A randomized, controlled follow-up study to review patients with acute thoracolumbar burst fractures treated by anterior instrumentation and reconstruction.Objective.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the results of anterior instrumentation in the treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures and to determine whether anterior-only approach would be sufficient for highly unstable burst fractures. In this prospective follow-up study, we also compared the results of anterior reconstruction with structural grafting and with titanium mesh cage in a randomized fashion.Summary of Background Data.
Anterior decompression and reconstruction supplemented with instrumentation is generally believed to be superior to fixation with posterior pedicle screw instrumentation for a highly unstable burst fracture, but the indications and methods for anterior approach has not been fully documented.Methods.
A total of 65 patients undergoing anterior plating for a thoracolumbar burst fracture with a load-sharing score of 7 or more between 2000 and 2003 were included this study. They were randomized to receive iliac crest autograft (group A, n = 32) or titanium mesh cages (group B, n = 33). The patients were similar in the distribution of 3-column injuries (n = 8 in group A vs. n = 9 in group B). During the minimum 4-year (range, 4–7 years) follow-up period, all patients were prospectively evaluated for clinical and radiologic outcomes. The Frankel scale, the ASIA motor score, and the Short Form 36 were used for clinical evaluation, whereas the fusion status and the loss of kyphosis correction for the local kyphosis angle were examined for radiologic outcome.Results.
All patients in this study achieved solid fusion, with significant neurologic improvement and no significant correction loss as defined by loss of kyphosis correction. The clinical and radiologic results were not significantly different (P > 0.05) at all time points between the 2 groups A and B. Twenty-six of 32 patients in group A still complained of donor site pain to some degree at the final follow-up. No significant impact of 3-column injuries (P > 0.05) were identified on the results for all comparisons.Conclusion.
Anterior-only instrumentation and reconstruction with structural autograft or titanium mesh cages is sufficient for surgical treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures with a load-sharing score of ≥7 and even with 3-column injuries.