Adjacent Segment ROM
Five RCTs,11–15 4 cohort studies,17–20 and 1 case-control study21 reported angular ROM at the caudal and/or cranial adjacent segments after C-TDR versus ACDF, Web Appendix Table 2 (see Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at http://links.lww.com/BRS/A698). Unless otherwise noted, ROM was calculated using flexion-extension radiographs. In all but 1 retrospective cohort study,19 measurements were taken with software (Quantitative Motion Analysis [Medical Metrics, Inc, Houston, TX]; Infinitt PiviewSTAR 5051; or picture archiving and communication system). The study by Nabhan et al12 used radiostereometric analysis. The length of follow-up ranged from 12 to a mean of 25 months.
Cranial Adjacent Segment Angular Motion
Meta-analysis of 3 RCTs,11,13,15 3 cohort studies,17–19 and 1 case-control study21 showed no statistically significant differences in the change in cranial adjacent segment ROM between the arthroplasty versus fusion treatment groups compared with baseline values, with an SMD of 0.23° (95% CI, −0.10° to 0.56°) (Figure 3A). Data from the majority of the individual studies similarly showed no statistically significant difference between the treatment groups; however, data from 1 RCT11 and 1 cohort study19 suggested a higher cranial adjacent segment ROM after ACDF, whereas data from 1 case-control study21 showed the opposite. There was a high level of statistical heterogeneity between the RCTs (I2 = 76%). An additional RCT reported by Nabhan et al12 reported that the cranial adjacent segment motion from neutral (rather than flexion, as in the other studies, thus this study could not be pooled with the rest) to extension after surgery was similar in both the arthroplasty and ACDF groups 1 week (15.5° vs. 15.95°, respectively; P > 0.05) and 12 months (14.5° vs. 18.1°, respectively; P > 0.05) after surgery (baseline data were not reported).12
Caudal Adjacent Segment Angular Motion
At the caudal adjacent segment, ROM was reported by 3 RCTs11,15,19 and 3 cohort studies17–19 (Figure 3B). Data from the 3 RCTs provide inconsistent results, with 1 RCT reporting a modest increase in ROM at the caudal adjacent segment that was similar in both treatment groups;13 another reporting significantly higher ROM in the arthroplasty group;11 and yet another reporting higher ROM in the ACDF group.15 Similarly, inconsistent directions of effects were reported by the cohort studies. The SMD was 0.04° (95% CI, −0.32° to 0.39°) (I2 = 80%), which indicates that there is no statistically significant difference in change in ROM at the caudal adjacent segment after arthroplasty versus fusion as measured compared with baseline values after surgery (Figure 3B).
Kim et al17 reported that the change in ROM at the caudal adjacent segment was statistically higher in the arthroplasty groups after both single- (0.9° vs. −0.6°, respectively; P < 0.005) and 2-level (1.1° vs. 0.7°, respectively; P < 0.0001) procedures; however, the differences between treatment groups are in reality relatively small.
Two additional small studies reported adjacent segment ROM but did not specify whether it was the cranial or caudal adjacent. Peng-Fei14 found that at 12 months after surgery, the ROM of the adjacent segment remained relatively constant in both the arthroplasty and fusion groups, with a change in ROM of −1.6° in the arthroplasty group and −0.5 in the ACDF group. Yi et al20 reported a small and likely clinically insignificant difference in the change of ROM at the adjacent segment between the arthroplasty and ACDF groups (0.3° vs. 1.7°, respectively).
Adjacent Segment Translation
Two RCTs15,19 reported on adjacent segment translation; because of differences in how the outcomes were reported, we did not pool the results.
Cranial Adjacent Segment Translation
Park et al13 reported little difference in anterior translation at the cranial adjacent segment between arthroplasty and fusion groups at baseline (1.4 ± 0.8 mm vs. 1.3 ± 0.8 mm, respectively) and 12 months (1.5 ± 0.8 mm vs. 1.5 ± 0.9 mm, respectively). Furthermore, there were no statistically significant within-group changes (P > 0.05). Powell et al15 similarly reported that similar translation values (which they reported as percentage of the vertebral endplate width during flexion/extension) were not statistically different between treatment groups preoperatively (∼8.2% vs. ∼8.3%, respectively) and at 24 months (∼7.8% vs. ∼10.5%, respectively) (P > 0.2 for both). In a retrospective study, Rabin et al21 also found no statistically significant difference in translation at the cranial adjacent level between treatment groups at 24 months of follow-up (P > 0.05), but did not report the corresponding data.
