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Long-term outcome of laminectomy for cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament.

OBJECT: Although laminectomy is an effective surgical technique for the treatment of multilevel cervical stenotic lesions, postoperative kyphosis and neurological deterioration have been frequently reported after laminectomy. Hence, laminectomy without fusion is seldom performed nowadays. However, the clinical impression from the long-term follow-up of patients who had undergone laminectomy does not support that postoperative kyphosis is common in patients with ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL). In this paper, the authors assessed the long-term outcome of laminectomy for cervical OPLL in terms of the changes in the cervical curvature and in the neurological status.

METHODS: The authors retrospectively reviewed medical records and radiological images in patients who had undergone cervical laminectomy between 1999 and 2009. The preoperative and the final follow-up status recovery rate were assessed using the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scale. The cervical global angle and range of motion (ROM) were measured preoperatively and at the last follow-up. The cervical spine was classified into 3 types: lordotic, straight, and kyphotic.

RESULTS: A total of 34 patients were available for medical record review and telephone interviews. There were 28 men and 6 women, whose mean age at the time of surgery was 57.8 years. The mean follow-up period was 57.5 months. The mean preoperative JOA score was 10.7, and the JOA score at the last follow-up was significantly improved to 14.3 (p < 0.001) with a recovery rate of 56.3%. The JOA score at each postoperative follow-up point increased until 6 years postoperatively; thereafter, it gradually decreased. The mean preoperative global angle was -11.3° and the most recent global angle was -8.4°. The preoperative ROM was 33.9° and the most recent ROM was 27.4°. There was no statistical significance in the change of cervical curvature or ROM. Preoperatively, 29 of the 34 patients had a lordotic cervical curvature and 5 patients had a straight spine. At last follow-up, 24 patients had a lordotic curvature, 3 patients changed from lordosis to kyphosis, and 7 patients had a straight spine. One patient whose cervical curvature changed from lordosis to kyphosis during the follow-up period underwent cervical fusion 9 years after the laminectomy procedure.

CONCLUSIONS: The long-term outcome of laminectomy for cervical OPLL is satisfactory in terms of the clinical and radiological aspects. The risk of postlaminectomy kyphosis was not high, raising the possibility that the OPLL itself may serve as a support for the spinal column.

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