Diagnostic accuracy of CT scan–based criteria compared with surgical exploration for the analysis of cervical fusion and nonunion

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OBJECTIVE

Computed tomography (CT) scans are accepted as the imaging standard of reference to define union after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). However, ideal CT criteria to diagnose union have not been identified or validated. The objective of this study was to analyze the diagnostic value of 9 CT-based criteria and identify the ideal criteria among them to assess cervical fusion after ACDF using surgical exploration as the standard of reference.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective radiographic study of a single surgeon’s prospective assessment of osseous fusion during cervical revision surgery by analyzing complete radiographic data in 44 patients who underwent anterior cervical revision surgery due to symptomatic suspected nonunion or adjacent level disease. All patients received standard preoperative CT scans, which were assessed by an independent radiologist to evaluate 9 diagnostic criteria for osseous union. During revision surgery, scar tissue was removed and manual segmental translation tests were performed. Nonunion was defined by visualized motion at the treated ACDF level.

RESULTS

In total, 44 patients were included in the study (30 men; patient age 54 ± 6 years, BMI 28 ± 5 kg/m2). For analysis of fusion, 75 cervical levels were explored, of which 61 levels (81%) showed intraoperative movement indicating nonunion. Statistical analysis showed that of the 9 parameters used to diagnose bone union, “bridging bone on ≥ 3 CT slices” yielded the highest sensitivity (100%) and specificity (58%). Multivariate analysis revealed that prediction accuracy was not increased if several criteria were combined to determine fusion.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that the best indicator of bone union was the item bridging bone on ≥ 3 CT slices. Combining the scoring of more than one criterion did not increase the diagnostic accuracy.

ABBREVIATIONS ACDF = anterior cervical discectomy and fusion; AP = anteroposterior; CR = computed radiography; NPV = negative predictive value; PMMA = polymethylmethacrylate; PPV = positive predictive value; ROM = range of motion.
Article Information

Contributor Notes

Correspondence Martine W. T. van Bilsen: Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. martine.vanbilsen@radboudumc.nl.INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online March 6, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2019.12.SPINE191011.Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.
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