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Long-term follow-up of cervical radiographic sagittal spinal alignment after 1- and 2-level cervical corpectomy for the treatment of spondylosis of the subaxial cervical spine causing radiculomyelopathy or myelopathy: a retrospective study.

OBJECT: Few data exist regarding long-term outcomes after cervical corpectomy for spondylotic cervical myelopathy and radiculomyelopathy. In this retrospective review, long-term radiographic outcomes are reported for 130 patients after 1- or 2-level cervical corpectomy for spondylotic myelopathy or radiculomyelopathy.

METHODS: Electronic medical records including clinical data and radiographic images during a 15-year period (1993-2008) were reviewed at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. All patients underwent radiographic follow-up for at least 12 months (range 12-156, mean 45 ± 39.3 months), as well as clinical follow-up performed by neurosurgery staff for a mean of 29.3 ± 39.6 months (range 4-156 months). Clinical parameters at surgery and last examination included the Chiles modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) Myelopathy Scale. Measurements included cervical spine sagittal alignment on lateral radiographs preoperatively and postoperatively, focal Cobb angles at operated levels, and C2-7 regional alignment. Statistical analysis included the Student t-test and chi-square test. Perioperative complications and additional surgery in the cervical spine were recorded.

RESULTS: The mJOA scores improved from a mean of 11.91 ± 2.4 preoperatively to 14.9 ± 2.33 postoperatively. The mean sagittal lordosis of the C2-7 spine increased from -16.2° ± 9.2° preoperatively to -18.5° ± 11.9° at last follow-up. Focal Cobb angles averaged a slight kyphotic angulation of 4.1° ± 2.3° at latest radiographic follow-up; of note, 7 patients (5.4%), all who had cylindrical titanium mesh cages (CTMCs), showed severe kyphotic angulation (+8.4° ± 2.4°). Patients with preoperative myelopathy showed clinical improvement at follow-up. The fusion rate was 96.2%; 3 of the 5 patients with radiographic evidence of nonfusion were smokers. Patients with postoperative kyphosis had significantly more chronic neck pain (visual analog scale score >4 lasting more than 6 months) and visits related to pain (p <0.01). Those with CTMCs had higher rates of postoperative kyphosis, chronic neck pain, and visits related to pain, irrespective of the number of levels fused (p <001). At latest follow-up, although a kyphotic increase occurred in the focal cervical sagittal Cobb angles, lordosis increased in C2-7 sagittal Gore angles. Two patients (1.5%) underwent revision of the implanted graft and/or hardware, and 5 patients (3.8%) had another procedure for adjacent-level pathologies 1-9 years later (mean 4.4 ± 2.7 years).

CONCLUSIONS: Long-term follow-up data in our veteran population support cervical corpectomy as an effective, long-lasting treatment for spondylotic myelopathy of the cervical spine. Use of CTMCs without end caps was associated with statistically significant increased postoperative kyphotic angulation and chronic pain. Despite an increase in focal kyphosis over time, regional cervical sagittal lordotic alignment had increased at the latest follow-up. Further investigation will include the association of chronic neck pain and postoperative kyphosis, and high fusion rates among a veteran population of heavy smokers.

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