Ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) is a pathological condition that affects the ligament and causes slowly progressive myeloradiculopathy in adults. Although OLF has been regarded as endemic to East Asian countries, studies from outside these areas have increasingly been reported. Because of long-standing compression of the spinal cord by OLF, a patient’s functional prognosis may not always be favorable, and attempts have been made in recent studies to identify clinical factors that are predictive of the surgical outcome of patients with thoracic OLF.
The authors conducted a review of the literature published in the English, Japanese, and Korean languages. They examined studies in which correlation between clinical factors and outcome was statistically evaluated. The clinical factors included sex, age, level of the ossified ligamentum flavum, number of segments affected by OLF, coexisting ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) or other spinal disorders, preoperative duration of symptoms, preoperative neurological score, computed tomography (CT)–based classification, and the presence of intramedullary high signal intensity on T2-weighted magnetic resonance images.
The clinical factors that are unlikely to be predictive of outcome include sex, age, level of the ossified lesion, number of OLF-affected segments, coexisting OPLL, CT classification, and the presence of high signal intensity. It is unclear whether the preoperative duration of symptoms or neurological score is predictive of outcome because the results have been inconsistent among the studies. Analysis of the more recent literature, however, suggests that these two factors are predictive of outcome. The use of a neurological score should be standardized so that compilation and comparison of data can be facilitated.
Abbreviations used in this paper:CT = computed tomography; JOA = Japanese Orthopaedic Association; MR = magnetic resonance; mRS = modified Rankin Scale; OLF = ossification of the ligamentum flavum; OPLL = ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament.
Address reprint requests to: Joji Inamasu, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of South Florida College of Medicine, HMT Suite 730, 4 Columbia Drive, Tampa, Florida 33606. email:
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