The thoracic spine is the passageway for the spinal cord in the thorax, which contains nerves that affect leg function, bowel and bladder function, and balance with walking. Degenerative changes can affect the thoracic spine as well, though these changes rarely become symptomatic enough to need surgical treatment compared to the other regions of the spine. Other rarer conditions that affect the thoracic spine are tumors, fractures or infections.
Spinal stenosis in the thoracic spine can manifest with imbalance with walking, leg weakness, numbness, and in very severe cases, bowel and bladder incontinence. Similar to the cervical spine, for patients with symptomatic spinal cord compression, surgery is recommended, since it is well-documented that continued pressure on the spinal cord will cause a gradual decline in function over time. With advanced surgical techniques, most of cases can be treated in a minimally-invasive manner with successful outcomes.