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Jan-Karl Burkhardt, Anne F. Mannion, Serge Marbacher, Patrick A. Dolp, Tamas F. Fekete, Dezsö Jeszenszky and François Porchet

Object

Both anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF) and anterior cervical corpectomy with fusion (ACCF) are used to treat cervical spondylotic myelopathy; however, there is currently no evidence for the superiority of one over the other in terms of patient-rated outcomes. This comparative effectiveness study compared the patient-rated and radiographic outcomes of 2-level ACDF versus 1-level ACCF.

Methods

This single-center study was nested within the EuroSpine Spine Tango data acquisition system. Inclusion criteria were the following: consecutive patients presenting with signs of cervical spondylotic myelopathy who underwent 2-level ACDF or 1-level ACCF between 2004 and 2011. Before and 12 months after surgery, patients completed the multidimensional Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI) and also rated global treatment outcome and satisfaction with care on 5-point Likert scales. Cervical lordosis, segmental height, and fusion rate were assessed radiographically before and immediately after surgery and at the last follow-up (20.4 ± 13.7 months, mean ± SD).

Results

In total, 118 consecutive patients (80 in the ACDF group and 38 in the ACCF group) were included. Age, sex, comorbidity, baseline symptoms, baseline radiographic data, operation duration, and complication rates did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. Blood loss was significantly (p < 0.04) lower in the ACDF group. Postoperative mean segmental height was significantly (p = 0.0006) greater for ACDF (42.0 ± 4.2 mm, mean ± SD) than for ACCF (39.0 ± 4.0 mm), and global average lordosis improved to a significantly (p = 0.003) greater extent in ACDF (by 1.6° ± 4.1°) than in ACCF (by −1.0° ± 4.0°). Fusion rates for ACDF were 97.5% and for ACCF were 94.7% (p = 0.59). The 12-month patient-rated outcomes did not differ significantly between ACDF and ACCF: 82.4% and 68.6% had a good global outcome (operation helped/helped a lot) (p = 0.10), 86.5% and 82.9% were satisfied/very satisfied with care (p = 0.62), and the reduction in the multidimensional COMI was 2.8 ± 2.7 and 2.2 ± 3 points (p = 0.30), respectively. The postoperative increase in lordosis angle showed low but significant correlations with the improvement in arm pain (r = 0.25, p = 0.014), highest pain (r = 0.25, p = 0.013), and function (r = 0.24, p = 0.016).

Conclusions

Both ACDF and ACCF are safe and effective in the treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy, indicated by similarly good patient-rated outcomes 1 year after surgery. This precludes any conclusions regarding the superiority of one technique over the other, although it should be noted that ACDF resulted in less blood loss and greater improvements in cervical lordosis and segmental height than ACCF. Patients with improved lordosis angle had a better clinical outcome.

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Ulrike Held, Johann Steurer, Giuseppe Pichierri, Maria M. Wertli, Mazda Farshad, Florian Brunner, Roman Guggenberger, François Porchet, Tamás F. Fekete, Urs D. Schmid, Isaac Gravestock and Jakob M. Burgstaller

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to obtain an unbiased causal treatment estimate of the between-group difference of surgery versus nonoperative treatment with respect to outcomes on quality of life, pain, and disability in patients with degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (DLSS) 12 months after baseline.

METHODS

The authors included DLSS patients from a large prospective multicenter observational cohort study. Propensity score matching was used, including 15 demographic, clinical, and MRI variables. Linear and logistic mixed-effects regression models were applied to quantify the between-group treatment effect. Unmeasured confounding was addressed in a sensitivity analysis, assessing the robustness of the results.

RESULTS

A total of 408 patients were included in this study, 222 patients after matching, with 111 in each treatment group. Patients with nonoperative treatment had lower quality of life at the 12-month follow-up (−6.21 points, 95% CI −9.93 to −2.49) as well as lower chances of reaching a minimal clinically important difference in Spinal Stenosis Measure (SSM) symptoms (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.53) and SSM function (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.49), than patients undergoing surgery. These results were very robust in case of unmeasured confounding. The surgical complication rate was low; 5 (4.5%) patients experienced a durotomy during intervention, and 5 (4.5%) patients underwent re-decompression.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors used propensity score matching to assess the difference in treatment efficacy of surgery compared with nonoperative treatment in elderly patients with DLSS. This study delivers strong evidence that surgical treatment is superior to nonoperative treatment. It helps in clinical decision-making, especially when patients suffer for a long time, sometimes over many years, hoping for a spontaneous improvement of their symptoms. In light of these new results, the number of years with disability can hopefully be reduced by providing adequate treatment at the right time for this ever-growing elderly and frail population.