Instrumentation techniques to prevent proximal junctional kyphosis and proximal junctional failure in adult spinal deformity correction - a systematic review of biomechanical studies

Remco J P Doodkorte, Timon F G Vercoulen, Alex K Roth, Rob A de Bie, Paul C Willems
Spine Journal: Official Journal of the North American Spine Society 2021 January 19

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Correction of adult spinal deformity (ASD) by long segment instrumented spinal fusion is an increasingly common surgical intervention. However, it is associated with high rates of complications and revision surgery, especially in the elderly patient population. The high construct stiffness of instrumented thoracolumbar spinal fusion has been postulated to lead to a higher incidence of proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) and failure (PJF). Several cadaveric biomechanical studies have reported on surgical techniques to reduce the incidence of PJF/PJK. As yet, no overview has been made of these biomechanical studies.

PURPOSE: To summarize the evidence of all biomechanical studies that have assessed techniques to reduce PJK/PJF following long segment instrumented spinal fusion in the ASD patient population.

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review METHODS: EMBASE and MEDLINE® databases were searched for human and animal cadaveric biomechanical studies investigating the effect of various surgical techniques to reduce PJK/PJF following long segment instrumented thoracolumbar spinal fusion in the adult patient population. Studied techniques, biomechanical test methods, range of motion (ROM), intervertebral disc pressure (IDP) and other relevant outcome parameters were documented.

RESULTS: Twelve studies met the inclusion criteria. Four of these studies included non-human cadaveric material. One study investigated the prophylactic application of cement augmentation (vertebroplasty), whereas the remaining studies investigated semi-rigid junctional fixation techniques to achieve a gradual transition zone of forces at the proximal end of a fusion construct, so-called topping-off. An increased gradual transition zone in terms of ROM compared to pedicle screw constructs was demonstrated for sublaminar tethers, sublaminar tape, pretensioned suture loops, transverse hooks and laminar hooks. Furthermore, reduced IDP was found after the application of sublaminar tethers, suture loops, sublaminar tapes and laminar hooks. Finally, two-level prophylactic vertebroplasty resulted in a lower incidence of vertebral compression fractures in a flexion-compression experiment.

CONCLUSIONS: A variety of techniques, involving either posterior semi-rigid junctional fixation or the reinforcement of vertebral bodies, has been biomechanically assessed. However, the low number of studies and variation in study protocols hampers direct comparison of different techniques. Furthermore, determination of what constitutes an optimal gradual transition zone and its translation to clinical practice, would aid comparison and further development of different semi-rigid junctional fixation techniques. Even though biomechanics are extremely important in the development of PJK/PJF, patient-specific factors should always be taken into account on a case-by-case basis when considering to apply a semi-rigid junctional fixation technique.

CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: This study provides clinicians with an overview of the biomechanical evidence available for spinal instrumentation techniques that aim to reduce the incidence of PJK. The summarized evidence provides a basis upon which future clinical trials can be designed.

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