Although surgical treatment can provide significant improvement of symptomatic adult cervical spine deformity (ACSD), few reports have focused on the associated complications. The objective of this study was to assess complication rates at a minimum 1-year follow-up based on a prospective multicenter series of ACSD patients treated surgically.
A prospective multicenter database of consecutive operative ACSD patients was reviewed for perioperative (< 30 days), early (30–90 days), and delayed (> 90 days) complications with a minimum 1-year follow-up. Enrollment required at least 1 of the following: cervical kyphosis > 10°, cervical scoliosis > 10°, C2–7 sagittal vertical axis > 4 cm, or chin-brow vertical angle > 25°.
Of 167 patients, 133 (80%, mean age 62 years, 62% women) had a minimum 1-year follow-up (mean 1.8 years). The most common diagnoses were degenerative (45%) and iatrogenic (17%) kyphosis. Almost 40% of patients were active or past smokers, 17% had osteoporosis, and 84% had at least 1 comorbidity. The mean baseline Neck Disability Index and modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association scores were 47 and 13.6, respectively. Surgical approaches were anterior-only (18%), posterior-only (47%), and combined (35%). A total of 132 complications were reported (54 minor and 78 major), and 74 (56%) patients had at least 1 complication. The most common complications included dysphagia (11%), distal junctional kyphosis (9%), respiratory failure (6%), deep wound infection (6%), new nerve root motor deficit (5%), and new sensory deficit (5%). A total of 4 deaths occurred that were potentially related to surgery, 2 prior to 1-year follow-up (1 cardiopulmonary and 1 due to obstructive sleep apnea and narcotic use) and 2 beyond 1-year follow-up (both cardiopulmonary and associated with revision procedures). Twenty-six reoperations were performed in 23 (17%) patients, with the most common indications of deep wound infection (n = 8), DJK (n = 7), and neurological deficit (n = 6). Although anterior-only procedures had a trend toward lower overall (42%) and major (21%) complications, rates were not significantly different from posterior-only (57% and 33%, respectively) or combined (61% and 37%, respectively) approaches (p = 0.29 and p = 0.38, respectively).
This report provides benchmark rates for ACSD surgery complications at a minimum 1-year (mean 1.8 years) follow-up. The marked health and functional impact of ACSD, the frail population it affects, and the high rates of surgical complications necessitate a careful risk-benefit assessment when contemplating surgery. Collectively, these findings provide benchmarks for complication rates and may prove useful for patient counseling and efforts to improve the safety of care.