Cervical Spine Trauma in Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis: Injury Characteristics and Outcome With Surgical Treatment

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Study Design.

Retrospective study of a consecutive series of operatively managed patients with cervical fractures with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) presenting to 3 institutions over an 8 year period.


Assess demographics, fracture characteristics, outcome and complications in patients managed surgically.

Summary of Background Data.

Cervical spine injuries related to DISH represent a difficult subgroup of trauma patients to treat. This subset is fraught with potential complications related to the injury of the ankylosed spine, high rate of co-morbidities, and older demographics. The data in the literature on treatment, outcomes and complications is largely comprised of case reports and small case series.


All patients with cervical fractures in the setting of DISH between January 2001 and December 2008 were reviewed retrospectively. Charts and radiographs were reviewed assessing demographics, injury characteristics and short-term outcomes. Statistical analysis was performed analyzing the impact of distinct parameters on the incidence of medical and surgical complications.


Thirty-three patients with age 73.8 ± 11years were identified. DISH-affected segments numbered 5.5 ± 2.1. Injury severity as assessed by the Subaxial-Injury-Classification scoring-system (SLIC) averaged 7.2 ± 1.4points. 7 patients (20.6%) were ASIA-A on admission, 4 (11.8%) ASIA-B, 4 (11.8%) ASIA-C, 10 (29.4%) ASIA-D, and 7 (20.6%) ASIA-E. All but 2 patients (6%) had medical co-morbidities.


Inpatient stay was 26.6 ± 23.4 days. 16 patients (47%) had anterior, 12 patients (35.3%) had posterior, and 5 patients (14.7%) had combined anterior-posterior instrumented fusion. 25 patients (73.5%) had medical/surgical complications. 20 patients (58.8%) suffered serious pulmonary complications not related to the neurologic injury (p < 0.05). Nine patients (26.5%) had died. Seven patients (20.6%) showed improved ASIA-scores, 18 patients (52.9%) had no improvement and 2 patients (5.9%) deteriorated.


The current findings pinpoint the potential for medical and surgical complications in this high risk subgroup. Surgeons should be aware of the unique aspects associated with treatment of these injuries.

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