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Marko Jug, Nataša Kejžar, Matej Cimerman and Fajko F. Bajrović


The objective of this prospective study was to determine the optimal timing for surgical decompression (SD) in patients with acute traumatic cervical spinal cord injury (tSCI) within the first 24 hours of injury.


In successive patients with fracture and/or dislocation of the subaxial cervical spine and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grades A–C, receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was used to determine the optimal timing for SD within the first 24 hours of cervical tSCI to obtain a neurological recovery of at least two AIS grades. Multivariate logistic regression was used to model significant neurological recovery with time to SD, degree of spinal canal compromise (SCC), and severity of injury.


In this cohort of 64 patients, the optimal timing for SD to obtain a significant neurological improvement was within 4 hours of injury (95% confidence interval 4–9 hours). Increasing the delay from injury to SD or the degree of SCC significantly reduced the likelihood of significant neurological improvement. Due to the strong correlation with SCC, the severity of injury was a marginally significant predictor of neurological recovery.


These findings indicate that in patients with acute cervical tSCI and AIS grades A–C, the optimal timing for SD is within the first 4–9 hours of injury, depending on the degree of SCC and the severity of injury. Further studies are required to better understand the interrelationships among the timing of SD, injury severity, and degree of SCC in these patients.