Many approaches have been introduced in spinal surgery to gain optimal access to the injured or diseased area, with minimal or no damage to surrounding tissues. There are three main approaches – anterior (from the front), posterior (from the back) and lateral (from the side). Because of the complexity of the structure of the spine, and potential complications involved with surgery, most of these approaches are very challenging to perform. Lateral extracavitary approach surgery is a surgical procedure that approaches the spine from the side. Through a single incision, it can access the vertebrae from different aspects (top, bottom and sides), avoiding additional incisions, a second operation and many complications.

Lateral extracavitary approach surgery is indicated to release compression on the spinal cord or spinal nerves as a result of trauma, degenerative disease, bone infection and tumor.

The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. You will lie on your side and your surgeon will make an incision to reach the diseased spinal region and then make a sharp turn in line with the direction of the ribs to resemble an L shape. This incision provides optimal visibility of the spinal cord and allows your surgeon to remove the cause for neural compression. The spine is then stabilized by fusing adjacent vertebral bones with the help of bone graft. This is supported by instrumentation. Once the surgery is complete, a drain may be placed and the wound is closed in layers.

Following the surgery, you will be taken to the intensive care unit, where you will be closely monitored. On the second day after the procedure, a physical therapist will help improve your mobility. You may be discharged 3 to 5 days postoperatively.

As with all surgical procedures, lateral extracavitary approach spinal surgery may be associated with certain complications such as infection, loss of blood, pneumonia, leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, excess fluid-buildup around the lungs (pleural effusion) and collection of gas in the chest cavity (pneumothorax).

  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • American Board of Neurological Surgery
  • American Medical Association
  • The Congress of Neurological Surgeons
  • College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland & Labrador
  • North American Skull Base Society
  • North American Spine Society