Spinal surgery and titanium plates

Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines—Former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is currently under close medical supervision due to an infection she got after undergoing a second cervical spine operation on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011.

But what type of surgery did she first undergo on July 29, 2011?

Cervical spine surgery is done to relieve pain or discomfort in the said area, prevent further injuries to the nerves in the area, or help correct proper spine movements, according to an article on SpineUniverse.

The surgery is usually done first by removing the problematic disc or bone in the area, and then fusing the vertebrae together with bone grafts or metal plates, screws, or wires.

In the case of Arroyo, she suffered from recurring neck pain due to a damaged cervical spine, which was due to “multilevel cervical spondulosis” or the wearing of the bones, causing the compression of nerves responsible for respiratory and arm muscle movements.

Doctors at the St. Luke’s Medical Center at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig conducted an anterior cervical distectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery, an operation where doctors first removed the problematic cervical disc, then stabilized the spine.

ACDF, according to the website Spine Health, has four major steps—opening the affected area, removing the disc, canal decompression, and then cervical fusion.

Doctors would first make an incision at the front of the neck to reach the spine, and then they remove most of the offending disc and other tissue that might have spilled out to the surrounding areas.

Afterwards, a bone graft is inserted into the vacated disc area, and then the two vertebrae sandwiching the space is “fused” to form a single unit with the help of a cervical plate.

In Arroyo’s case, she was fitted with a titanium-alloy plate, which doctors at St Luke’s Medical Center said could cost “a few hundred thousand pesos.”

The implants made of titanium alloy are strong and resistant to wear and tear, unlike plastic ones. These help stabilize the spine, and promote the restoration and proper functioning of the affected parts.

Many patients can recover in days post-surgery, but some can experience complications. These include dislodging of the implants, inadequate symptom relief, failure to create vertebral fusion, swallowing or speech disturbance, infection, bleeding, or damage to the spinal cord, trachea, or esophagus.

On Wednesday, doctors held off a revision surgery to address the dislodging of Arroyo’s titanium implants due to an infection. Her doctors are currently conducting tests to determine the cause of the complication.—Newsbreak