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Thoracolumbar injury classification and severity score: a new paradigm for the treatment of thoracolumbar spine trauma.

BACKGROUND: Contemporary understanding of the biomechanics, natural history, and methods of treating thoracolumbar spine injuries continues to evolve. Current classification schemes of these injuries, however, can be either too simplified or overly complex for clinical use.

METHODS: The Spine Trauma Group was given a survey to identify similarities in treatment algorithms for common thoracolumbar injuries, as well as to identify characteristics of injury that played a key role in the decision-making process.

RESULTS: Based on the survey, the Spine Trauma Group has developed a classification system and an injury severity score (thoracolumbar injury classification and severity score, or TLICS), which may facilitate communication between physicians and serve as a guideline for treating these injuries. The classification system is based on the morphology of the injury, integrity of the posterior ligamentous complex, and neurological status of the patient. Points are assigned for each category, and the final total points suggest a possible treatment option.

CONCLUSIONS: The usefulness of this new system will have to be proven in future studies investigating inter- and intraobserver reliability, as well as long-term outcome studies for operative and nonoperative treatment methods.

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