Relationship between facet joint distraction during anterior cervical discectomy and fusion for trauma and functional outcome

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AimsThe purpose of this retrospective study was to investigate the clinical relevance of increased facet joint distraction as a result of anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) for trauma.Patients and MethodsA total of 155 patients (130 men, 25 women. Mean age 42.7 years; 16 to 87) who had undergone ACDF between 1 January 2001 and 1 January 2016 were included in the study. Outcome measures included the Neck Disability Index (NDI) and visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain. Lateral cervical spine radiographs taken in the immediate postoperative period were reviewed to compare the interfacet distance of the operated segment with those of the facet joints above and below.ResultsThere was a statistically significant relationship between greater facet distraction and increased NDI and VAS pain scores. This was further confirmed by Spearman correlation, which showed evidence of a moderate correlation between both NDI score and facet joint distraction (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.34; p < 0.001) and VAS score and facet distraction (Spearman correlation coefficient 0.52; p < 0.001). Furthermore, there was a discernible transition point between outcome scores. Significantly worse outcomes, in terms of both NDI scores (17.8vs8.2; p < 0.001) and VAS scores (4.5vs1.3; p < 0.001), were seen with facet distraction of 3 mm or more. Patients who went on to have a posterior fusion also had increased NDI and VAS scores, independent of facet distraction.ConclusionAfter undergoing ACDF for the treatment of cervical spine injury, patients with facet joint distraction of 3 mm or more have worse NDI and VAS pain scores.

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