GUIDELINE
JOURNAL ARTICLE
SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
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Congress of Neurological Surgeons Systematic Review and Evidence-Based Guidelines on the Evaluation and Treatment of Patients With Thoracolumbar Spine Trauma: Nonoperative Care.

Neurosurgery 2019 January 2
BACKGROUND: Thoracic and lumbar burst fractures in neurologically intact patients are considered to be inherently stable, and responsive to nonsurgical management. There is a lack of consensus regarding the optimal conservative treatment modality. The question remains whether external bracing is necessary vs mobilization without a brace after these injuries.

OBJECTIVE: To determine if the use of external bracing improves outcomes compared to no brace for neurologically intact patients with thoracic or lumbar burst fractures.

METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was performed using the National Library of Medicine PubMed database and the Cochrane Library for studies relevant to thoracolumbar trauma. Clinical studies specifically comparing external bracing to no brace for neurologically intact patients with thoracic or lumbar burst fractures were selected for review.

RESULTS: Three studies out of 1137 met inclusion criteria for review. One randomized controlled trial (level I) and an additional randomized controlled pilot study (level II) provided evidence that both external bracing and no brace equally improve pain and disability in neurologically intact patients with burst fractures. There was no difference in final clinical and radiographic outcomes between patients treated with an external brace vs no brace. One additional level IV retrospective study demonstrated equivalent clinical outcomes for external bracing vs no brace.

CONCLUSION: This evidence-based guideline provides a grade B recommendation that management either with or without an external brace is an option given equivalent improvement in outcomes for neurologically intact patients with thoracic and lumbar burst fractures. The decision to use an external brace is at the discretion of the treating physician, as bracing is not associated with increased adverse events compared to no brace.

QUESTION: Does the use of external bracing improve outcomes in the nonoperative treatment of neurologically intact patients with thoracic and lumbar burst fractures?

RECOMMENDATION: The decision to use an external brace is at the discretion of the treating physician, as the nonoperative management of neurologically intact patients with thoracic and lumbar burst fractures either with or without an external brace produces equivalent improvement in outcomes. Bracing is not associated with increased adverse events compared to not bracing. Strength of Recommendation: Grade B The full version of the guideline can be reviewed at: https://www.cns.org/guideline-chapters/congress-neurological-surgeons-systematic-review-evidence-based-guidelines/chapter_8.

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