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Open Vertebral Cement Augmentation Combined With Lumbar Decompression for the Operative Management of Thoracolumbar Stenosis Secondary to Osteoporotic Burst Fractures

Singh, Kern MD*; Heller, John G MD; Samartzis, Dino Dip. EBHC‡§; Price, J Scott MD; An, Howard S MD*; Yoon, S Tim MD, PhD; Rhee, John MD; Ledlie, Jon T MD#; Phillips, Frank M MD*

Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques: October 2005 - Volume 18 - Issue 5 - p 413-419
doi: 10.1097/01.bsd.0000173840.59099.06
Original Article

Osteoporotic burst fractures with neurologic symptoms are typically treated with neural decompression and multilevel instrumented fusion. These large surgical interventions are challenging because of patients' advanced ages, medical co-morbidities, and poor fixation secondary to osteoporosis. The purpose of this retrospective clinical study was to describe a novel technique for the treatment of osteoporotic burst fractures and symptomatic spinal stenosis via a limited thoracolumbar decompression with open cement augmentation [vertebroplasty (VP) or kyphoplasty (KP)]. Indications for decompression and cement augmentation were intractable pain at the level of a known osteoporotic burst fracture with symptoms of spinal stenosis. As such, 25 patients (mean age, 76.1 years) with low-energy, osteoporotic, thoracolumbar burst fractures (7 males, 18 females; 39 fractures) were included. In all cases, laminectomy of the stenotic level(s) was followed by vertebral cement augmentation (9 VP; 16 KP). When a spondylolisthesis at the decompressed level was present, instrumentation was applied across the listhetic level (n = 9). Clinical outcome (1 = poor to 4 = excellent) was assessed on last clinical follow-up (mean, 44.8 wks). In addition, a modified MacNab's grading criteria was used to objectively assess patient outcomes postoperatively. Radiographic analysis of sagittal contour was assessed preoperatively, immediately postoperatively, and at final follow-up. The average time from onset of symptoms to intervention was 19 weeks (range, 0.3-94 wks). A mean of 1.6 fractures/patient was augmented (range, 1-3 fractures) and 2.8 levels were decompressed (range, 1-6 levels). No statistical difference in anatomic distribution or number of fractures between the VP and KP groups or in the instrumented versus noninstrumented patients was noted (P > 0.05). An overall subjective outcome score of 3.4 was noted. Twenty of 25 patients were graded as excellent/good according to the modified MacNab's criteria. The choice of augmentation procedure or use of instrumentation did not predict outcome (P = 0.08). Overall, 1.7 degrees of sagittal correction was obtained at final follow-up. One patient was noted to have progressive kyphosis after KP. The use of a limited-posterior decompression and open cement augmentation via VP or KP is a safe treatment option for patients who have osteoporotic burst fractures and who are incapacitated from fracture pain and concomitant stenosis. After thoracolumbar decompression, open VP/KP provides direct visualization of the posterior vertebral body wall, allowing for safe cement augmentation of burst fractures, stabilizing the spine, and obviating the need for extensive spinal reconstruction. Although clinically successful, this technique warrants careful patient selection.

From the *Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL; †Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Emory University and the Emory Spine Center, Atlanta, GA; ‡Graduate Division, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; §Division of Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, England; ¶Evergreen Orthopedic Center, Seattle, WA and #Tyler Neurosurgical Associates, Tyler, TX.

Received for publication February 23, 2005; accepted June 3, 2005.

Reprints: Dr. K. Singh, 1217 Briarvista Way NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 (e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.