Background and Study Objective Complex traumatic lumbar spine fractures are difficult to manage and typically occur in younger patients. Surgical immobilization for unstable fractures is an accepted treatment but can lead to future adjacent-level disease. Furthermore, large variations in fracture morphology create significant difficulties when attempting fixation. Therefore, a surgical approach that considers both long-term outcomes and fracture type is of utmost importance. We present a novel technique for percutaneous fixation without interbody or posterolateral fusion in a young patient with bilateral pedicle dissociations and an acute-onset incomplete neurologic deficit.
Case Description A 20-year-old man involved in a motorcycle accident presented with unilateral right lower extremity paresis and sensory loss with intact rectal tone and no saddle anesthesia. Lumbar computed tomography (CT) demonstrated L2 and L3 fractures associated with bilateral pedicle dislocations. Lumbar magnetic resonance imaging showed draping of the conus medullaris/cauda equina anteriorly over the kyphotic deformity at L2 with minimal associated canal stenosis at L2 and L3. He was treated with emergent percutaneous fixation of the fracture segment without interbody or posterolateral fusion. Decompression was not performed because of the negligible amount of canal stenosis and high likelihood of cerebrospinal fluid leakage due to dural tears from the fractures. Surgical fixation of the L2 vertebra was achieved by cannulating the left pedicle with an oversized tap while holding the right pedicle in place with a normal tap and then driving screws into the left and right pedicles, respectively, thus reducing the free-floating fracture segment. At 18 months after surgery, a follow-up CT demonstrated good cortication across the prior pedicle fractures, and the instrumentation was removed without any obvious signs of instability or disruption of the alignment at the thoracolumbar junction.
Conclusion We present a novel technique for percutaneous reduction and fixation of bilateral pedicle fractures with significant dissociation from the vertebral body, associated neural compression from the kyphotic deformity, and minimal spinal canal stenosis. Furthermore, we argue that early fixation and reduction of the fracture prevented irreversible neurologic compromise, and the absence of interbody or posterolateral fusion ultimately preserved the spinal mobility of the patient once the hardware was removed.