Exposure of the lower cervical and upper thoracic spinal regions through a cervical incision without sternotomy has been described in cases of anterior decompression and methylmethacrylate vertebral body reconstruction. The use of anterior instrumentation and structural bone grafts in this procedure has not been well described.
Twenty-one patients underwent anterior cervicothoracic decompression, fusion, and fixation via a low cervical approach. Eight of these patients underwent lower cervical or upper thoracic corpectomy (C7–T4) through the cervical incision. The decompressive procedure was followed by placement of an allograft bone strut and an anterior locking plate system.
No patient developed new neurological deficit related to the spinal cord or exiting nerve roots. Three of four patients with preoperative neurological deficits improved dramatically. Two patients developed recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, of which one was permanent. There was one case of instrumentation-related failure, and two patients developed a superficial wound infection related to a posterior incision made as part of a 360° fusion. Patients were followed for a mean of 18.5 months (range 2–30 months). Two patients died (of metastatic cancer, and a motor vehicle accident, respectively) during the follow-up period.
Anterior decompression, fusion, and fixation is feasible via a cervical incision. This procedural approach spares the patient the morbidity associated with sternotomy or the lateral extracavitary approach. A thorough preoperative assessment of mediastinal anatomy is essential for the safe execution of these procedures.