The herniated disc pushes into the hollow tube of the spinal canal and directly pushes against the spinal cord passing over the spinal column. This can be the cause of damage to the spinal cord. Herniated discs can also stop the blood from flowing from the one and only blood vessel passing to the front of the spinal cord in the thoracic spine region, which can totally damage the nerve tissue in the spinal cord. The discs in the thoracic spine area are very thin as compared to other parts of the spine, resulting in loss of motion of the upper back. However, the thoracic area is quite sensitive to disease and injury that, in severe cases, it needs spinal surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove the affected part or full herniated disc pressing on the spinal cord or nerve root and is called thoracic discectomy.
Who Needs Thoracic Discectomy?
Usually, symptoms of thoracic disc herniation show up after two years before the patient presents for treatment. These symptoms depend upon the area, position, or size of the degenerative disc disease, nerve irritation, or damage to the spinal cord. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Mid-back pain, radicular pain.
- Numbness and weakness.
- Bladder dysfunction.
- Lower extremity weakness.
How is Thoracic Discectomy Performed?
The following procedure is used to treat thoracic disc herniation. Thoracic discectomy targets to open the disc using laser ablation and a percutaneous needle. Significantly it is specified where the disc herniation has occurred inside the nucleus pulpous and is contraindicated where free disc disintegration is obvious.
Thoracic discectomy can be performed with two type procedures, the anterior approach (front side) or posterolateral approach (backside)
This procedure usually involves open thoracotomy in which the herniated disc is approached through the chest cavity. This procedure is Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS). It is a minimally invasive spine surgery that is performed so carefully by several techniques and uses a thoracoscope, which is a surgical tool with a small camera. Thoracoscope is set in the area of thorax with a small cut to provide actual images of the surgical part or area on a screen. These images help the surgeon to take out and the herniated disc and remove it by using several instruments put in through small incisions. This procedure is minimally invasive and results in faster recovery than any other procedure.
The thoracic herniated disc is accessed through a small cut on the back of the spine. An opening through the bones that shield the herniated disc is made by removing a small part of the rib where the spine connects to it and transverse process (the spine is attached to a small bone). The thoracic discectomy is then performed with different types of small instruments. This surgery can be completed with the help of an X-ray and endoscope, on which basis the surgery to be carefully fulfilled through tiny openings. The removal of the thoracic herniated disc relieves pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and reduces pain.
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How Long Does It Take to Recover From Thoracic Spine Surgery?
- Recovery from thoracic spine surgery can take anywhere from a period of four to six weeks.
- Your surgeon will tell you when you can resume your normal activities or go back to work.
- If you feel pain and discomfort, it can be easily managed by applying ice or taking pain medications, which will be prescribed by your surgeon.
Why Is Thoracic Pain a Red Flag?
- If you are experiencing back pain, which is localized in the thoracic region, it may hint to some serious underlying issue.
- If you are experiencing thoracic back pain after a violent trauma such as a car accident or a fall, you should consult a neuro spine surgeon.
- People with osteoporosis are more prone to serious issues in the thoracic region, even with minor injuries to the back.
What Is the Success Rate of Thoracic Discectomy?
- Patients who have received thoracic discectomy report good outcomes at a two-year time after surgery.
- The success rate of thoracic discectomy is 80 percent.
Is Thoracic Spine Surgery Dangerous?
- Like any surgical procedure, thoracic discectomy also poses some level of risk and complications.
- Because your surgeon will be operating on your spine, it is always a good idea to take time and review the risks associated with it.
- Usually, complications are easily managed by surgeons.