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Spinal Cord Accident Injuries Often Lead to Corpectomies or Discectomies

Spinal Cord Accident Injuries Often Lead to Corpectomies or Discectomies


Serious accidents that include motor vehicle collisions, ceiling collapses and major falls at work often cause countless people to suffer spinal cord injuries. Fortunately, many of these patients respond well to conservative treatments like physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage, acupuncture, or epidural steroid injections. However, some patients may always require some form of surgery – such as a corpectomy or discectomy – while trying to heal more fully from their injuries.

To help readers better understand what takes place during a corpectomy procedure, some general medical terms and information are shared below. Additional facts are then shared about what often takes place during corpectomies and discectomies. The article concludes with a review of the common surgical risks all patients must discuss with their healthcare providers prior to consenting to either a corpectomy or discectomy.

Medical terms that can help you better understand your condition and available treatments

  • A corpectomy. This is a rather comprehensive surgical procedure that usually involves removing basically all the vertebral body found in a section of the spinal cord.
  • A discectomy. One medical website states that a discectomy is like a corpectomy in that they can be used to treat similar conditions. However, this procedure usually only requires the surgeon to remove the damaged parts of a spinal cord section – such as the damaged part of the disc and all bone spurs.
  • The three main sections of the spinal column. The upper region called the cervical section is closest to the neck area. Just below that part of the column is the thoracic section. Finally, the lowest part of the spinal column reaching down into the lower back area is called the lumbar section. Surgeries are performed in all these areas to help relieve patient pain and hopefully increase mobility.
  • A ronguer. This type of medical instrument looks a bit like cupped forceps or plyers. Doctors often use this device when removing vertebral bodies from the spinal cord. It can also be used for cutting through tough bodily tissues besides bone.
  • ACDF. This refers to an anterior cervical discectomy (decompression) fusion surgery. This surgery is designed to help decrease the pressure and pain a patient is experiencing in a section of the spinal cord.
  • Intervertebral discs. Ideally, these will remain intact throughout a person’s life to supply adequate “shock absorption” as the spinal column discs shift with body movement. However, serious accidents can cause these discs to tear open – often causing injury victims to suffer unrelenting pain.

What generally takes place to relieve spinal cord pain during a corpectomy and fusion procedure?

Surgeons usually first evaluate exactly where a patient’s greatest pain is coming from by taking adequate, pre-operative CT scans and MRIs. They also perform thorough patient exams, observe patients as they try to walk and move their limbs — and carefully listen to descriptions of the pain.

Once a decision has been made to operate on the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar section of the spinal column, surgery is often performed on the anterior or frontal section of the spinal column. This generally provides the best access to the area where decompression (or lessening of the pressure) is required on a patient’s nerves and damaged disc areas. Medical tools including a ronguer are then used to either remove the entire, problematic vertebral body (by performing a corpectomy) or just its damaged parts (by simply performing a discectomy).

The surgeon then performs the most advantageous type of graft to fill the space left empty by one of these surgical procedures. Multilevel-ACDF surgeries are often performed. During the post-operative healing stages, the bones can fuse together. To stabilize certain spinal column areas after all major surgical steps have been completed, metal plates and screws are often attached.

What are the major surgical risks that all patients should discuss in advance with their doctors?

Although the success rate of most orthopedic surgeries has increased greatly during recent decades, it still poses many significant risks to some people. It is therefore crucial for injured patients to carefully consider the degree of pain they are currently tolerating and decide if the following basic surgical risks are outweighed by their need for pain relief and greater mobility. Patients should also realize that some degree of pain may always be present (or return) – even if surgery goes well.

  • Nerve damage. This can lead to the inability to control one’s bladder or bowels. It can also cause hoarseness when speaking. If these new conditions do not go away, it may become necessary to see specialists to see if they can properly treat them.
  • Hip bone damage. When a patient’s surgeon does not believe a different type of graft is appropriate, she may insist on performing a hip bone graft. This can sometimes destabilize the hip and result in a fractured hip or new problems with walking.
  • Blood clots can form in a patient’s lungs or legs
  • Paralysis can develop in an arm or leg
  • Infections can develop near bone grafts
  • A patient can have a negative reaction to the anesthesia used. While this is rare, it remains a risk of every type of major operation.
  • Excessive bleeding can result in a heart attack or stroke. This danger may be most common when a patient fails to inform the surgeon of all his current medical conditions and prescriptions.

Given the extreme difficulty of properly performing all type of spinal cord surgeries, many patients do require follow-up surgeries to correct new issues – or more accurately address the prior ones not yet resolved.

Accident victims must always be sure to factor in the lengthy period of rehabilitation that is required after all major back surgeries before agreeing to one. Make sure your doctor has also developed a comprehensive rehabilitative program before agreeing to any surgery. Finally, always try to select a surgeon based on his or her long-term experience and your own treating physician’s respect for the surgeon’s local reputation.

If you have suffered a severe spinal cord injury after an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to contact our New York spinal cord injury law firm. We will carefully investigate all the facts of your case, review all your medical records, and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available for you.

We want every client to fully recover for all lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses, contact us now for a free consultation!