Late Results of Thoracolumbar Fractures After Posterior Instrumentation and Transpedicular Bone Grafting

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Study Design.

A retrospective clinical study was performed.


To study clinical and radiologic late results after posterior stabilization of thoracolumbar fractures with internal fixator and interbody fusion via transpedicular bone grafting.

Summary of Background Data.

The posterior approach, using an internal fixator, is a standard procedure for stabilizing the injured thoracolumbar spine. Transpedicular bone grafting was invented by Daniaux in 1986 for achieving an interbody fusion. Pedicle screw fixation with additional transpedicular fusion has remained controversial because of inconsistent reports and a lack of late results.


Between January 1989 and July 1992, 76 patients with thoracolumbar fractures were operatively treated, and after a mean of more than 3 years, 56 of 62 patients (90%) still alive who had their implants removed were examined.


According to the Magerl classification, 33 patients sustained Type A, 13 Type B, and 10 Type C fractures. Three patients with incomplete paraplegia returned to normal. In one case of complete paraplegia, no change occurred. The mean operative time was 3 hours. In this study, two complications (3.6%) were observed: one iatrogenic vertebral arch fracture without consequences and one deep infection.


Compared with the preoperative status, follow-up examinations demonstrated permanent physical and social sequelae: The percentage of individuals able to do physical labor was reduced by half (22 to 11 patients), whereas the share of unemployed or retired patients doubled (4 to 8 patients). At the time of follow-up examination, only 21 of 42 patients continued in sports. The assessment of reported problems and functional outcome with the Hannover spine score reflected a significant difference between the status before injury (96.6/100 points) and at the time of follow-up evaluation (71.4/100 points) (P < 0.001).


The radiographic assessment in the lateral plane (Cobb technique) demonstrated a significant (P < 0.001) mean restoration from an initial angle of −15.6° (kyphosis) to +0.4°(lordosis). Serial postoperative radiographicfollow-up assessment showed progressive loss of correction. At follow-up examination, a mean difference from the postoperative angle of 10.1° was found (P < 0.001). Compared with the preoperative deformity, a mean improvement of 6.1° (average, −9.7°) at follow-up examination was noted. The addition of transpedicular cancellous bone grafting did not decrease the loss of correction. Computed tomography scans after implant removal were performed in nine cases: Only three of nine patients showed evidence of intervertebral fusion. No correlation could be found between the Magerl classification and radiographic outcome. However, the preoperative wedge angle of the vertebral body correlated significantly with the postoperative loss of reduction.


Because of the disappointing results from this study, the authors cannot recommend the additional transpedicular cancellous bone grafting as an interbody fusion technique after posterior stabilization in cases of complete or incomplete burst injury to the vertebral body.

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