Object. A variety of factors may affect surgery-related outcome in patients with ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) of the thoracic spine. The aim of this study was to determine these factors on the basis of preoperative clinical and radiological findings.
Methods. The authors treated 31 cases of symptomatic thoracic OLF between 1988 and 1999. The following factors were retrospectively studied: patient age, sex, morbidity level, initial symptoms, chief complaint, duration of symptoms, patellar reflex, Achilles reflex, computerized tomography (CT) finding, presence of intramedullary change determined by magnetic resonance imaging, coexistent spinal lesions, preoperative grade, and postoperative grade.
A decompressive laminectomy was performed in all cases. In 29 patients (94%) improved symptoms were demonstrated postoperatively. In terms of functional prognosis, the preoperative duration of symptoms was significantly shorter in the group of patients with excellent outcomes than in those with fair outcomes (p < 0.05).
No significant difference was observed in the correlation between other factors. To evaluate the degree of preoperative thoracic stenosis and the severity/extent of OLF-induced spinal compression, we used an original OLF CT scoring system. A score of excellent on the CT scale tended to indicate an excellent prognosis (p < 0.01).
Conclusions. Thoracic OLF frequently develops in the lower-thoracic spine in middle-aged men, and it is complicated by various spinal lesions in many cases. Early diagnosis and treatment are important for understanding the clinical symptoms and imaging diagnosis because the present findings suggest that a delay in diagnosis and treatment correlates with the functional prognosis postoperatively.