Neck and back pain are some of the most common symptoms of aging and degenerative conditions that affect many of us as we get older. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45.
The organization cites the National Institute of Health Statistics in saying that low back pain is the most commonly reported source of chronic pain (27%), followed by neck pain and headaches (each at 15%).
The most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in adults aged 55 and older is a condition known as Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). CSM is a degenerative condition of the cervical spine (neck) that causes damaged discs, ligaments, and connective vertebral tissue to compress the spine. This compression can cause pain, weakness, numbness, balance issues, and difficulty with fine motor skills.
Fortunately, surgical treatment options have been demonstrated to be effective in alleviating CSM and its associated symptoms. One such surgical procedure is cervical corpectomy, also known as anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion (ACCF).
If you have been suffering from back pain and are ready to do something about it, but are not sure what your options are, contact an experienced spine specialist to find out about minimally invasive treatment options.
Are You a Cervical Corpectomy Candidate?
Because CSM occurs in the cervical spine, it can cause problems in virtually every part of the body. The most common symptoms, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), include “[w]eakness and numbness in the hands and arms, loss of balance and coordination, and neck pain.”
For some people experiencing difficulty as a result of CSM, nonsurgical treatment options may provide relief. These include use of a soft cervical collar, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, oral corticosteroids or epidural steroid injection, and narcotic analgesics for pain management.
Sometimes, however, a surgical approach is necessary to achieve maximum relief or to prevent further damage.
The AAOS says that patients with the following symptoms may be candidates for surgical treatment such as cervical corpectomy:
- Weakness in the arms or the legs
- Numbness in the hands
- Fine motor skill problems
- Changes in gait
- Severe or disabling pain
Typically, younger patients are more successful candidates for surgery, as are those whose degenerative spine problems are limited to one area rather than the entire spine.
Cervical Corpectomy (ACCF) Procedure
If a doctor determines that a specific case of CSM is the result of bone compressing the spine, then cervical corpectomy is likely the surgical treatment option he or she will recommend.
In anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion, the doctor will operate from the front of the neck to remove the degenerated vertebra (bone) that is causing the spinal compression. Once the bone is removed (corpectomy), the spine is then stabilized through spinal fusion.
After cervical corpectomy, patients usually remain in the hospital for a day or two before being discharged with specific instructions for their recovery and after-care. Patients may experience restrictions against lifting and heavy activity, but many people are able to return to work within a few days to a few weeks after surgery.
To learn more about cervical corpectomy or ACCF, contact your doctor or spine surgeon to discuss appropriate treatment options.