The authors sought to compare 3-level anterior with posterior fusion surgical procedures for the treatment of multilevel cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM).
The authors analyzed prospective data from the 14 highest enrolling sites of the Quality Outcomes Database CSM module. They compared 3-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and posterior cervical laminectomy and fusion (PCF) surgical procedures, excluding surgical procedures crossing the cervicothoracic junction. Rates of reaching the minimal clinically important difference (MCID) in patient-reported outcomes (PROs) were compared at 24 months postoperatively. Multivariable analyses adjusted for potential confounders elucidated in univariable analysis.
Overall, 199 patients met the inclusion criteria: 123 ACDF (61.8%) and 76 PCF (38.2%) patients. The 24-month follow-up rates were similar (ACDF 90.2% vs PCF 92.1%, p = 0.67). Preoperatively, ACDF patients were younger (60.8 ± 10.2 vs 65.0 ± 10.3 years, p < 0.01), and greater proportions were privately insured (56.1% vs 36.8%, p = 0.02), actively employed (39.8% vs 22.8%, p = 0.04), and independently ambulatory (14.6% vs 31.6%, p < 0.01). Otherwise, the cohorts had equivalent baseline modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA), Neck Disability Index (NDI), numeric rating scale (NRS)–arm pain, NRS–neck pain, and EQ-5D scores (p > 0.05). ACDF patients had reduced hospitalization length (1.6 vs 3.9 days, p < 0.01) and a greater proportion had nonroutine discharge (7.3% vs 22.8%, p < 0.01), but they had a higher rate of postoperative dysphagia (13.5% vs 3.5%, p = 0.049). Compared with baseline values, both groups demonstrated improvements in all outcomes at 24 months (p < 0.05). In multivariable analyses, after controlling for age, insurance payor, employment status, ambulation status, and other potential clinically relevant confounders, ACDF was associated with a greater proportion of patients with maximum satisfaction on the North American Spine Society Patient Satisfaction Index (NASS) (NASS score of 1) at 24 months (69.4% vs 53.7%, OR 2.44, 95% CI 1.17–5.09, adjusted p = 0.02). Otherwise, the cohorts shared similar 24-month outcomes in terms of reaching the MCID for mJOA, NDI, NRS–arm pain, NRS–neck pain, and EQ-5D score (adjusted p > 0.05). There were no differences in the 3-month readmission (ACDF 4.1% vs PCF 3.9%, p = 0.97) and 24-month reoperation (ACDF 13.5% vs PCF 18.6%, p = 0.36) rates.
In a cohort limited to 3-level fusion surgical procedures, ACDF was associated with reduced blood loss, shorter hospitalization length, and higher routine home discharge rates; however, PCF resulted in lower rates of postoperative dysphagia. The procedures yielded comparably significant improvements in functional status (mJOA score), neck and arm pain, neck pain–related disability, and quality of life at 3, 12, and 24 months. ACDF patients had significantly higher odds of maximum satisfaction (NASS score 1). Given comparable outcomes, patients should be counseled on each approach’s complication profile to aid in surgical decision-making.