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Thoracotomy T6-7 with Partial Vertebrectomy and Anterior Arthrodesis

I have been reading many posts and have gotten a lot of really good & helpful information regarding surgery, pre-op, and post-op. I wanted to post this topic to see if I could get information that is more specific to the surgery I will be having on 11/08/2013. I am scheduled to have "Thoracotomy T6-7 w/Partial Vertebrectomy and Anterior Arthrodesis". (That is the technical name of the procedure, anyway...). I have a pretty general idea of what is involved and to be expected, but looking for anyone that has been through this procedure and able to provide more insight. I seem to be having a lot more anxiety as I get closer to my surgery date.


  • I had similar at t5/6 although they didn't use so many fancy words to describe it (probably because it was done in the UK in a National Health Hospital and it wasn't necessary to justify a huge bill by naming every bit of the procedure!).

    Be prepared for a lot of discomfort post op and acute pain from the surgery. It is brutal. Also be prepared for a long recovery period. It actually took me about two years before I truly felt I had recovered from the surgery.

    That said, I don't regret for one minute having undergone it. It truly transformed my life.

    It is now ten years since the surgery and I still have tightness under my right arm, which can be painful at times and limits stretching, but that's about it really. I still have a legacy from the nerve damage caused by the delay in having the surgery done, but that is nothing to do with the surgery itself.

    If I could offer just one word of advice it would be:- work hard at the post op physical therapy. It's hard, it's painful but it works.

    You will be fairly limited in what you can do when you leave hospital so spend the days leading up to the surgery organizing things at home in readiness for your return including help when you might need it. Even when you are feeling more able to do things take it easy and don't overdo it. This is major surgery and it will take time for your body to heal. Once you are on the road to recovery time is on your side. There is no need to rush things.

    Good luck!


    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
  • Thanks for your reply. I feel really comfortable with my neurosurgeon and my under standing is that there will be a second surgeon as well. (One will open me up and the other will actually be doing the procedure). My situation seems to be especially rare due to the fact that I also have Multiple Sclerosis on top of everything else. Talk about a double whammy. I was diagnosed with MS in March, 2012. My Medicare did not become effective until May, 2013 at which time I was able to finally see an MS Specialist (3rd neurologist since diagnosis) which, by the way, is awsome doctor! She ordered fresh MRIs of brain, thoracic spine, cervical spine and lumbar spine. After she received those results, she immediately called me to inform that she was doing referral to a Neurosurgeon ASAP because (3) herniated discs were found in thoracic spine (one being extremely large and calcified at t6-7). In addition, due to new lesions found on brain MRI, she changed my medication which was a once weekly, self administered injection into muscle of leg. I am now going into an infusion lab once a month where I receive my medication thru IV Therapy. I was informed that new lesions indicated MS highly active and aggressive treatment was required or else the probability that I would end up in a wheelchair and unable to walk within next year and a half was almost a given. So, here's the downfall to the infusion part of everything... in order to take the IV Medication, one has to have blood drawn to test for JCV which is a virus that is not uncommon and carried by a large number of people. However a positive result poses a high risk for PML (brain infection) which there is no treatment for and results in severe disability or even death. Well, I tested positive for JCV and after talking with neurologist and doing a lot of research, decided to take IV Medication for maximum of 2 years, at which time I would switch to oral medication which is less aggressive. Now back to the issue with my back... I went to scheduled appt with neurosurgeon and he explained that MRIs did not look very promising and surgery was definetely going to be needed. However he was very clear that type of surgery was not the kind that any neurosurgeon wanted to perform due to the risks and pain involved, and he asked that I schedule a 2nd opinion with a partner in his practice to see if possibly a less invasive procedure could be done. I attended appt with 2nd opinion neurosurgeon who concurred that contacting was needed and less invasive procedure was not an option due to the calcification and size of the herniated disc. He did re-evaluate and confirm the MS Diagnosis after looking at all if the MRIs and a spinal tap which was done April, 2012. Because the MS symptoms are pretty much identical to the symptoms arising from the problems with thoracic spine, I guess he had hoped that maybe MS could be ruled out, but not the case after reviewing results of spinal tap. So, we are moving forward with thoracotomy. The Neurosurgeon could not tell me what end results would be after the surgery, because right now it is not possible to determine what symptoms are being caused from MS and what symptoms are being caused from thoracic spine. It is also not possible to tell how much permanent damage has already been done or if the procedure will be able to reverse any damage. What can be determined is that any new symptoms that might arise post-op can almost be positively resulting from MS which will make the determination for treatment a lot easier and more certain. The brain MRIs only show activity of MS, but the severity of disability is demonstrated by symptoms. So, that's my long story of it all and certainly welcome ANY feedback or comments. Thanks, in advance, to all that read my post for their time, concern, and support.
  • mickkrmmickkr Posts: 166
    edited 10/21/2013 - 11:04 PM
    It's a weird coincidence. I was originally admitted to hospital because all the symptoms I had pointed to an aggressive form of MS, though tests had been inconclusive. This is not uncommon for MS apparently. I had lost 90% of my leg motor function and had become incontinent so it was decided I should have 3 days IV steroid treatment to "boost me up". Due to some emergency admissions I was told I could not have the treatment and I would be sent home to return at a later date. The hospital phoned my wife to pick me up but she had other plans. She was having an affair and her boyfriend was coming to stay. She told them I had threatened suicide if I didn't receive the treatment. This was completely untrue. So instead of being sent home a bed was found for me in a neurosurgery ward and unbeknown to me I was put on 24 hour suicide watch. Several days later I was still there and as patients can not be occupying beds unless they are receiving treatment. In a wonderful NHS bureaucratic compromise I started having tests, physiotherapy and (bizarrely to me at the time) an assessment by the hospital's resident psychiatrist. It was actually a physiotherapist, who was teaching me bed to wheelchair transfers, who noticed that after each physio session my condition deteriorated markedly which she would not expect in the case of an MS patient. She reported it to the registrar, a neurosurgeon, who ordered MRI scans of the head and, for the first time, of the whole spine. It was then that the herniated calcified disc at t5/6, impinging the spinal cord, was revealed. Each time I did the twisting and stretching in my physio sessions, the area became inflamed and the pressure increased.
    Like you, a posterior approach was considered but a much more invasive anterior approach was decided on because of the calcification. It took ten days to organise because a chest team had to be organised to open and close the chest cavity to enable the neurosurgeon to do his bit.
    If this bizarre sequence of events had not occurred I would have had the IV steroids and been sent home. The inflammation around the herniated disc would have responded and reduced the pressure on the cord for a while and the treatment pronounced a success and who knows, the calcified disc may never have been found until too late!

