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Anna MacDowall, Martin Skeppholm, Lars Lindhagen, Yohan Robinson, Håkan Löfgren, Karl Michaëlsson and Claes Olerud

OBJECTIVE

The long-term efficacy of artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery compared with fusion after decompression for the treatment of cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy has not previously been investigated in a population-based setting.

METHODS

All patients with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy who were in the national Swedish Spine Registry (Swespine) beginning in January 1, 2006, were eligible for the study. Follow-up information was obtained up to November 15, 2017. The authors compared, using propensity score matching, patients treated with anterior decompression and insertion of an ADR with patients who underwent anterior decompression combined with fusion surgery. The primary outcome was the Neck Disability Index (NDI), a patient-reported function score ranging from 0% to 100%, with higher scores indicating greater disability and a minimum clinically important difference of > 15%.

RESULTS

A total of 3998 patients (2018:1980 women/men) met the inclusion criteria, of whom 204 had undergone arthroplasty and 3794 had undergone fusion. After propensity score matching, 185 patients with a mean age of 49.7 years remained in each group. Scores on the NDI were approximately halved in both groups after 5 years, but without a significant mean difference in NDI (3.0%; 95% CI −8.4 to 2.4; p = 0.28) between the groups. There were no differences between the groups in EuroQol–5 Dimensions or in pain scores for the neck and arm.

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy, decompression plus ADR surgery did not result in a clinically important difference in outcomes after 5 years, compared with decompression and fusion surgery.

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Markus Engquist, Håkan Löfgren, Birgitta Öberg, Anders Holtz, Anneli Peolsson, Anne Söderlund, Ludek Vavruch and Bengt Lind

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to evaluate the 5- to 8-year outcome of anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) combined with a structured physiotherapy program as compared with that following the same physiotherapy program alone in patients with cervical radiculopathy. No previous prospective randomized studies with a follow-up of more than 2 years have compared outcomes of surgical versus nonsurgical intervention for cervical radiculopathy.

METHODS

Fifty-nine patients were randomized to ACDF surgery with postoperative physiotherapy (30 patients) or to structured physiotherapy alone (29 patients). The physiotherapy program included general and specific exercises as well as pain coping strategies. Outcome measures included neck disability (Neck Disability Index [NDI]), neck and arm pain intensity (visual analog scale [VAS]), health state (EQ-5D questionnaire), and a patient global assessment. Patients were followed up for 5–8 years.

RESULTS

After 5–8 years, the NDI was reduced by a mean score% of 21 (95% CI 14–28) in the surgical group and 11% (95% CI 4%–18%) in the nonsurgical group (p = 0.03). Neck pain was reduced by a mean score of 39 mm (95% CI 26–53 mm) compared with 19 mm (95% CI 7–30 mm; p = 0.01), and arm pain was reduced by a mean score of 33 mm (95% CI 18–49 mm) compared with 19 mm (95% CI 7–32 mm; p = 0.1), respectively. The EQ-5D had a mean respective increase of 0.29 (95% CI 0.13–0.45) compared with 0.14 (95% CI 0.01–0.27; p = 0.12). Ninety-three percent of patients in the surgical group rated their symptoms as “better” or “much better” compared with 62% in the nonsurgical group (p = 0.005). Both treatment groups experienced significant improvement over baseline for all outcome measures.

CONCLUSIONS

In this prospective randomized study of 5- to 8-year outcomes of surgical versus nonsurgical treatment in patients with cervical radiculopathy, ACDF combined with physiotherapy reduced neck disability and neck pain more effectively than physiotherapy alone. Self-rating by patients as regards treatment outcome was also superior in the surgery group. No significant differences were seen between the 2 patient groups as regards arm pain and health outcome.

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Johanna Wibault, Birgitta Öberg, Åsa Dedering, Håkan Löfgren, Peter Zsigmond and Anneli Peolsson

OBJECTIVE

Structured physiotherapy has been suggested as treatment before as well as after surgery to improve clinical outcomes in patients with cervical radiculopathy (CR), but randomized clinical trials to inform evidence-based clinical guidelines for the treatment of patients with CR after surgery are lacking. The aim of this study was to compare the results of structured postoperative physiotherapy combining neck-specific exercises with a behavioral approach to a standard postoperative approach in patients who had undergone surgery for cervical disc disease with CR at 6 months after surgery.

METHODS

Patients with cervical disc disease and persistent CR who were scheduled for surgery were randomized preoperatively to structured postoperative physiotherapy (n = 101) or a standard postoperative approach (n = 100). The latter included pragmatic physiotherapy in accordance with the usual Swedish postoperative care. Outcome measures included patient-reported neck disability as measured with the Neck Disability Index (NDI), intensity and frequency of neck and arm pain, global outcome of treatment, and expectation fulfillment, as well as enablement.

