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Nicholas Theodore, Paul M. Arnold and Ankit I. Mehta

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Robert F. Heary, Paul A. Anderson and Paul M. Arnold

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Lindsay Tetreault, Jefferson R. Wilson, Mark R. N. Kotter, Aria Nouri, Pierre Côté, Branko Kopjar, Paul M. Arnold and Michael G. Fehlings


The minimum clinically important difference (MCID) is defined as the minimum change in a measurement that a patient would identify as beneficial. Before undergoing surgery, patients are likely to inquire about the ultimate goals of the operation and of their chances of experiencing meaningful improvements. The objective of this study was to define significant predictors of achieving an MCID on the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) scale at 2 years following surgery for the treatment of degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM).


Seven hundred fifty-seven patients were prospectively enrolled in either the AOSpine North America or International study at 26 global sites. Fourteen patients had a perfect preoperative mJOA score of 18 and were excluded from this analysis (n = 743). Data were collected for each participating subject, including demographic information, symptomatology, medical history, causative pathology, and functional impairment. Univariate log-binominal regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the association between preoperative clinical factors and achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale. Modified Poisson regression using robust error variances was used to create the final multivariate model and compute the relative risk for each predictor.


The sample consisted of 463 men (62.31%) and 280 women (37.69%), with an average age of 56.48 ± 11.85 years. At 2 years following surgery, patients exhibited a mean change in functional status of 2.71 ± 2.89 points on the mJOA scale. Of the 687 patients with available follow-up data, 481 (70.01%) exhibited meaningful gains on the mJOA scale, whereas 206 (29.98%) failed to achieve an MCID. Based on univariate analysis, significant predictors of achieving the MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age; female sex; shorter duration of symptoms; nonsmoking status; a lower comorbidity score and absence of cardiovascular disease; and absence of upgoing plantar responses, lower-limb spasticity, and broad-based unstable gait. The final model included age (relative risk [RR] 0.924, p < 0.0001), smoking status (RR 0.837, p = 0.0043), broad-based unstable gait (RR 0.869, p = 0.0036), and duration of symptoms (RR 0.943, p = 0.0003).


In this large multinational prospective cohort, 70% of patients treated surgically for DCM exhibited a meaningful functional gain on the mJOA scale. The key predictors of achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age, shorter duration of symptoms, nonsmoking status, and lack of significant gait impairment.

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Paul M. Arnold, Paul A. Anderson and Robert F. Heary

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Robert F. Heary and Paul M. Arnold

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Paul A. Anderson, Paul M. Arnold and Robert F. Heary

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George M. Ghobrial, Christopher M. Maulucci, Mitchell Maltenfort, Richard T. Dalyai, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Michael G. Fehlings, John Street, Paul M. Arnold and James S. Harrop


Thoracolumbar spine injuries are commonly encountered in patients with trauma, accounting for almost 90% of all spinal fractures. Thoracolumbar burst fractures comprise a high percentage of these traumatic fractures (45%), and approximately half of the patients with this injury pattern are neurologically intact. However, a debate over complication rates associated with operative versus nonoperative management of various thoracolumbar fracture morphologies is ongoing, particularly concerning those patients presenting without a neurological deficit.


A MEDLINE search for pertinent literature published between 1966 and December 2013 was conducted by 2 authors (G.G. and R.D.), who used 2 broad search terms to maximize the initial pool of manuscripts for screening. These terms were “operative lumbar spine adverse events” and “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events.”


In an advanced MEDLINE search of the term “operative lumbar spine adverse events” on January 8, 2014, 1459 results were obtained. In a search of “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events,” 150 results were obtained. After a review of all abstracts for relevance to traumatic thoracolumbar spinal injuries, 62 abstracts were reviewed for the “operative” group and 21 abstracts were reviewed for the “nonoperative” group. A total of 14 manuscripts that met inclusion criteria for the operative group and 5 manuscripts that met criteria for the nonoperative group were included.

There were a total of 919 and 436 patients in the operative and nonoperative treatment groups, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups with respect to age, sex, and length of stay. The mean ages were 43.17 years in the operative and 34.68 years in the nonoperative groups. The majority of patients in both groups were Frankel Grade E (342 and 319 in operative and nonoperative groups, respectively). Among the studies that reported the data, the mean length of stay was 14 days in the operative group and 20.75 in the nonoperative group.

The incidence of all complications in the operative and nonoperative groups was 300 (32.6%) and 21 (4.8%), respectively (p = 0.1065). There was no significant difference between the 2 groups with respect to the incidence of pulmonary, thromboembolic, cardiac, and gastrointestinal complications. However, the incidence of infections (pneumonia, urinary tract infection, wound infection, and sepsis) was significantly higher in the operative group (p = 0.000875). The incidence of instrumentation failure and need for revision surgery was 4.35% (40 of 919), a significant morbidity, and an event unique to the operative category (p = 0.00396).


Due to the limited number of high-quality studies, conclusions related to complication rates of operative and nonoperative management of thoracolumbar traumatic injuries cannot be definitively made. Further prospective, randomized studies of operative versus nonoperative management of thoracolumbar and lumbar spine trauma, with standardized definitions of complications and matched patient cohorts, will aid in properly defining the risk-benefit ratio of surgery for thoracolumbar spine fractures.