Caudal Adjacent Segment Translation
As for the cranial adjacent segment, Park et al13 reported similar anterior translation values between arthroplasty and fusion groups at baseline (0.7 ± 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 ± 0.5 mm, respectively) and 12 months (0.8 ± 0.6 mm vs. 0.9 ± 0.6 mm, respectively). Furthermore, there were no significant within-group changes (P > 0.05). Powell et al15 found no statistically significant difference in translation between treatment groups at baseline (∼3.8% vs. ∼6.2% of endplate width, respectively) or 24 months (6.2% vs. ∼1.8%, respectively) (P > 0.2 for both).
Adjacent Segment COR
Two RCTs13,15 reported on changes in COR at the cranial and caudal adjacent segments after C-TDR compared with ACDF (Web Appendix Table 4; see Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at http://links.lww.com/BRS/A698). The sagittal plane coordinates of COR in the horizontal (COR-X) and vertical (COR-Y) directions were obtained by independent radiographers using software analysis. The COR was calculated as the offset (mm) from the center of the superior13 or inferior15 endplate of the vertebrae caudal to the one of interest. Negative values correlate to posterior and cephalad CORs, respectively. Because of differences in the way in which the COR was calculated, the data were not pooled.
Cranial Adjacent Segment COR
Park et al13 reported that COR-X and COR-Y at the cranial adjacent segment were similar between the arthroplasty and ACDF groups at baseline and at 12 months. The change in COR-X at the cranial adjacent segment lordosis was −0.1 mm in the arthroplasty group and −1.4 mm in the fusion group (P value not reported). Although the cranial COR-X fell on average 1.4 mm more posterior in the ACDF group at follow-up than at baseline, this difference was not statistically meaningful (P > 0.4). The cranial segment COR-Y changed minimally in both treatment groups (0.2 mm vs. 0.1 mm, respectively). The authors commented that the CORs after C-TDR and ACDF remained within normal physiologic parameters, being altered up to 1.5 mm of the preoperative location in the anterior and/or inferior position.13 Powell et al15 reported that at the cranial level, COR-X was significantly more posterior 24 months after C-TDR versus ACDF (−1.0 mm vs. −2.6 mm, respectively; P < 0.01); however, there were similar differences at baseline that may not have been controlled for (−1.4 mm vs. −2.4 mm, respectively). The change in COR-X was similar in both treatment groups (0.4 mm vs. −0.1 mm, respectively; P value not reported). COR-Y was similar in both treatment groups at 24 months of follow-up (−7.8 mm vs. −8.6 mm, respectively; P > 0.1). There was little difference between treatment groups in the change in COR-Y from baseline (0.3 mm vs. 0.8 mm, respectively). There were no significant within-group differences (P > 0.1 in all cases).15
Caudal Adjacent Segment COR
Park et al13 reported that the COR-X and COR-Y at the caudal adjacent segment were each similar between the arthroplasty and ACDF groups at baseline and at 12 months. Differences between treatment groups in the changes from baseline were small for both COR-X (0.0 mm vs. 0.1 mm, respectively) and COR-Y (0.4 mm vs. 0.3 mm, respectively) and unlikely to be clinically meaningful. There were no statistically significant within-group differences between baseline and 12 months (P > 0.1 in all cases).13 Powell et al15 reported similar COR-X values 24 months after arthroplasty and ACDF (−2.1 mm vs. −3.2 mm; P > 0.3, respectively). There were no clinically meaningful differences in COR-Y between the 2 treatment groups at 24 months (−13.2 mm vs. −13.4 mm, respectively; P > 0.1). Similarly, there was no clinically meaningful difference between the treatment groups in the change in COR-X and COR-Y from baseline (COR-X: 0.5 mm vs. −0.4 mm, respectively) (COR-Y: −0.2 mm vs. −0.8 mm, respectively).15
Adjacent Segment Sagittal Alignment/Lordosis
Two RCTs10,13 were identified that reported adjacent segment sagittal alignment at 12 to 24 months after surgery (Web Appendix Table 5; see Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at http://links.lww.com/BRS/A698). Sagittal alignment was determined using neutral lateral cervical spine radiographs. A positive disc angle value indicates lordosis. The SMD was −0.14° (95% CI, −0.30 to 0.02) at cranial and −0.23° (95% CI, −0.40 to −0.06) at caudal adjacent segments and was thus more lordotic after arthroplasty compared with ACDF (Figure 4A, B). Minimal statistical heterogeneity was present between studies (cranial, I2 = 0%; caudal, I2 = 10%).
