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John D. French and Paul C. Bucy

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Cara L. Sedney, Scott D. Daffner, Jared J. Stefanko, Hesham Abdelfattah, Sanford E. Emery and John C. France

OBJECT

As spinal fusions become more common and more complex, so do the sequelae of these procedures, some of which remain poorly understood. The authors report on a series of patients who underwent removal of hardware after CT-proven solid fusion, confirmed by intraoperative findings. These patients later developed a spontaneous fracture of the fusion mass that was not associated with trauma. A series of such patients has not previously been described in the literature.

METHODS

An unfunded, retrospective review of the surgical logs of 3 fellowship-trained spine surgeons yielded 7 patients who suffered a fracture of a fusion mass after hardware removal. Adult patients from the West Virginia University Department of Orthopaedics who underwent hardware removal in the setting of adjacent-segment disease (ASD), and subsequently experienced fracture of the fusion mass through the uninstrumented segment, were studied. The medical records and radiological studies of these patients were examined for patient demographics and comorbidities, initial indication for surgery, total number of surgeries, timeline of fracture occurrence, risk factors for fracture, as well as sagittal imbalance.

RESULTS

All 7 patients underwent hardware removal in conjunction with an extension of fusion for ASD. All had CT-proven solid fusion of their previously fused segments, which was confirmed intraoperatively. All patients had previously undergone multiple operations for a variety of indications, 4 patients were smokers, and 3 patients had osteoporosis. Spontaneous fracture of the fusion mass occurred in all patients and was not due to trauma. These fractures occurred 4 months to 4 years after hardware removal. All patients had significant sagittal imbalance of 13–15 cm. The fracture level was L-5 in 6 of the 7 patients, which was the first uninstrumented level caudal to the newly placed hardware in all 6 of these patients. Six patients underwent surgery due to this fracture.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors present a case series of 7 patients who underwent surgery for ASD after a remote fusion. These patients later developed a fracture of the fusion mass after hardware removal from their previously successfully fused segment. All patients had a high sagittal imbalance and had previously undergone multiple spinal operations. The development of a spontaneous fracture of the fusion mass may be related to sagittal imbalance. Consideration should be given to reimplanting hardware for these patients, even across good fusions, to prevent spontaneous fracture of these areas if the sagittal imbalance is not corrected.

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Christopher S. Bailey, Marcel F. Dvorak, Kenneth C. Thomas, Michael C. Boyd, Scott Paquett, Brian K. Kwon, John France, Kevin R. Gurr, Stewart I. Bailey and Charles G. Fisher

Object

The authors compared the outcome of patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures treated with and without a thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO).

Methods

As of June 2002, all consecutive patients satisfying the following inclusion criteria were considered eligible for this study: 1) the presence of an AO Classification Type A3 burst fractures between T-11 and L-3, 2) skeletal maturity and age < 60 years, 3) admission within 72 hours of injury, 4) initial kyphotic deformity < 35°, and 5) no neurological deficit. The study was designed as a multicenter prospective randomized clinical equivalence trial. The primary outcome measure was the score based on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire assessed at 3 months postinjury. Secondary outcomes are assessed until 2 years of follow-up have been reached, and these domains included pain, functional outcome and generic health-related quality of life, sagittal alignment, length of hospital stay, and complications. Patients in whom no orthotic was used were encouraged to ambulate immediately following randomization, maintaining “neutral spinal alignment” for 8 weeks. The patients in the TLSO group began being weaned from the brace at 8 weeks over a 2-week period.

Results

Sixty-nine patients were followed to the primary outcome time point, and 47 were followed for up to 1 year. No significant difference was found between treatment groups for any outcome measure at any stage in the follow-up period. There were 4 failures requiring surgical intervention, 3 in the TLSO group and 1 in the non-TLSO group.

Conclusions

This interim analysis found equivalence between treatment with a TLSO and no orthosis for thoracolumbar AO Type A3 burst fractures. The influence of a brace on early pain control and function and on long-term 1- and 2-year outcomes remains to be determined. However, the authors contend that a thoracolumbar burst fracture, in exclusion of an associated posterior ligamentous complex injury, is inherently a very stable injury and may not require a brace.