Study Design. A retrospective outcomes study.
Objective. The purposes of this study were 1) to identify plausible patient and interventional variables that influence the outcome of unilateral facet injuries and 2) to determine if patients return to normal general health status after unilateral facet injuries.
Summary of Background Data. The management of unilateral subaxial cervical facet fractures and dislocations lacks agreement on treatment options and the variables that influence outcome.
Methods. Injury data, radiographs, and outcomes (North American Spine Society Cervical Follow-up Questionnaire and Short Form-36) were collected from 9 centers and 13 surgeons, members of the Spine Trauma Study Group.
Results. Causally motor vehicle accidents (49%) and sports (31%) predominated. The C6–C7 level accounted for 60% of injuries and C5–C6 represented 17%. The mean SF-36 PCS score of the operative patients with follow-up >18 months was 6.70 points higher than the mean of the nonoperative patients (P = 0.017). The SF-36 Bodily Pain mean of all patients was 67.2 (SD = 27.6), significantly lower (more pain) than the normative mean of 75.2 (SD = 23.7) (P = 0.014). Nonoperative patients also reported a mean Bodily Pain score of 63.0 (SD = 30.5) that was significantly worse than normative values (P = 0.031). Similarly, the NASS PD mean score for all patients was 84.8 (SD = 17.9), significantly lower than the normative mean of 89.1 (SD = 15.5) (P = 0.014).
Conclusion. To our knowledge this is the largest reported series of facet injuries to date and the only one using health-related quality of life instruments. Unilateral facet injuries of the subaxial cervical spine led to reported levels of pain and disability that are significantly worse than those of the healthy population. Although further study is required, we suggest that nonoperatively treated patients report worse outcomes than operatively treated patients, particularly at longer follow-up despite having a more benign fracture pattern. The presence of comorbidities, associated injuries, and advanced age adversely impact clinical outcomes.