Robinson Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Arthrodesis for Cervical Radiculopathy. Long-Term Follow-up of One Hundred and Twenty-two Patients.

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We evaluated the results of the Robinson method of anterior cervical discectomy and arthrodesis with use of autogenous iliac-crest bone graft, at one to four levels, in 122 patients who had cervical radiculopathy. A one-level procedure was done in sixty-two of the 122 patients; a two-level procedure, in forty-eight; a three-level procedure, in eleven; and a four-level procedure, in one. The average duration of clinical and roentgenographic follow-up was six years (range, two to fifteen years). The average age was fifty years (range, twenty-five to seventy-eight years).

Preoperatively, 118 patients had pain in the arm, fifty-five had weakness of one or more motor roots, and seventy-seven had sensory loss. At the time of follow-up, eighty-one patients had no pain in the neck, twenty-six had mild pain in the neck, nine had moderate pain in the neck, four had mild radicular pain, and two had a combination of mild radicular pain and moderate pain in the neck. One hundred and eight patients had no functional impairment, and fourteen had a slight limitation of function during the activities of daily living. Nine of eleven patients who had symptoms related to a change at one level cephalad or caudad to the site of a previous arthrodesis had another operative procedure. Lateral roentgenograms of the cervical spine, made in flexion and extension, showed a pseudarthrosis at twenty-four of 195 operatively treated segments. Sixteen of the patients who had a pseudarthrosis were symptomatic, but only four had sufficient pain to warrant revision. The risk of pseudarthrosis was significantly greater after a multiple-level arthrodesis than after a single-level arthrodesis (p < 0.01). At the time of the most recent follow-up, fifty-three of the fifty-five patients who had had a motor deficit had had a complete recovery, and the two remaining patients had had a partial recovery. Seventy-one of the seventy-seven patients who had had a sensory loss had regained sensation. None of the patients had an increased neurological deficit postoperatively.

Our results suggest that the Robinson anterior cervical discectomy and arthrodesis with an autogenous iliac-crest bone graft for cervical radiculopathy is a safe procedure that can relieve pain and lead to resolution of neurological deficits in a high percentage of patients.

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