Global Cervical Spine (C2–C7) Angular ROM
One RCT11 and 2 retrospective cohort studies reported global ROM for the cervical spine at C2–C7 at a mean range of 14 to 25 months (Web Appendix Table 3; see Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at http://links.lww.com/BRS/A698). The SMD was −0.39° (95% CI, −0.63° to −0.14°) favoring arthroplasty, and this effect was statistically significant (Figure 5A). There was little statistical heterogeneity between the studies (I2 = 6%).
Cervical Sagittal Alignment/Lordosis
Two RCTs10,16 and 2 retrospective cohort studies18,19 reported the sagittal alignment of the entire cervical spine, which was measured between C2 and C7 in all but 1 study10 (Web Appendix Table 6; see Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at http://links.lww.com/BRS/A698). The pooled data suggest that the change in global cervical sagittal alignment from baseline to follow-up (range, mean of 6–25 mo) is similar between treatment groups (SMD, −0.15°; 95% CI, −0.42° to 0.12°) (I2 = 22%) (Figure 5B).
The overall SoE evaluating the changes in cranial and caudal adjacent segment ROM, translation, COR, cranial adjacent segment sagittal alignment; and global cervical sagittal alignment is “moderate,” that is, we have moderate confidence that the evidence reflects the true effect (Table 3). Further research may change our confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate. The overall SoE evaluating the changes in caudal adjacent segment sagittal alignment between baseline and follow-up after C-TDR compared with ACDF is “high,” that is, we have high confidence that the evidence reflects the true effect. Further research is unlikely to change our confidence in the estimate of effect. The overall SoE evaluating the changes in global cervical ROM after C-TDR compared with ACDF is “low,” that is, we have low confidence that the evidence reflects the true effect. Further research is likely to change the confidence in the estimate of effect and likely to change the estimate.
Kinematic changes at the adjacent segment are presumed to be potentially harmful and may lead to RASP or CASP. The purpose of this systematic review was to compare changes that occur at the adjacent segments after C-TDR with those that occur after fusion. Although the studies varied in length of follow-up from 6 to a mean of 25 months, they were in many regards homogeneous and employed narrow inclusion and exclusion criteria. All but 1 study included only patients with single-level disease, and the demographics and baseline disability were similar between groups across studies. The method of measurement was, with few exceptions, similar and utilized accurate and validated techniques. However, there was statistical heterogeneity across studies for some outcomes as demonstrated by large I2; therefore, a random-effects model was used for the meta-analyses.
Adjacent segment ROM in flexion-extension increased up to 4° in both the arthroplasty and fusion groups. This relatively small change may not actually represent structural kinematic changes but instead may result from the pain elimination and functional improvement after surgery. Our meta-analysis showed that changes in angular ROM at the adjacent segments between groups did not reach statistical significance. Similarly, pooled changes in anteroposterior and mediolateral translational motion along each axis were not statistically different between treatment groups. Thus, at relatively short-term follow-up, the ROM at the adjacent segments did not vary between fusion and arthroplasty groups. Longer follow-up is needed to determine if these results will persist.
Regarding global spinal ROM (C2–C7), pooled data from 1 RCT and 2 small cohort studies demonstrated a statistically greater change in the ROM from baseline to 2 years after C-TDR versus ACDF. These results are not unexpected due to maintained motion at the index level and the improvement of overall function as a result of relief of pain and disability from either surgery.
Although ROM is an important measurement of fusion and disc arthroplasty, the quality of the motion may be even more critical when trying to predict early degeneration of a motion segment. The COR is one of the essential components of the quality of motion. Alterations in CORs at adjacent segments after surgery will change facet loading and tensile forces in the disc annulus and may lead to degeneration. In general, there tends to be variation in published COR results. This variation likely stems from multiple factors including differences in position of COR with respect to cervical level, and a lack of standardized methodology to reference the COR. The 2 studies that reported COR at the adjacent segment in this systematic review used different reference points, making it difficult to interpret the data. However, there was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in the change in adjacent segment horizontal or vertical CORs from baseline to up to 2 years of follow-up in either study.
Alignment in the sagittal plane at the adjacent segments and in the overall cervical spine (C2–C7) was examined. We found that the change in alignment toward lordosis at both the cranial and caudal adjacent segments from baseline was statistically greater after arthroplasty compared with fusion. In contrast, there was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in the change in overall alignment from baseline between groups, although there was a trend toward greater lordosis after arthroplasty.
