A new classification and treatment algorithm for thoracolumbar injuries was recently introduced by Vaccaro and colleagues in 2005. A thoracolumbar injury severity scale (TLISS) was proposed for grading and guiding treatment for these injuries. The scale is based on the following: 1) the mechanism of injury; 2) the integrity of the posterior ligamentous complex (PLC); and 3) the patient’s neurological status. The reliability and validity of assessing injury mechanism and the integrity of the PLC was assessed.
Forty-eight spine surgeons, consisting of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, reviewed 56 clinical thoracolumbar injury case histories. Each was classified and scored to determine treatment recommendations according to a novel classification system. After 3 months the case histories were reordered and the physicians repeated the exercise. Validity of this classification was good among reviewers; the vast majority (> 90%) agreed with the system’s treatment recommendations. Surgeons were unclear as to a cogent description of PLC disruption and fracture mechanism.
The TLISS demonstrated acceptable reliability in terms of intra- and interobserver agreement on the algorithm’s treatment recommendations. Replacing injury mechanism with a description of injury morphology and better definition of PLC injury will improve inter- and intraobserver reliability of this injury classification system.