Trends in the Treatment of Single and Multilevel Cervical Stenosis: A Review of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery Database

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In order to identify any changes in the utilization of new and old techniques, we investigated trends in the operative management of cervical stenosis by orthopaedic surgeons applying for board certification.


We queried the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery database from 1998 to 2013 to identify all of the cervical spine procedures for stenosis that had been performed by candidates taking Part II of the licensing examination. Longitudinal trends were determined for the utilized approach, the individual procedures that had been performed, and whether a motion-preserving technique had been employed.


There were 5,068 cervical spine procedures performed by 1,025 candidates. Procedure totals remained relatively constant until 2011, when a sudden increase of 280% (202 to 768 procedures) was noted. This trend continued, reaching a 460% increase (202 to 1,131 procedures) compared with 2010. The number of candidates only rose by 150% (42 to 105) over the entire study period. The proportion of procedures performed via an anterior approach saw a bimodal distribution; early on, this approach predominated over posterior procedures and was largely driven by the number of corpectomies that were performed. From 2004 to 2011, posterior procedures became more prevalent, but there was a sharp decline in 2011, driven by the large number of anterior cervical discectomies and fusions that were performed. This remained constant through 2013. Lastly, motion-preserving techniques, which included total disc replacement and laminoplasty, had modest increases in utilization from 2005 to 2007. This increased prevalence was short-lived, and it steadily declined through 2014 to <5% utilization.


The number of candidates performing cervical spine procedures increased more than twofold over a 16-year period. This reflects a larger proportion of the orthopaedic graduates who subspecialize in spine surgery. While the number of surgeons performing spine surgery has increased, the sheer number of procedures that each surgeon performed greatly outpaced the increased number of surgeons. Motion-preserving techniques had their peak utilization in 2007, and have since decreased to <5%, in contrast to fusion techniques, which predominate, comprising >90% of the performed procedures.

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