Posterior cervical decompression and fusion (PCDF) is a commonly performed procedure to address cervical myelopathy. A significant number of these patients require revision surgery for adjacent-segment disease (ASD) or pseudarthrosis. Currently, there is no consensus among spine surgeons on the inclusion of proximal thoracic spine instrumentation. This study investigates the benefits of thoracic extension in long-segment cervical fusions and the potential drawbacks. The authors compare outcomes in long-segment subaxial cervical fusion for degenerative cervical myelopathy with caudal vertebral levels of C6, C7, and T1.
A retrospective analysis identified 369 patients who underwent PCDF. Patients were grouped by caudal fusion level. Reoperation rates for ASD and pseudarthrosis, infection, and blood loss were examined. Data were analyzed with chi-square, 1-way ANOVA, and logistic regression.
The total reoperation rate for symptomatic pseudarthrosis or ASD was 4.8%. Reoperation rates, although not significant, were lower in the C3–6 group (2.6%, vs 8.3% for C3–7 and 3.8% for C3–T1; p = 0.129). Similarly, rates of infection were lower in the shorter-segment fusion without achieving statistical significance (2.6% for C3–6, vs 5.6% for C3–7 and 5.5% for C3–T1; p = 0.573). The mean blood loss was documented as 104, 125, and 224 mL for groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively (p < 0.001).
Given the lack of statistical difference in reoperation rates for long-segment cervical fusions ending at C6, C7, or T1, shorter fusions in high-risk surgical candidates or elderly patients may be performed without higher rates of reoperation.