervical spine.

Rationale

By removing one or several vertebras by a procedure called a corpectomy, the spinal cord will see less pressure. To be more specific, Corpus means “body” and ectomy means “remove.” Removing the discs between the vertebrae also takes place.  

After removal of the vertebral body (or bodies), a cervical fusion takes place. When the surgeon removes one or more vertebrae, a bone graft fills the space. As the bone graft heals, it fuses to the intact vertebrae above and below it. Then the bone graft provides structural support to the cervical spine.

Procedure

In the cervical corpectomy procedure, the vertebrae are removed from the front. Then the surgeon makes an incision in the front of the neck beside the trachea (windpipe). Subsequently, the muscles are moved to the side and the arteries and nerves are protected.

Upon reaching the front of the spine, the surgeon uses an X-ray to identify the correct vertebrae and discs. The vertebral bodies and discs causing problems are removed all the way back to the spinal cord. Bone spurs that extend from the back of the vertebrae toward the spinal canal are removed as well. Special care reduces the risk of damaging the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Once the removal of the vertebrae and discs takes place, the space between the vertebrae above and below must get filled. Doctors typically implant a graft of bone into the void or space. In addition, the section of bone graft works like a “strut” to support the spine. The formation of the strut can take place by taking bone from your hip (pelvis) or from the fibula bone in your leg.  Bone taken from your own body refers to an autograft. Your surgeon may also use allograft, which refers to bone taken from a source other than your body and stored in a bone bank.

Learn more about the use of a bone graft.

When installing a bone graft, metal (titanium) plates and screws secure it so that it does not move or slip. Furthermore, the plate sits on the front of the remaining vertebrae, covering the strut graft.  To hold the plate in place and keep the bone graft from slipping, screws are placed into the vertebral bodies above and below the graft 

Complications

Like all surgical procedures, operations on the neck may generate complications. Because the surgeon operates around the spinal cord, neck operations are always considered extremely delicate and potentially dangerous. Before having this procedure, patients should take the time to fully review the risks associated with cervical spine surgery with your doctor — making sure you agree and understand the risks and the benefits of the procedure planned for your treatment.

Learn more about possible complications of spine surgery.

Rehabilitation

Most importantly, this is a serious and complex operation requiring patients to wear a neck brace after surgery. However, some patients may need the extra support of a halo brace. On the other hand, most patients do not require rehabilitation after this surgery. However, if a patient experiences  pain or difficulty doing routine activities, a short rehab might be beneficial with a physical therapist.

Finally, once the fusion becomes healed, the patient may progress toward a more vigorous rehabilitation program.

Learn more about spinal rehabilitation after surgery.

If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.