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Indian J Orthop. 2012 Jan;46(1):92-8. doi: 10.4103/0019-5413.91642.

Cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament: Anterior versus posterior approach.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The Affiliated Southeast Hospital of Xiamen University, Orthopaedic Center of People's Liberation Army, Zhangzhou, China.



The optimal approach to provide satisfactory decompression and minimize complications for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) involving multiple levels (3 levels or more) remains controversial. The purpose of this study was to compare the results of two surgical approaches for cervical OPLL involving multiple levels; anterior direct decompression and fixation, and posterior indirect decompression and fixation. We present a retrospective review of 56 cases followed at a single Institution.


We compared patients of multiple levels cervical OPLL that were treated at a single institution either with anterior direct decompression and fixation or with posterior indirect decompression and fixation. The clinical records of the patients with a minimum duration of follow-up of 2 years were reviewed. The associated complications were recorded.


Fifty-six patients constitute the clinical material. 26 cases were treated by anterior corpectomy and fixation and 30 cases received posterior laminectomy and fixation. The two populations were similar. It was found that both anterior and posterior decompression and fixation can achieve satisfactory outcomes, and posterior surgery was accomplished in a shorter period of time with lesser blood loss. Although patients had comparable preoperative Japanese Orthopaedics Association (JOA) scores, those with a canal occupancy by OPLL more than 50% and managed anteriorly had better outcomes. However, for those with more severe stenosis, anterior approach was more difficult and associated with higher risks and complications. Despite its limitations in patients with high occupancy OPLLs, through the multiple level laminectomy, posterior fixation can achieve effective decompression, maintaining or restoring stability of the cervical spine, and thereby improving neural outcome and preventing the progression of OPLL.


The posterior indirect decompression and fixation has now been adopted as the primary treatment for cervical OPLL involving multiple levels with the canal occupancy by OPLL <50% at our institution because this approach leads to significantly less implant failures. Those patients with the occupancy ≥50% managed with anterior approach surgeries had better outcomes, but approach was more difficult and associated with higher risk and complications.


Anterior decompression; cervical OPLL; internal fixation; posterior decompression

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