The Thoracic Spine
The thoracic spine refers to the upper and middle sections of the back. Connected to the end of the cervical (neck) spine, it extends approximately five inches past the end of the shoulder blades and connects to lumbar (low back) spine.
Made up of twelve vertebrae labeled T-1 through T-12, the thoracic spine provides stability to keep the body in the upright position and to protect the spinal cord running within.
There are a few aspects of the thoracic spine that distinguish it from the cervical and lumbar segments of the spine. These include:
- Protecting vital organs: Each pair of ribs connects to each thoracic vertebra from T1-T10, providing protection for the organs located within the chest cavity. While the ribs connected to T-11 and T-12 do not meet, they do offer protection for the kidneys.
- Narrowed spinal canal: The spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, is narrower in the thoracic spine. As a result, injuries sustained to the thoracic spine have a higher risk of spinal cord damage as well.
- Thinner discs: Located between each of the vertebrae, the intervertebral discs act as cushions and shock absorbers. They also give the spine its flexibility. In the thoracic spine, the discs are thinner, producing notably less flexibility than the cervical or lumbar spine.
Thoracic Spine Procedures
At New Jersey Neck & Back Institute (NJNBI), Dr. LaRocca and his compassionate, experienced team perform advanced procedures to treat the thoracic spine including:
- Scoliosis fusion surgery
- Thoracic vertebral body replacement
- Thoracic laminectomy and Instrumentation (fusion)
The intent of surgery is to dramatically improve quality of life. Dr. LaRocca may recommend surgery in the event of significant weakness, incapacitating pain or when all other treatment methods have been exhausted.