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Hiroaki Nakashima, Shiro Imagama, Yasutsugu Yukawa, Tokumi Kanemura, Mitsuhiro Kamiya, Makoto Yanase, Keigo Ito, Masaaki Machino, Go Yoshida, Yoshimoto Ishikawa, Yukihiro Matsuyama, Nobuyuki Hamajima, Naoki Ishiguro, and Fumihiko Kato


Postoperative C-5 palsy is a significant complication resulting from cervical decompression procedures. Moreover, when cervical degenerative diseases are treated with a combination of decompression and posterior instrumented fusion, patients are at increased risk for C-5 palsy. However, the clinical and radiological features of this condition remain unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to clarify the risk factors for developing postoperative C-5 palsy.


Eighty-four patients (mean age 60.1 years) who had undergone posterior instrumented fusion using cervical pedicle screws to treat nontraumatic lesions were independently reviewed. The authors analyzed the medical records of some of these patients who developed postoperative C-5 palsy, paying particular attention to their plain radiographs, MRI studies, and CT scans. Risk factors for postoperative C-5 palsy were assessed using multivariate logistic regression analysis. The cutoff values for the pre- and postoperative width of the intervertebral foramen (C4–5) were determined by receiver operating characteristic curve analysis.


Ten (11.9%) of 84 patients developed postoperative C-5 palsy. Seven patients recovered fully from the neurological complications. The pre- and postoperative C4–5 angles showed significant kyphosis in the C-5 palsy group. The pre- and postoperative diameters of the C4–5 foramen on the palsy side were significantly smaller than those on the opposite side in the C-5 palsy group and those bilaterally in the non–C5 palsy group. Risk factors identified by multivariate logistic regression analysis were as follows: 1) ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (relative risk [RR] 7.22 [95% CI 1.03–50.55]); 2) posterior shift of the spinal cord (C4–5) (RR 1.73 [95% CI 1.00–2.98]); and 3) postoperative width of the C-5 intervertebral foramen (RR 0.33 [95% CI 0.14–0.79]). The cutoff values of the pre- and postoperative widths of the C-5 intervertebral foramen for C-5 palsy were 2.2 and 2.3 mm, respectively.


Patients with preoperative foraminal stenosis, posterior shift of the spinal cord, and additional iatrogenic foraminal stenosis due to cervical alignment correction were more likely to develop postoperative C-5 palsy after posterior instrumentation with fusion. Prophylactic foraminotomy at C4–5 might be useful when preoperative foraminal stenosis is present on CT. Furthermore, it might be useful for treating postoperative C-5 palsy. To prevent excessive posterior shift of the spinal cord, the authors recommend that appropriate kyphosis reduction should be considered carefully.