RESULTS

Patients who received structured postoperative physiotherapy reported greater expectation fulfillment (p = 0.01), and those who attended at least 50% of the treatment sessions reported less neck pain frequency (p = 0.05), greater expectation fulfillment (p = 0.001), and greater enablement (p = 0.04) compared with patients who received the standard postoperative approach. No other difference between treatment groups was found (p > 0.15). The NDI and neck and arm pain intensity were improved in both groups at 6 months after surgery (p < 0.001). Additional use of postoperative physiotherapy was reported by 61% of the patients who received the standard postoperative approach.

CONCLUSIONS

The results from this first randomized clinical trial of postoperative physiotherapy showed only minor additional benefit of structured postoperative physiotherapy compared with standard postoperative approach 6 months postoperatively in patients who underwent surgery for cervical disc disease with CR. Patients who received structured postoperative physiotherapy reported higher expectation fulfillment, and many patients in the standard postoperative approach group perceived a need for additional treatments after surgery, suggesting that patients with CR are in need of further postoperative support. The results confirm that neck-specific exercises are tolerated postoperatively by patients with CR, but more studies of postoperative physiotherapy are needed to inform clinical guidelines for this patient group.

Clinical trial registration no.: NCT01547611 (clinicaltrials.gov)

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Anna MacDowall, Martin Skeppholm, Lars Lindhagen, Yohan Robinson, Håkan Löfgren, Karl Michaëlsson and Claes Olerud

OBJECTIVE

The long-term efficacy of artificial disc replacement (ADR) surgery compared with fusion after decompression for the treatment of cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy has not previously been investigated in a population-based setting.

METHODS

All patients with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy who were in the national Swedish Spine Registry (Swespine) beginning in January 1, 2006, were eligible for the study. Follow-up information was obtained up to November 15, 2017. The authors compared, using propensity score matching, patients treated with anterior decompression and insertion of an ADR with patients who underwent anterior decompression combined with fusion surgery. The primary outcome was the Neck Disability Index (NDI), a patient-reported function score ranging from 0% to 100%, with higher scores indicating greater disability and a minimum clinically important difference of > 15%.

RESULTS

A total of 3998 patients (2018:1980 women/men) met the inclusion criteria, of whom 204 had undergone arthroplasty and 3794 had undergone fusion. After propensity score matching, 185 patients with a mean age of 49.7 years remained in each group. Scores on the NDI were approximately halved in both groups after 5 years, but without a significant mean difference in NDI (3.0%; 95% CI −8.4 to 2.4; p = 0.28) between the groups. There were no differences between the groups in EuroQol–5 Dimensions or in pain scores for the neck and arm.

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy, decompression plus ADR surgery did not result in a clinically important difference in outcomes after 5 years, compared with decompression and fusion surgery.

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Anna MacDowall, Nuno Canto Moreira, Catarina Marques, Martin Skeppholm, Lars Lindhagen, Yohan Robinson, Håkan Löfgren, Karl Michaëlsson and Claes Olerud

OBJECTIVE

The method of artificial disc replacement (ADR) has been developed as an alternative treatment to fusion surgery after decompression for cervical degenerative disc disease (DDD) with radiculopathy. Preserving the motion of ADR devices aims to prevent immobilization side effects such as adjacent-segment pathology (ASP). However, long-term follow-up evaluations using MRI are needed to investigate if this intent is achieved.

METHODS

The authors performed a randomized controlled trial with 153 patients (mean age 47 years) undergoing surgery for cervical radiculopathy. Eighty-three patients received an ADR and 70 patients underwent fusion surgery. Outcomes after 5 years were assessed using patient-reported outcome measures using the Neck Disability Index (NDI) score as the primary outcome; motion preservation and heterotopic ossification by radiography; ASP by MRI; and secondary surgical procedures.

RESULTS

Scores on the NDI were approximately halved in both groups: the mean score after 5 years was 36 (95% confidence interval [CI] 31–41) in the ADR group and 32 (95% CI 27–38) in the fusion group (p = 0.48). There were no other significant differences between the groups in six other patient-related outcome measures. Fifty-four percent of the patients in the ADR group preserved motion at the operated cervical level and 25% of the ADRs were spontaneously fused. Seventeen ADR patients (21%) and 7 fusion patients (10%) underwent secondary surgery (p = 0.11), with 5 patients in each group due to clinical ASP.

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with cervical DDD and radiculopathy decompression as well as ADR, surgery did not result in better clinical or radiological outcomes after 5 years compared with decompression and fusion surgery.

Clinical trial registration no.: 44347115 (ISRCTN).