Certain cervical spinal conditions require decompression and reconstruction of the entire subaxial cervical spine. There are limited data concerning the clinical details and outcomes of patients treated in this manner. The object of this study was to describe the specific technique employed to perform a total subaxial reconstruction and review the postoperative outcomes following surgery.
The author performed a review of data prospectively collected in 27 consecutive patients undergoing complete anterior decompression and reconstruction of the anterior cervical spine and followed by posterior instrumented arthrodesis with or without decompression.
There were 16 men and 11 women whose mean age was 59 years (range 35–86 years). The minimum follow-up was 12 months and the mean follow-up period for all patients was 26 months. One patient underwent C2–7 surgery, and in all others the procedure crossed the cervicothoracic junction.
Following surgery patients remained intubated for an average of 3.3 days (range 1–22 days). The mean hospital length of stay was 11 days (range 3–45 days). One patient died 6 weeks following an uneventful surgery. Pneumonia developed in 5 patients, 1 patient experienced a minor pulmonary embolism, and 2 patients had posterior wound infections. No patient was neurologically worse following surgery. A single patient presented with a C-8 radiculopathy 6 weeks after surgery. At final follow-up no patient complained of dysphagia when specifically questioned about this potential problem. In all patients solid fusions developed at each treated levels. Preoperatively the mean sagittal Cobb angle was 15.4° (kyphosis) and the postoperative mean angle was −10.9° (lordosis) representing a total average correction of over 25° (p < 0.0001). The mean preoperative Neck Disability Index was 27.6; this score decreased to 15.5 (p = 0.0008) postoperatively. The mean pre- and postoperative visual analog scale neck pain scores were 6.0 and 2.1, respectively (p = 0.0004), and mean visual analog scale arm pain scores decreased by 3.7 following surgery (p = 0.001). Based on Odom criteria, the author found that 8 patients had an excellent outcome and 14 patients a good outcome. There were 4 patients in whom the outcome was judged to be fair and the single death was recorded as a poor outcome. The mean preoperative Nurick score was 2.68. Postoperatively the group improved to an average score of 1.5; the difference between the 2 was statistically significant (p = 0.002).
Segmental anterior decompression and reconstruction of the entire subaxial cervical spine, combined with an instrumented posterolateral fusion, can be performed with acceptable morbidity and is of significant benefit in selected patients.