Proximal junctional kyphosis and clinical outcomes in adult spinal deformity surgery with fusion from the thoracic spine to the sacrum: a comparison of proximal and distal upper instrumented vertebrae

Yoon Ha, Keishi Maruo, Linda Racine, William W Schairer, Serena S Hu, Vedat Deviren, Shane Burch, Bobby Tay, Dean Chou, Praveen V Mummaneni, Christopher P Ames, Sigurd H Berven
Journal of Neurosurgery. Spine 2013, 19 (3): 360-9

OBJECT: Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) is a common and significant complication after corrective spinal deformity surgery. The object of this study was to compare-based on clinical outcomes, postoperative proximal junctional kyphosis rates, and prevalence of revision surgery-proximal thoracic (PT) and distal thoracic (DT) upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) in adults who underwent spine fusion to the sacrum for the treatment of spinal deformity.

METHODS: In this retrospective study the authors evaluated clinical and radiographic data from consecutive adults (age > 21 years) with a deformity treated using long instrumented posterior spinal fusion to the sacrum in the period from 2007 to 2009. The PT group included patients in whom the UIV was between T-2 and T-5, whereas the DT group included patients in whom the UIV level was between T-9 and L-1. Perioperative surgical data were compared between the PT and DT groups. Additionally, segmental, regional, and global spinal alignments, as well as the sagittal Cobb angle at the proximal junction, were analyzed on preoperative, early postoperative, and final standing 36-in. radiographs. Patient-reported outcome measurements (visual analog scale, Scoliosis Research Society Patient Questionnaire-22, Oswestry Disability Index, and the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey) were compared.

RESULTS: Eighty-nine patients, 22 males and 67 females, had a minimum follow-up of 2 years, and thus were eligible for participation in this study. Sixty-seven patients were in the DT group and 22 were in the PT group. Operative time (p = 0.387) and estimated blood loss (p < 0.05) were slightly higher in the PT group. The overall rate of revision surgery was 48.0% and 54.5% in the DT and PT groups, respectively (p = 0.629). The prevalence of PJK according to radiological criteria was 34% in the DT group and 27% in the PT group (p = 0.609). The percent of patients with PJK that required surgical correction (surgical PJK) was 11.9% (8 of 67) in the DT group and 9.1% (2 of 22) in the PT group (p = 1.0). The onset of surgical PJK was significantly earlier than radiological PJK in the DT group (p < 0.01). The types of PJK were different in the PT and DT groups. Compression fracture at the UIV was more prevalent in the DT group, whereas subluxation was more prevalent in the PT group. Postoperatively, the PT group had less thoracic kyphosis (p = 0.02), less sagittal imbalance (p < 0.01), and less pelvic tilt (p = 0.04). In the DT group, early postoperative radiographs demonstrated that the proximal junctional angle of patients with surgical PJK was greater than in those without PJK and those with radiological PJK (p < 0.01). Clinical outcomes were significantly improved in both groups, and there was no significant difference between the groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Both PT and DT UIVs improve segmental and global sagittal plane alignment as well as patient-reported quality of life in those treated for adult spinal deformity. The prevalence of PJK was not different in the PT and DT groups. However, compression fracture was the mechanism more frequently observed with DT PJK, and subluxation was the mechanism more frequently observed in PT PJK. Strategies to avoid PJK may include vertebral augmentation to prevent fracture at the DT spine and mechanical means to prevent vertebral subluxation at the PT spine.

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