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Thoracic Surgery

What is thoracic surgery?

Thoracic surgery is a specialty that deals with surgery of the chest, also known as the thorax. The thoracic spine is the area of the spine at the chest level. The ribs are connected to the thoracic spine, to protect the internal organs.

Types of Thoracic Surgery

Any injury to the thoracic spine is serious. Thoracic disc surgery is required if a disc gets herniated. This means that the outside of the disc gets damaged and the inside of the disc moves out of its normal space. Signs of a herniated disc include numbness in one or both legs, pain that travels down one or both legs, and muscle weakness in the legs. Thoracic disc surgery is usually performed if the medications and rest are not taking away the symptoms. During the surgery the pieces of the herniated disc are removed.

Although very controversial, thoracic outlet surgery can be done to relieve the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. The thoracic outlet is the area around the neck and collarbone. When the nerves and blood vessels in this area get compressed, thoracic outlet syndrome is the result. Symptoms of this include tingling in the arms and fingers. There may also be pain in the shoulder blade and shoulder area, particularly when the arms are raised. Thoracic outlet surgery entails either the removal of scar tissue around the nerves, or removal of the rib. The surgery involves the use of a general anesthetic, and at least one night spent in the hospital. Complications of the surgery can involve blood and fluid buildup that need to be drained, nerve injuries, and muscle problems in the hands.

Thoracic spine surgery is a very delicate operation. The surgeon needs to be a specialist to be able to work around the heart and lungs. The symptoms that lead to this surgery include extreme pain and weakness in the legs. The operation can take a long time to recover from because it involves the manipulation of the internal organs.

Thoracic spinal surgery may be done in different ways, depending on the problem. It may involve the fusion of the spine to keep it from excess movement. A mini-thoracotomy may be performed, cutting an incision in the chest wall to get at the spine, or a laminectomy may be performed, where an incision is made in the back, then muscle is moved aside and the lamina (pieces of roof of the spinal cord) are removed to take the pressure off the spinal cord or a nerve in the area.

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