Author(s): Sasso RC, Best NM, Reilly TM, McGuire RA Jr
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: The optimal treatment of "unstable" thoracolumbar injuries remains controversial. Studies have shown the advantages of direct anterior decompression of thoracolumbar injuries along with supplemental posterior instrumentation as a combined or staged procedure. Others have also shown success in decompression as a single-stage anterior procedure, largely limited to two-column (anterior and middle) injuries. A retrospective review of all available clinical and radiographic data was used to classify unstable three-column thoracolumbar fractures according to the Association for the Study of Internal Fixation (AO) classification system. This was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of stand-alone anterior decompression and reconstruction of unstable three-column thoracolumbar injuries, utilizing current-generation anterior spinal instrumentation. METHODS: Between 1992 and 1998, 40 patients underwent anterior decompression and two-segment anteriorly instrumented reconstruction for three-column thoracolumbar fractures. Retrospective review of all available clinical and radiographic data was used to classify these unstable injuries according to the AO classification system, evaluating for neurologic changes, spinal canal compromise, preoperative and postoperative segmental angulation, and arthrodesis rate. RESULTS: According to the AO classification system, there were 24 (60\%) type B1.2, 10 (25\%) type B2.3, 5 (12.5\%) type C1.3, and 1 (2.5\%) type C2.1 three-column injuries. Preoperative canal compromise averaged 68.5\% and vertebral height loss averaged 44.5\%. There were no cases of neurologic deterioration, and 30 (91\%) patients with incomplete neurologic deficits improved by at least one modified Frankel grade. Mean preoperative segmental kyphosis of 22.7 degrees was improved to an early mean of 7.4 degrees (P < 0.0001). At latest follow-up, angulation had increased by an average 2.1 degrees but maintained significant improvement from preoperative measurements (P < 0.0001). There was one early construct failure due to technical error. Thirty-seven of the remaining patients (95\%) went on to apparently stable arthrodesis. CONCLUSIONS: Current types of anterior spinal instrumentation and reconstruction techniques can allow some types of unstable three-column thoracolumbar injuries to be treated in an anterior stand-alone fashion. This allows direct anterior decompression of neural elements, improvement in segmental angulation, and acceptable rates of arthrodesis without the need for supplemental posterior instrumentation.
This article was published in J Spinal Disord Tech
and referenced in Journal of Osteoporosis and Physical Activity