The cervical spine comprises the first 7 vertebrae of the spinal column. The vertebrae are separated from one another by shock absorbing pads called intervertebral discs. Over time, the discs can become worn out resulting in neck pain. Most patients with neck pain can be managed conservatively. However, surgery needs to be considered when the degenerative changes of the cervical spine exert excessive pressure on the spinal cord.
A cervical corpectomy and strut graft is a surgical procedure aimed at relieving the spinal cord compression by removal of the degenerated vertebrae and replacement with a bone graft. A corpectomy is indicated in compression of the spinal cord leading to spinal stenosis or cervical myelopathy.
Your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your neck to reach the cervical spine. An X-ray is taken to ensure the affected vertebrae and discs are located. Once confirmed, the affected vertebrae and discs are removed along with any bone spurs around the vertebrae.
A cervical fusion is performed after a corpectomy. In cervical fusion, the space left after removal of the vertebral body is reconstructed with a bone graft to provide stability to the spine. The graft may be taken either from the patient or another individual and is usually taken from the small bone in the leg. The graft holds the vertebrae apart while the healing occurs and the vertebrae fuse. A metal plate and screws are used to hold the vertebrae and the bone graft in place. Some patients are placed in a halo jacket to restrict the movement of the head during the healing process.
Some of the complications associated with corpectomy include subsequent pain, impaired healing, and a possible need for additional surgery.
Following surgery, patients will need to limit their activities to avoid strain on the healing vertebrae. Physical therapy may be initiated to improve neck strength and flexibility. The intensity of physical therapy may be increased after the cervical fusion has healed sufficiently.