Comparison of Outcomes for Unstable Lower Cervical Flexion Teardrop Fractures Managed With Halo Thoracic Vest Versus Anterior Corpectomy and Plating

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Abstract

Study Design.

A retrospective cohort study with cross-sectional outcome analysis was conducted.

Objectives.

To compare the outcome for two groups of patients with unstable cervical flexion teardrop fractures: those treated with halo thoracic vests and those treated with anterior corpectomy and plating.

Summary of Background Data.

With the evolution of safe and effective anterior cervical plates, the treatment of unstable cervical flexion teardrop fractures has shifted from halo immobilization to surgical stabilization. Although outcomes for these treatment alternatives have been reported, the literature reflects the inherent bias of retrospective studies without standardized health-related quality-of-life outcomes and without a control or comparative group. Furthermore, study populations have lacked homogeneity with respect to fracture patterns.

Methods.

For this study, 45 patients with cervical flexion teardrop fractures and at least 2 years of follow-up evaluation were identified. Of these patients, 24 were treated with a halo thoracic vest and 21 with anterior corpectomy and plating. Unstable cervical flexion teardrop fractures were defined as those exhibiting failure of the anterior spine under compression and the posterior spine in tension. The primary outcome was radiographic kyphosis at follow-up assessment. Secondary outcomes included the MOS 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey and the Cervical Spine Research Society Long-Term Follow-Up questionnaire.

Results.

The halo thoracic vest group and the anterior corpectomy and plating group were comparable for baseline demographic and clinical data, except for neurologic deficit (67% of the halo thoracic vest group and 96% of the anterior corpectomy and plating group had neurologic deficit). Most of the injuries occurred at C5. All 45 patients had radiographic follow-up evaluation, but only 17 of the 24 patients in the halo thoracic vest group and 13 of the 21 patients in the anterior corpectomy and plating group (30 of 45 in all) completed the health-related quality-of-life outcome instruments. The mean kyphosis was 11.4° in the halo thoracic vest group and 3.5° in the anterior corpectomy and plating group (P < 0.001). The difference remained significant, with control used for the baseline variables. The halo thoracic vest group had five failures, four of which were subsequently managed operatively. No major intra- or postoperative complications occurred in the anterior corpectomy and plating group. There were no significant differences in the MOS 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey mental component score and the Cervical Spine Research Society subscales even after adjustment for neurologic deficit.

Conclusions.

The results of this study indicate that anterior cervical plating is a safe and effective treatment for cervical teardrop fractures, and that it is superior to the halo thoracic vest for restoring and maintaining sagittal alignment and for minimizing treatment failures. There does not appear to be a relation between residual kyphosis and health-related quality-of-life outcomes. Although this raises questions about the relevance of restoring sagittal alignment in the treatment and outcome of cervical flexion teardrop fractures, the study was underpowered for secondary outcomes. Therefore, the secondary outcome results must be interpreted with caution.

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