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Unstable Thoracolumbar Burst Fractures: Anterior-Only Versus Short-Segment Posterior Fixation

Sasso, Rick C. MD*; Renkens, Ken MD*; Hanson, Daniel MD*; Reilly, Tom MD*; McGuire, Robert A. Jr. MD; Best, Natalie M. BS*

Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques: June 2006 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 242-248
doi: 10.1097/01.bsd.0000211298.59884.24
Original Articles

Operative management of a thoracolumbar burst fracture varies according to many factors. Fracture morphology, neurologic status, and surgeon preference play major roles in deciding upon anterior, posterior, or combined approaches. Optimizing neural decompression while providing stable internal fixation over the least number of spinal segments is the goal. Short-segment constructs via a single-stage approach (anterior versus posterior) have become viable options with advances in instrumentation and techniques. This study compares anterior-only fixation utilizing a corpectomy strut graft and a modern thoracolumbar plating system with a posterior-only construct using pedicle screws and load sharing hooks for the treatment of unstable burst fractures. Functional outcome and sagittal plane restoration and maintenance of sagittal plane alignment were evaluated. Fifty-three patients with unstable burst fractures were assessed with 40 undergoing an anterior-only construct and 13 having a short-segment posterior-only construct. The posterior-only group had no hardware failures; however, the loss of sagittal plane correction averaged 8.1 degrees, whereas the anterior-only group averaged only a 1.8-degree increase in sagittal plane kyphosis. Both techniques resulted in statistically significant initial improvement in sagittal alignment; however, the posterior short-segment group lost this statistical significance at follow-up whereas the anterior-only group continued to demonstrate statistically significant improvement in sagittal alignment at follow-up compared to preoperative measurements.

*Indiana Spine Group, Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN

University of Mississippi

Reprints: Rick C. Sasso, MD, Indiana Spine Group, 8402 Harcourt Road, Suite 400, Indianapolis, IN 46260 (e-mail:

Received for publication October 31, 2004; accepted December 20, 2005

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.