The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between morphological changes in thoracic ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (T-OPLL) and postoperative neurological recovery after thoracic posterior fusion surgery. Changes of OPLL morphology and postoperative recovery in cases with T-OPLL have not been examined.
In this prospective study, the authors evaluated data from 44 patients (23 male and 21 female) who underwent posterior decompression and fusion surgery with instrumentation for the treatment of T-OPLL at our hospital. The patients’ mean age at surgery was 50.7 years (range 38–68 years). The minimum duration of follow-up was 2 years. The location of thoracic ossification of the ligamentum flavum (T-OLF), T-OLF at the OPLL level, OPLL morphology, fusion range, estimated blood loss, operative time, pre- and postoperative Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scores, and JOA recovery rate were investigated. Reconstructed sagittal multislice CT images were obtained before and at 3 and 6 months and 1 and 2 years after surgery. The basic fusion area was 3 vertebrae above and below the OPLL lesion. All parameters were compared between patients with and without continuity across the disc space at the OPLL at 3 and 6 months after surgery.
The preoperative morphology of OPLL was discontinuous across the disc space between the rostral and caudal ossification regions on sagittal CT images in all but one of the patients. Postoperatively, these segments became continuous in 42 patients (97.7%; occurring by 6.6 months on average) without progression of OPLL thickness. Patients with continuity at 3 months had significantly lower rates of diabetes mellitus (p < 0.05) and motor palsy in the lower extremities (p < 0.01). The group with continuity also had significantly higher mean postoperative JOA scores at 3 (p < 0.01) and 6 (p < 0.05) months and mean JOA recovery rates at 3 and 6 months (both p < 0.01) after surgery.
Preoperatively, discontinuity of rostral and caudal ossified lesions was found on CT in all patients but one of this group of 44 patients who needed surgery for T-OPLL. Rigid fixation with instrumentation may have allowed these segments to connect at the OPLL. Such OPLL continuity at an early stage after surgery may accelerate spinal cord recovery.