External Pedicular Fixation of the Lumbar Spine: Outcome Evaluation by Functional Tests

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We analyzed the pain-relieving effect and the functional outcome during external pedicular fixation of the lumbar spine. Twenty patients were included, and the diagnoses were disc degeneration with or without facet joint arthrosis in eight patients, pain after decompression in six patients, spondylolysis/olisthesis in two patients, other types of lumbar anomalies in three patients, and pseudarthrosis after prior uninstrumented fusion in one patient. Before application of the external frame, the pain level on the Visual Analogue Scale was registered at rest, as a mean level for the preceding week, and at seven different functional tests. Maximum walking capacity and walking time needed for a standardized distance were also measured. The same test procedure was repeated 1 week postoperatively with the external frame applied in locked position. With stabilization, 11 patients reported pain relief at rest and 14 when approximating the mean pain level for the week. Both these measured levels correlated to the pain level at all of the seven functional tests. Thus, the patients selected for a subsequent fusion based on pain relief during extended functional provocation would not differ from the patients selected by using only the pain-relieving effect at rest. The patients reporting pain relief tended to increase their walking distance (p = 0.06, t test) but not the speed of walking.

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