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Three- and Four-Level Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion With Plate Fixation: A Prospective Study

Bolesta, Michael J., MD*; Rechtine, Glenn R. II, MD*; Chrin, Ann Marie, ARNP

Cervical Spine

Study Design. A prospective study of 15 patients who underwent modified Smith–Robinson anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at three or four operative levels stabilized with an unicortical anterior plate.

Objectives. To provide medium-term follow-up data on the surgical success and patient outcome of three- and four-level anterior cervical discectomies and fusions and to determine the effect that plate fixation has on the results.

Summary of Background Data. The success of arthrodesis for anterior cervical fusion depends on several factors, including the number of surgical levels. The arthrodesis rate and outcome for patients having three- and four-level discectomy and fusion procedures is disappointing. Internal fixation putatively improves these parameters.

Methods. Fifteen patients (average age, 51 years; range, 35–77), were observed for an average of 42 months (range, 25–73) All had an anterior discectomy, burring of the endplates, placement of an autogenous tricortical iliac crest graft at three (12 patients) or four (3 patients) levels, and application of a Cervical Spine Locking Plate. All patients had follow-up office visits with examinations and radiographs. Radiographic union, postoperative pain relief, and neurologic recovery were evaluated.

Results. Solid arthrodesis was achieved at all levels in only 7 (47%) of the 15 patients after a single procedure. Of the 8 patients with pseudarthrosis, 3 had sufficient pain to necessitate revision surgery (with pain relief in two), 1 had pain without further surgery, and 4 no pain. Of the 7 with solid fusion, 3 had persistent pain, and 4 had none. Two in this group had a second procedure. All 4 patients with preoperative myelopathy improved, and 10 of the 11 with radiculopathy had resolution of arm symptoms.

Conclusions. Three- and four-level modified Robinson cervical discectomy and fusion results in an unacceptably high rate of pseudarthrosis. The Cervical Spine Locking Plate alone does not appear to improve the arthrodesis rate.

From the *Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas; and the †Florida Orthopaedic Institute, Tampa, Florida.

Acknowledgment date: May 19, 1999.

First revision date: September 2, 1999.

Acceptance date: November 17, 1999.

Address reprint requests to

Michael J. Bolesta, MD

University of Texas

Southwestern Medical Center

5323 Hatty Hines Blvd.

Dallas, TX 75235-8883

Device status category: 11.

Conflict of interest category: 12.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.