Study Design. A prospective study.
Objective. The aim of this study was to compare the 3 different methods of interbody fusion of the cervical spine—autograft in stand-alone technique, autograft with anterior plate, and polyetheretherketone cage supported by anterior plate. The clinical and radiological data obtained were analyzed and discussed.
Summary of Background Data. Although degenerative cervical spine disease has been treated by an anterior approach for more than 50 years, there is not one generally accepted operative approach. There is a very low-quality evidence of little or no difference in pain relief between each of the techniques. Iliac crest autograft still seems to be the “gold standard” for interbody fusion.
Methods. Prospective study collecting clinical and radiological data of 81 patients undergoing anterior cervical interbody fusion, in which the interbody fusion of 1 or 2 motion segments from C3 to C7 was done by any of the 3 techniques–-stand-alone insertion of autograft (group 1: 28 patients), autograft and anterior plate (group 2: 18 patients), and polyetheretherketone cage filled with beta-tricalcium phosphate and plate (group 3: 29 patients). Patients were followed for 2 years after surgery.
Results. Significant interaction of relative height in the segment and time was found (P < 0.001). The values of the relative height of stand-alone autograft dropped below 95% of initial height and the values of the other 2 groups remained above 105%. Significant interaction of time and group was found for Cobb S angles (P < 0.001). Values of group 1 decreased substantially and remained significantly lower than values of other 2 groups. Fusion rate was 100% in all groups. Neck Disability Index group and time interaction was found (P = 0.023). During postoperative follow-up, group 1 scored in all controls higher than the other 2 groups, but differences were not significant. Visual analogue scale showed effect of time (P < 0.001). This was due to a smaller improvement of patients in group 1 during the whole follow-up in comparison with the other 2 groups. Highest proportion of unsatisfied patients was in group 1 compared with the other 2 groups after 2 years (P = 0.034).
Conclusion. Significantly worse radiological and clinical results after 2 years of follow-up were achieved using stand-alone autograft technique in comparison with autograft supported by anterior plating similarly as in comparison with cage implant and anterior plating. Using artificial fusion substrate together with plate and cage can offer the same clinical and radiological results such as iliac autograft and plating. Anterior plating seems to be an important factor influencing the postoperative cervical spine alignment and also the clinical outcome.