Adjacent-level disc degeneration following cervical fusion has been well reported. This condition poses a major treatment dilemma when it becomes symptomatic. The potential application of cervical arthroplasty to preserve motion in the affected segment is not well documented, with few studies in the literature. The authors present their initial experience of analyzing clinical and radiological results in such patients who were treated with arthroplasty for new or persistent arm and/or neck symptoms related to neural compression due to adjacent-segment disease after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).
During a 5-year period, 11 patients who had undergone ACDF anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and subsequently developed recurrent neck or arm pain related to adjacent-level cervical disc disease were treated with cervical arthroplasty at the authors' institution. A total of 15 devices were implanted (range of treated levels per patient: 1–3).
Clinical evaluation was performed both before and after surgery, using a visual analog scale (VAS) for pain and the Neck Disability Index (NDI). Radiological outcomes were analyzed using pre- and postoperative flexion/extension lateral radiographs measuring Cobb angle (overall C2–7 sagittal alignment), functional spinal unit (FSU) angle, and range of motion (ROM).
There were no major perioperative complications or device-related failures. Statistically significant results, obtained in all cases, were reflected by an improvement in VAS scores for neck/arm pain and NDI scores for neck pain. Radiologically, statistically significant increases in the overall lordosis (as measured by Cobb angle) and ROM at the treated disc level were observed. Three patients were lost to follow-up within the first year after arthroplasty. In the remaining 8 cases, the duration of follow-up ranged from 1 to 3 years. None of these 8 patients required surgery for the same vertebral level during the follow-up period.
Artificial cervical disc replacement in patients who have previously undergone cervical fusion surgery appears to be safe, with encouraging early clinical results based on this small case series, but more data from larger numbers of patients with long-term follow-up are needed. Arthroplasty may provide an additional tool for the management of post-fusion adjacent-level cervical disc disease in carefully selected patients.