A retrospective review of all patients surgically treated by a single surgeon with a three-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with and without anterior plate fixation.
To compare the clinical and radiographic success of anterior three-level discectomy and fusion performed with and without anterior cervical plate fixation.
Summary of Background Data.
Previous studies of multilevel cervical discectomies and fusions have shown fusion rates to decrease as the number of surgical levels increases. Anterior cervical plate stabilization can provide more stability and may increase fusion rates for multilevel fusions.
Over a 7-year period, 59 patients were treated surgically with a three-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion by the senior author. Forty patients had cervical plates, whereas 19 had fusions with no plates. These patients were observed for an average of 3.2 years. Clinical and radiographic follow-up data were obtained.
Of the 59 patients, 14 had a pseudarthrosis (7 in each group). The pseudarthrosis rates were 18% (7 of 40) for patients with plating and 37% (7 of 19) for patients with no plating. Although the nonunion rate for unplated fusions was double that of plated fusions, this difference was not statistically significant. There was no statistically significant correlation between pseudarthrosis and gender, age, level of surgery, history of tobacco use, or previous anterior surgery. The fusion rates were improved with the use of a cervical plate. Inferior clinical results were demonstrated in patients with a pseudarthrosis, regardless of the use of a cervical plate.
The addition of plate fixation for three-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a safe procedure and does not result in higher complication rates. In this study, the pseudarthrosis rate was lower for patients with a cervical plate. However, this difference was not statistically significant. Patients treated with cervical plating had overall better results when compared with those of patients treated without cervical plates. Although the use of cervical plates decreased the pseudarthrosis rate, a three-level procedure is still associated with a high nonunion rate, and other strategies to increase fusion rates should be explored.