Author(s): Anderson PA, Bohlman HH
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Abstract Fifty-one patients who had complete motor quadriplegia secondary to a fracture or dislocation of the cervical spine were managed by anterior cervical decompression and arthrodesis with iliac bone grafts between 1973 and 1983. In all patients, myelography demonstrated that displaced fragments of bone and disc were compressing the anterior aspect of the spinal cord. Decompression was performed in an attempt to gain further improvement of the motor-roots in the upper extremities and thereby to improve the ability of the patients to care for themselves. The average interval from the injury to the decompression was fifteen months (range, one month to eight years). Two patients died within two months after the operation, one had a respiratory arrest that resulted in brain damage one day after the operation, and two died from cardiovascular disease more than one year after the operation. The remaining forty-six patients were followed for an average of five years (range, two to thirteen years). Neurological improvement of at least two new functional motor-root levels was documented in seven patients and of one level, in eighteen. Increased motor strength by two or three grades was seen in six patients. Noteworthy motor improvement did not occur in the remaining twenty patients. The mean modified Barthel index (used to measure improvement in the ability to perform activities of daily living) increased from 17 to 33 (of a possible 100) points. Functionally important improvement of the caudad part of the cord occurred in only one patient. In one patient, neural injury, with loss of one motor-root level, occurred, with only partial improvement. At the latest follow-up examination, the result was poor in nine of eleven patients who had decompression eighteen months or more after the injury. Only two of these patients had any improvement in the Barthel index, and then of only 5 points each. The result also was poor in the five patients who were more than fifty-three years old; two had no improvement in the Barthel index, one improved by 5 points, and two died.
This article was published in J Bone Joint Surg Am
and referenced in Orthopedic & Muscular System: Current Research