Object. Factors related to long-term surgical outcome of thoracic myelopathy caused by ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) have not been fully investigated. To evaluate these factors, the authors reviewed medical records obtained in patients who had undergone decompressive surgery for thoracic OLF.
Methods. Thirty-four patients in whom decompressive surgery was performed for thoracic OLF (mean follow-up period 8 years) were recruited. Fourteen patients underwent simultaneous decompressive surgery for cervical or lumbar lesions. Patient age, duration of symptoms, OLF type, dural adhesion, neurological status classified by the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scale before and after surgery (1 month postoperatively and at final follow up), and recovery rate were reviewed. The ossified ligamentum flavum was classified into five types according to Sato's classification by assessing preoperative computerized tomography scans. The mean preoperative JOA score (5) was significantly improved at 1 month after surgery (7.1) and at final follow up (7.9) (p < 0.05). Recovery rates at 1 month and at final follow up were 34.6 and 44.2%, respectively. No significant correlations were found between age, OLF type, and neurological status before and after surgery. In patients with dural adhesion, which was observed in cases of larger-type OLF (p < 0.02), lower JOA scores were observed compared with those in patients without dural adhesion both preoperatively and at 1 month after surgery (p < 0.05) but not at the final follow-up examination. Higher JOA scores and recovery rates were demonstrated in patients who had undergone simultaneous surgery than in those who had not undergone simultaneous surgery at 1 month (p < 0.05) but not at the final follow up. Using multiple regression analysis, the authors identified the duration of preoperative symptoms as the most important predictor of a high JOA score and recovery rate at the final follow up.
Conclusions. Duration of preoperative symptoms represents the most important predictor of long-term surgeryrelated outcome in patients treated for thoracic OLF. The type of ossified ligamentum flavum, dural adhesion, and simultaneous surgery for coexistent cervical or lumbar lesions do not appear to influence the long-term postoperative prognosis.