Cervical fractures in patients with ankylosing spondylitis can have devastating neurological consequences. Currently, several surgical approaches are commonly used to treat these fractures: anterior, posterior, and anterior-posterior. The relative rarity of these fractures has limited the ability of surgeons to objectively determine the merits of each. The authors present an updated systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the utility of anterior surgical approaches relative to posterior and anterior-posterior approaches.
After a comprehensive literature search of the PubMed, Cochrane, and Embase databases, 7 clinical studies were included in the final qualitative and 6 in the final quantitative analyses. Of these studies, 6 compared anterior approaches with anterior-posterior and posterior approaches, while 1 investigated only an anterior approach. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated where appropriate.
A meta-analysis of postoperative neurological improvement revealed no statistically significant differences in gross rates of neurological improvement between anterior and posterior approaches (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.10–1.59; p = 0.19). However, when analyzing the mean change in neurological function, patients who underwent anterior approaches had a significantly lower mean change in postoperative neurological function relative to patients who underwent posterior approaches (mean difference [MD] −0.60, 95% CI −0.76 to −0.45; p < 0.00001). An identical trend was seen between anterior and anterior-posterior approaches; there were no statistically significant differences in gross rates of neurological improvement (OR 3.05, 95% CI 0.84–11.15; p = 0.09). However, patients who underwent anterior approaches experienced a lower mean change in neurological function relative to anterior-posterior approaches (MD −0.46, 95% CI −0.60 to −0.32; p < 0.00001). There were no significant differences in complication rates between anterior approaches, posterior approaches, or anterior-posterior approaches, although complication rates trended lower in patients who underwent anterior approaches.
The results of this review and meta-analysis demonstrated the varying benefits of anterior approaches relative to posterior and anterior-posterior approaches in treatment of cervical fractures associated with ankylosing spondylitis. While reports demonstrated lower degrees of neurological improvement in anterior approaches, they may benefit patients with less-severe injuries if lower complication rates are desired.