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Spine J. 2001 Sep-Oct;1(5):310-23.

Segmental instrumentation for thoracic and thoracolumbar fractures: prospective analysis of construct survival and five-year follow-up.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.



Segmental instrumentation systems have replaced nonsegmental systems in all areas of spine surgery. Construct patterns for fracture stabilization have been adapted from deformity experience and from biomechanical studies using nonsegmental systems. Few studies have been completed to validate the use of these implants in trauma or to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses.


To substantiate the safety and efficacy of segmental spinal instrumentation used to treat patients with unstable spinal fractures and to identify successful construct strategies and potential pitfalls.


A prospective, longitudinal single cohort study of patients treated with segmental instrumentation for fractures of the spine. Minimum 2-year follow-up.


Seventy-five consecutive patients with unstable fractures of the thoracic, thoracolumbar and lumbar vertebrae, admitted to a level 1 trauma center. All patients sustained high-energy injuries: fifty-five (79%) were injured in motor vehicle accidents, 27 (38%) sustained two or more major additional injuries and 39 (56%) had neurological injuries.


Perioperative morbidity and mortality, blood loss, surgical time; postoperative recovery, neurological recovery, complications, thromboembolic and pulmonary disease; long-term outcome measures of fusion, sagittal spinal alignment, construct survival, patient pain and function measures, and return to work and activity.


A longitudinal, prospective study of surgical outcome after segmental spinal instrumentation. Multifactorial assessment was carried out at prescribed intervals to a mean follow-up of 5 years (range, 2 to 8 years) from the time of surgery. Seventy patients were included in the final analysis. There were 17 thoracic, 36 thoracolumbar and 17 lumbar fractures.


At 52 months mean follow-up, 57 of 62 patients (92%) had solid fusion with acceptable spinal alignment. Perioperative complications and mortality were less than expected, based on historical controls matched for injury severity. Rod and hook constructs had 97% good to excellent functional results, with no hardware complications. Six of 11 (55%) patients with short-segment pedicle instrumentation (SSPI) with no anterior column reconstruction had greater than 10 degrees of sagittal collapse during the fracture healing period. Twenty six of 36 neurologically injured patients (72%) experienced (mean) 1.5 Frankel grades recovery after decompression and stabilization. Residual neurological deficit determined return to work: 43 patients (70%) returned to work, 33 without restrictions, 10 with limitations. Five other patients (8%) were fit but unemployed. Fifteen percent experienced some form of hardware failure, but only three (5%) required revision. Hardware complications and fair to poor outcomes occurred after pedicle instrumentation without anterior reconstruction. Patients with anterior reconstruction had 100% construct survival, no sagittal deformity, and less pain.


Segmental instrumentation allowed immediate mobilization of these severely injured patients, eliminating thromboembolic and pulmonary complications, and reducing overall morbidity and mortality. Segmental instrumentation produced a high rate of fusion with no rod breakage or hook failure. Pedicle screw constructs had a high rate of screw complications associated with anterior column insufficiency, but revision was not always necessary. Eighty percent of these severely injured patients were capable of returning to full-time employment, and 70% did so.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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