Augmentation of lumbar spine fusion with internal fixation using pedicle screw systems has gained wide currency because it offers rigid stabilization to foster fusion healing. The AO DCP plate has been employed in Europe as a spinal implant with pedicle fixation using 6.5 mm, full-threaded cancellous bone screws with success. This report details the experience of using this device for lumbar spine fusion in a series of 46 North American patients with a mean follow-up of 1.25 years (range 1-2.5 years). Thirty-one patients had had prior lumbar spine surgery with poor outcomes, and 15 had had no prior surgery. All were treated surgically for lumbar degenerative disease with canal decompression, internal fixation with AO plates, and fusion with autologous bone grafting posterolaterally. Complications included two early and one delayed wound infection; five cases of screw loosening; three cases of screw breakage; and three cases of screw impingement upon a nerve. Results of surgery in 17 patients with failed interbody fusion included good to excellent pain relief in 59%, and solid fusion in 76%. In 14 patients with failed posterior surgery the good to excellent pain relief rate was 79% and the fusion rate was 86%. In 15 patients undergoing primary surgery there was 89% good to excellent pain relief and a solid fusion rate of 87%. The benefits accruing from augmentation of the fusion with internal fixation using AO DCP plates are positive and justify its continued use. Complications encountered in the early experience have been significantly reduced in subsequent series, indicating the existence of a "learning curve" effect which would mandate specific training of spinal surgeons in the technique.
(C) Lippincott-Raven Publishers.