Early ventral surgical treatment without traction of acute traumatic subaxial cervical spine injuries.

Research paper by Domenico A DA Gattozzi, Bailey R BR Yekzaman, Megan M MM Jack, Michael J MJ O'Bryan, Paul M PM Arnold

Indexed on: 15 Jan '19Published on: 15 Jan '19Published in: Surgical neurology international


Spinal cord decompression after cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) is the standard of care. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the optimal management of these injuries, including the role of traction and timing of surgery. Here, we report the safety/efficacy of ventral surgery without preoperative traction for intraoperative fracture reduction following acute cervical SCI. We prospectively collected a series of patients who sustained acute traumatic subaxial cervical (C3-7) spine fractures between 2004 and 2016. Patients underwent anterior cervical decompression and fusion within 24 h of injury without the utilization of preoperative traction. Thirty-six patients (27 male, 9 female), averaging 35 years of age, sustained 25 motor-vehicle accidents, 4 sports-related injuries, and 7 falls. Fracture dislocations were seen in 26 patients, whereas burst fractures were seen in 10. The majority of injuries occurred at the C4-5 (13 patients) and C5-6 (13 patients) levels. Complete SCI occurred in 10 patients, and incomplete SCI in 26 patients. All patients underwent anterior surgery only; 16 required vertebrectomy in addition to anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Intraoperative reduction was achieved in all patients using a Cobb elevator or distraction pins without the use of preanesthesia traction. There were no intraoperative complications. Postoperatively, there were one postoperative hematoma, two wound/hardware revisions, one subsequent posterior fusion, and one reoperation anteriorly after screw pullout. The average hospital length of stay was 10.6 days (range 1-39). Early direct surgical stabilization/fusion for acute SCI because of subaxial cervical spine fractures is both safe and effective in selected cases when performed anteriorly without preoperative traction in select cases.