JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Results of surgical treatment for thoracic myelopathy: minimum 2-year follow-up study in 132 patients.

OBJECT: Thoracic myelopathy is uncommon compared with cervical myelopathy. In this study, data obtained in patients with thoracic myelopathy caused by degenerative processes of the spine were retrospectively analyzed to clarify the surgical outcomes and to examine the various factors affecting the postoperative improvement.

METHODS: Between 1988 and 2002, 132 patients with thoracic myelopathy underwent surgery and a minimum 2-year observation period. Clinical data were collected from medical and operative records, and sagittal alignment of the spine was measured on radiographs. The patients were evaluated pre- and postoperatively using the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scale (maximum score 11). The relationships among various factors affecting the preoperative severity of myelopathy and postoperative improvement were also examined.

RESULTS: The population consisted of 97 men (mean age at surgery was 58 years) and 35 women (mean age at surgery 62 years). Myelopathy was caused by ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) in 73 patients, ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) in 21, combined OLF-OPLL in 10, intervertebral disc herniation (IDH) in 15, posterior bone spur in 11, and OLF with IDH or posterior bone spur in one patient each. The surgical outcome was relatively good: a mean preoperative JOA score of 5.3 improved to a mean score of 7.8 at the last follow-up, 50 months on average after surgery. Thoracic myelopathy caused by OPLL, however, was associated with lower postoperative scores and recovery rates. In more than half of the patients the authors documented an increase of kyphosis of less than 2 degrees.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with a shorter preoperative duration of symptoms and milder myelopathy experienced significantly better postoperative neurological conditions, which indicated that those who present earlier with fewer disabilities should be recommended to undergo surgery in time, although the surgical treatment for OPLL still involves many problems.

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