The posterolateral thoracotomy provides excellent visualization for ventral spinal tumors. This anterior approach also allows for minimal removal of uninvolved bone, efficient tumor removal, and effective reconstruction of the anterior weight-bearing column. Spine surgeons often enlist the assistance of a thoracic surgeon to perform this exposure, but it is important for all spine surgeons to fully understand the anatomy and issues that are unique to this particular surgical approach. In this chapter, we review the anatomy of the approach and discuss the positioning and exposure for the posterolateral thoracotomy; this includes specific techniques for localization in the thoracic spine, performing the corpectomies, and closure of the thoracotomies. We also detail our postoperative care for these patients and discuss the management of common complications of the posterolateral thoracotomy procedure.
KeywordsPosterolateral thoracotomy Thoracotomy Thoracic corpectomy Ventral thoracic spine Post-thoracotomy syndrome