Anterior Cervical Corpectomy | Virginia Spine Institute

Anterior Cervical Corpectomy

Anterior cervical corpectomy is a surgical procedure where the surgeon removes one or more bones in your neck called the vertebral bodies.  This is usually recommended when there is compression on your spinal cord behind one or more vertebral bodies. The surgeon removes any bone, disc, or ligament that is compressing on the spinal cord and then performs a fusion surgery to stabilize the spine.  In place of the bones and discs that were removed, the surgeon then positions an implant with bone fusion material inside as well as a plate or other instrumentation to stabilize the spine. Over time this fusion will heal into one solid bone. The surgery is performed through a small incision in the front of the neck, off to the side. Some patients also require a surgery in the back of the neck, called a posterior cervical fusion, and this would be performed separately during the same hospitalization, usually a day apart.

Benefits of Anterior Cervical Corpectomy

  • Creates more room for the spinal cord and nerves
  • Improves upper extremity pain, numbness, or weakness
  • Removal of cervical discs which may be causing pain
  • Stabilizes the spine and may improve neck posture

Anterior Cervical Corpectomy FAQs

I don’t have neck or arm pain. Why is my surgeon recommending surgery?

Pinching of the spinal cord is not usually painful.  You may not exhibit any signs or symptoms of spinal cord compression, also called cervical myelopathy. The longer you live with spinal cord compression, the more bruised your spinal cord can become and the harder it will be for the spinal cord to become “unbruised” after your surgeon completes surgery.  The danger and risk of living with this condition over time is progression of symptoms and possible paralysis.

What are some symptoms I may be experiencing due to my spinal cord being pinched or compressed?

  • Symptoms of spinal cord pinching are called myelopathy.  These symptoms include difficulty with balance or falling, issues with dexterity and fine motor skills (handwriting, buttoning buttons, picking up small objects, dropping things), urinary frequency or incontinence,or heaviness of the extremities.
  • Signs your provider may find that are also included in the diagnosis of myelopathy include jumpy reflexes on exam, inability to walk in a straight line, other balance problems on exam.
  • It is important to let your surgeon know if you have any of the symptoms of myelopathy, as this may guide treatment recommendations

My surgeon mentioned an acronym “OPLL.” What is that?

OPLL is an abnormal spinal condition and stands for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. The posterior longitudinal ligament is a structure that stabilizes the bones within the spinal column.  This ligament can become ossified meaning it hardens into a bone or bone-like structure. When this occurs, a corpectomy is the recommended surgery to adequately remove this bone and decompress the spinal cord and nerves.

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