Methodology for the systematic reviews on an adjacent segment pathology

Daniel C Norvell, Joseph R Dettori, Andrea C Skelly, K Daniel Riew, Jens R Chapman, Paul A Anderson
Spine 2012 October 15, 37 (22): S10-7

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review.

OBJECTIVE: To provide a detailed description of the methods undertaken in the systematic search and analytical summary of adjacent segment pathology (ASP) issues and to describe the process used to develop consensus statements and clinical recommendations regarding factors associated with the prevention and treatment of ASP.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: We present methods used in conducting the systematic, evidence-based reviews and development of expert panel consensus statements and clinical recommendations on the classification, natural history, risk factors, and treatment of radiographical and clinical ASP. Our intent is that clinicians will combine the information from these reviews with an understanding of their own capacities and experience to better manage patients at risk of ASP and consider future research for the prevention and treatment of ASP.

METHODS: A systematic search and critical review of the English-language literature was undertaken for articles published on the classification, risk, risk factors, and treatment of radiographical and clinical ASP. Articles were screened for relevance using a priori criteria, and relevant articles were critically reviewed. Whether an article was included for review depended on whether the study question was descriptive, one of therapy, or one of prognosis. The strength of evidence for the overall body of literature in each topic area was determined by 2 independent reviewers considering risk of bias, consistency, directness, and precision of results using a modification of the Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Findings from articles meeting inclusion criteria were summarized. From these summaries, consensus statements or clinical recommendations were formulated among subject experts through a modified Delphi process using the GRADE approach.

RESULTS: A total of 3382 articles were identified and screened on 14 topics relating to the classification, risks, risk factors, and treatment of radiographical and clinical ASP. Of these, 127 met our predetermined inclusion criteria and were used to answer specific clinical questions within each topic. Lack of precision in the terminology related to adjacent segment disease and critical evaluation of definitions used across included articles led to a consensus to use ASP and suggest it as a standard. No validated comprehensive classification system for ASP currently exists. The expert panel developed a consensus definition of radiographical and clinical ASP (RASP and CASP). Some of the highlights from the analyses included the annual, 5- and 10-year risks of developing cervical and lumbar ASP after surgery, several important risk factors associated with the development of cervical and lumbar ASP, and the possibility that some motion sparing procedures may be associated with a lower risk of ASP compared with fusion despite kinematic studies demonstrating similar adjacent segment mobility following these procedures. Other highlights included a high risk of proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) following long fusions for deformity correction, postsurgical malalignment as a potential risk factor for RASP and the paucity of studies on treatment of cervical and lumbar ASP.

CONCLUSION: Systematic reviews were undertaken to understand the classification, risks, risk factors, and treatment of RASP and CASP and to provide consensus statements and clinical recommendations. This article reports the methods used in the reviews.

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