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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

A vertebrectomy is also called a corpectomy, or an ACDCF (anterior cervical diskectomy, corpectomy and fusion). You may have heard of ACDF, which is the same thing without the corpectomy. The surgery is much like the ACDF where the two disks above and below the affected vertebra are removed. Then the main body of the vertebra is removed and the space is filled with a strut graft - a long piece of bone. This is then covered with a titanium plate attached with a handful of screws.

The recovery from this surgery is a bit different than a "normal" ACDF, as there is more danger of non-fusion. You may wake up from the surgery on a respirator, as there is some danger of your throat swelling up from the surgery and they may want to have the breathing tube in place. This should be only overnight. You'll probably be in a hard neck brace for a few months, as the surgeons won't want any neck movement to occur. You may have an electronic bone fusion stimulator to wear too.

I had a C5 & C6 corpectomy three years ago. The reason was myelopathy - the spinal cord was being compressed. My symptoms included hand and arm numbness and weakness, mostly on the right. My right arm still is smaller and weaker than the left, even though I'm right-handed. The goal of the surgery is to stop the progression of the disease. If there's any improvement in the symptoms, all the much better. In my case the numbness has pretty much disappeared. I have had some improvement of strength in my right arm, but it has been very slow. I was initially terrified of messing up everything if I moved my neck even a few millimeters. It was something I got used to, even though it was a real "pain in the neck". I had two sets of pads for the Aspen collar - I left one set on when I showered and replaced them with the dry set. I shaved what I could get to and then laid down on the floor so I wouldn't move - my wife then finished up what was left. It was an interesting time, what with figuring out how to sleep, how to move, how to sit, etc. I have a desk job and I get bored easliy, so I returned to work after a week. I had to get rides to/from work because of the collar.

All in all, the recovery was not all that bad. You'll have to make a lot of adjustments in lifestyle for a few months. After that, though, you should do OK. I was told there were no restrictions after the fusion was solid - I think that was 5 or 6 months from the surgery. Since then I have not let it affect what I want to do. I still work around the house like I used to. I get yelled at a lot from the wife and kids ("You shouldn't be doing that" type of thing), but I'm not going to let my neck surgery dictate what I can or can't do - within limits, of course. I'm not going to go bungee-jumping or anything like that, but then I didn't do that before the surgery either. Life does continue, and I'm going to be a part of it - surgery or not. I have a problem getting the last ounce of soda out of the can, and I have to turn my body more when backing up the car, but it's manageable. There are a lot of people that have had this type of surgery and are still part of it all - you can be too. I understand your fears - you should be just fine. Getting through the few months after the surgery is the hardest part, and I'm sure you'll be able to figure out how to handle it as you go through it. Others have done it - you can too.

Good luck.

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