The spine kinematic measurements were obtained using the most accurate methods currently available. Quantitative Motion Analysis software (Medical Metrics, Inc), which was used in the majority of the RCTs, has a mean accuracy of 0.5° and 0.3 mm in translation.22 The accuracy of the radiostereometric analysis method, which was used by Nabhan et al,12 has also been validated, with mean errors less than 0.55° and 0.15 mm.23 These methods are far more reliable than using manual placement of landmarks and lines where the operator must subjectively identify similar landmarks in 2 different images, even if these are placed using software.24 Assuming that measurement errors are randomly distributed, the effect of measurement errors on the ability to detect a difference between treatments becomes dependent on the sample size. Variability between patients and time points also affects the ability to detect differences between treatments. In addition, it is known that there are significant differences in kinematics between the different intervertebral levels. Most studies pool all levels together. Considering the scenario where all patients were treated at the C6-C7 level, and using the SDs reported for asymptomatic volunteers (4.24° at C5–C6), 70 patients per group would be required to detect a 2° difference in the average intervertebral rotation at C5–C6.25 Most of the individual studies reviewed do not have sufficient statistical power to state that there is no statistically significant difference in the outcomes between C-TDR and ACDF patients. Calculating the change on a per-patient basis is an effective way to improve the ability to detect differences, but this is done only in some studies.
The results of the present study were contrary to those reported in biomechanical studies, which have shown that the significant kinematic changes at segments adjacent to fusion are normalized by disc arthroplasty.2–5,26 However, biomechanical studies force movement into arcs that may not be physiological and often do not include the upper cervical spine, which may significantly alter motion in the treated areas. Furthermore, active processes such as muscular contraction and inhibitions from pain are not modeled in biomechanical studies. Finally, the effect of cyclical loading is largely ignored in biomechanical studies. As with all in vitro studies, caution should be used when trying to predict clinical behavior. The lack of correlation between in vivo and in vitro performance as we have shown has implications toward adoption of new technology based on presumed biomechanical advantages.
This study has limitations as the length of follow-up was relatively short (generally 12–24 mo), which minimizes the effects of structural changes that are likely to occur over time. Furthermore, any observed change may be caused or mitigated by improvements as a result of pain relief or improved functional state. We did not consider the effect of implant design, which could affect some of the variables due to the small number of relevant studies.
Future directions of research on kinematic changes after surgery should focus on reporting outcomes after a longer follow-up to see if the minimal changes between arthroplasty and fusion that were observed in this study are maintained. Furthermore, the studies comparing the effect of design differences of varying arthroplasty prostheses are needed to determine whether the mechanical differences have a long-term influence on spinal kinematics.
This study demonstrates that at short-term follow-up, there are minimal differences in the change from baseline to follow-up of in vivo kinematics between ACDF and C-TDR. The hypothesis that changes in kinematics after fusion but not after C-TDR will lead to RASP is not supported by this study.
Patients can be advised that single-level arthroplasty and ACDF result in clinically similar kinematic changes at short-term follow-up.
Strength of Statement: Strong
- Cervical fusion has been associated with kinematic changes at adjacent segments, which may lead to ASP.
- In biomechanical studies, cervical arthroplasty mitigates adverse kinematic changes; the hope is that this change will prevent degeneration and development of clinical symptoms at the adjacent segments.
- This systematic review identified 7 RCTs, 4 cohort studies, and 1 case-control study that reported adjacent segment or global kinematic changes after cervical arthroplasty compared with ACDF.
- No statistically significant differences were found between treatment groups in the changes in adjacent-segment angular ROM in flexion-extension, translation in coronal and sagittal planes, and COR as measured at up to 2 years after surgery.
- There was moderate to high evidence that the adjacent segments became significantly more lordotic after arthroplasty compared with ACDF as measured at 1 to 2 years after surgery.
- Further studies are needed to determine how the kinematics of the adjacent segments is affected in the long term after cervical arthroplasty versus fusion.
The author P.A. contributed to study design, data analysis, writing of Introduction, Discussion, and Conclusions, and editing; R.H. literature search, evaluation of studies for inclusion, data analysis, writing of Methods and Results, evaluation of SoE, and editing; A.R. evaluation of studies for inclusion, data abstraction, evaluation of LoE; and D.N. data analysis.
Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (www.spinejournal.org).
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cervical fusion; adjacent segment degeneration; cervical arthroplasty; total disc replacement; spinal kinematics
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