Study Design. This in vitro human cadaveric study tested the loss of thoracic motion segment flexion stiffness after sequential posterior upper instrumented vertebra anchor placement techniques and posterior column destabilization.
Objective. This study was designed to determine the possible destabilizing effects of upper thoracic instrumentation anchor site preparation.
Summary of Background Data. Proximal junctional kyphosis after instrumentation and arthrodesis for scoliosis and related spine deformities has recently been reported to range from 10% to 46%. The effect of posterior skeletal dissection associated with upper instrumented vertebra anchor placement on adjacent motion segment flexion stiffness has not been previously studied.
Methods. Twenty-three intact thoracic motion segments were obtained from 6 human cadavers. Biomechanical testing was performed with each motion segment flexed to approximately 3.2° at a rate of 0.1 Hz, with corresponding torques recorded. Data were collected after a series of 6 posterior procedures. Differences with P value <0.01 were considered significant and those with P value <0.05 marginally significant.
Results. Supratransverse process hook, supralaminar hook, pedicle screw placement, or pedicle screw removal done, bilaterally, produced similar, small (range, 2.09%–6.03%), nonsignificant reductions in motion segment flexion stiffness. But when totaled, these 4 procedures resulted in a significant 16.31% loss of flexion stiffness. The fifth procedure of supraspinous and interspinous process ligament transection added a marginally significant 6.59% incremental loss of flexion stiffness. Supralaminar hook site preparation combined with supraspinous and interspinous process ligament transection resulted in a marginally significant 12.62% incremental loss of flexion stiffness. Transection of the remaining posterior structures (facet joints and all other posterior soft tissue structures) produced a significant additional flexion stiffness loss of 44.72%. The anterior column alone provided only 32.39% of the total motion segment flexion stiffness. Transection of all posterior stabilizing structures, similar to a Smith-Peterson/chevron/Ponte resection, decreased motion segment flexion stiffness significantly, 67.61%.
Conclusion. Posterior thoracic skeletal structures involved in upper instrumented vertebra exposure andanchor placement were found to contribute to adjacent segment flexion stiffness. Although stiffness loss was small after individual procedures, the effects were additive for routinely used combinations.