    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
  • All I can say is wow Mick and that I can totally relate. I can honestly say that I have been the one, pretty much all of my life (I'm 46), that if something could go wrong it would go wrong with me. Trust me when I say this is not an exaggeration. (Many stories). I am really sorry to hear the person that should have been there the most for you was not and that as a result other obstacles were placed in your way that were unnecessary. Coming from my own experiences, here's what I am going to say about that: regardless of what happens or what issues I am faced with, things just have a way of working themselves out in the end. I am also a HUGE BELIEVER in Kharma. With that being said, I am so glad that you were able to get a solid medical diagnosis. If it wasn't for those "unnecessary obstacles" you would probably be getting treatment for something you don't even have! Things just work out! They should put that on t-shirts! Lol
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    Here are just some of the highlights:

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    - Under the Resource tab, there is a section Doctor Advice Health Center which can be invaluable.

    - As a bonus, Spine-Health provides these patient forums. Here is where you can meet thousands of other people who understand and can relate to your situation. You will soon become part of the Spiney family who provide comfort and the advantages of a Support System. You are now part of this family that is approximately 20,600 International members and growing daily.

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    Here are some you should take a look at:
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    All of this will help make your threads better and improve the times and quality of responses you will receive.

    If you have any questions or need assistance, you can use the Private Message facility to contact any one of the Moderators on my team:






    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • mickkrmmickkr Posts: 166
    edited 10/25/2013 - 8:40 PM
    I am totally with you on the Karma. I had totally come to terms with my situation and was prepared to take anything on board whatever the consequences. I actually spent 16 weeks and 2 days in hospital (thanks to MRSA deciding things weren't already complicated enough) and those weeks and days were the scariest, most uncomfortable, most painful and most exciting days of my life. In the event the outcome was brilliant (apart from losing my wife, home, job and house - but what the hey, I was walking again!). When it became clear I was going to make a good recovery my wife wanted to come back to me (and still does). I didn't feel bitter, I just said "No thank you"

    It took about two years to get over the surgery, especially the tendons and muscles that have to be cut to access the ribs so be prepared for a prolonged period of discomfort and limited movement in the arm and shoulder on the side the surgery takes place

    It's clear your medical team are on top of the situation and this bodes very well for a good outcome from your impending surgery. I hope it all goes well for you. Please keep us updated on your progress.

    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
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