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An Outcomes Analysis of the Treatment of Cervical Pseudarthrosis With Posterior Fusion

Kuhns, Craig A. MD*; Geck, Matthew J. MD; Wang, Jeffrey C. MD*; Delamarter, Rick B. M

doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000184314.26543.7d
Cervical Spine

Study Design. A retrospective review of 33 consecutive patients treated with posterior fusion and selective nerve root decompression for the treatment of pseudarthrosis following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

Objectives. Use standardized outcome measures to evaluate the results of posterior fusion with selective nerve root decompression as a treatment option for symptomatic pseudarthrosis of the cervical spine.

Summary of Background Data. Pseudarthrosis after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion has been recognized as a cause of continued cervical pain and unsatisfactory outcomes. Debate continues as to whether a revision anterior approach or a posterior fusion procedure is the best treatment for symptomatic cervical pseudarthrosis. To our knowledge, standardized outcome measures have not been used to evaluate the results of either surgical treatment option; therefore, it is difficult to evaluate outcomes in these patients, let alone compare surgical treatment options. Data on fusion rates in these two surgical treatment groups suggest a trend of a higher fusion rate with utilization of a posterior revision procedure, but the largest study to date includes the study of only 19 patients treated with a posterior fusion.

Methods. Thirty-three consecutive patients with symptomatic pseudarthrosis following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion were treated with selective nerve root decompression and posterior fusion using iliac crest or local bone graft as well as posterior wiring and/or lateral mass plating. The average follow-up period was 46 months (range, 20–86 months). Patients were assessed using physical examination, flexion-extension lateral radiographs, and standardized outcome measures including the SF-36, Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2, and Cervical Spine Outcomes Questionnaire.

Results. All 33 patients (100%) demonstrated a solid fusion at their most recent follow-up, and all 33 patients noted significant improvement in their preoperative symptoms. No difference in fusion status was noted between those treated with iliac crest versus patients treated with local bone graft—all had a solid fusion; 72% of the patients were satisfied with the result of their surgery. Cervical Spine Outcomes Questionnaire pain scales demonstrated 52% of patients reported mild or nopain at follow-up, whereas 20% described their pain as “discomforting” and 28% of the patients continued to report moderate to severe pain.

Conclusions. This is the first study to our knowledge to use standardized outcome measures to assess clinical outcome in patients treated with posterior fusion for pseudarthrosis after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Patients and surgeons need to understand the potential for success with this revision procedure but also be aware of the relatively high rate of continued moderate to severe pain observed in this patient population even after a solid fusion is achieved. All of the patients in this study fused with a single posterior fusion procedure, further supporting the relatively higher fusion rates observed in the literature using posterior fusion as a treatment for cervical pseudarthrosis. Our results also support the ability of surgeons to use local bone graft without iliac crest in a posterior fusion for cervical pseudarthrosis and therefore avoid the morbidity associated with iliac crest bone graft harvest.

Thirty-three patients with symptomatic pseudarthrosis after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion were treated with posterior fusion and selective nerve root decompression. Patients were evaluated clinically, radiographically, and with outcome measures. All 33 patients (100%) demonstrated a solid fusion. Seventy-two percent of the patients were satisfied with the result of the revision surgery. Fifty-two percent reported mild or no pain, while 20% described their pain as “discomforting.” Twenty-eight percent of the patients continued to report moderate to severe pain.

From the *UCLA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA; †Spine Austin, Austin, TX; and ‡St. Johns Medical Center, Santa Monica, CA.

Acknowledgment date: July 3, 2003. First revision date: August 6, 2004. Acceptance date: November 24, 2004.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Craig A. Kuhns, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, One Barnes-Jewish Plaza, 600 S. Euclid Ave. Campus Box 8233, St. Louis, MO 63110; E-mail: craigkuhns@yahoo.com

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.