Despite the significant incidence of rod fractures (RFs) following long-segment corrective fusion surgery, little is known about the optimal treatment strategy. The objectives of this study were to investigate the time course of clinical symptoms and treatments in patients with RFs following adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery and to establish treatment recommendations.
This study was a retrospective case series of patients with RFs whose data were retrieved from a prospectively collected single-center database. The authors reviewed the cases of 304 patients (mean age 62.9 years) who underwent ASD surgery. Primary symptoms, time course of symptoms, and treatments were investigated by reviewing medical records. Standing whole-spine radiographs obtained before and after RF development and at last follow-up were evaluated. Osseous union was assessed using CT scans and intraoperative findings.
There were 54 RFs in 53 patients (mean age 68.5 years [range 41–84 years]) occurring at a mean of 21 months (range 6–47 months) after surgery. In 1 patient RF occurred twice, with each case at a different time and level, and the symptoms and treatments for these 2 RFs were analyzed separately (1 case of revision surgery and 1 case of nonoperative treatment). The overall rate of RF observed on radiographs after a minimum follow-up of 1 year was 18.0% (54 of 300 cases). The clinical symptoms at the time of RF were pain in 77.8% (42 of 54 cases) and no onset of new symptoms in 20.5% (11 of 54 cases). The pain was temporary and had subsided in 19 of 42 cases (45%) within 2 weeks. In 36 of the 54 cases (66.7%) (including the first RF in the patient with 2 RFs), patients underwent revision surgery at a mean of 116 days (range 5–888 days) after diagnosis. In 18 cases patients received only nonoperative treatment as of the last follow-up, including 17 cases in which the patients experienced no pain and no remarkable progression of deformity (mean 18.5 months after RF development).
This analysis of 54 RFs in 53 patients following corrective fusion surgery for ASD demonstrates a relationship between symptoms and alignment change. Revision surgeries were performed in a total of 36 cases. Nonoperative care was offered in 18 (33.3%) of 54 cases at the last follow-up, with no additional symptoms in 17 of the 18 cases. These data offer useful information regarding informed decision making for patients in whom an RF occurs after ASD surgery.