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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2018 Apr 4;100(7):556-563. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.17.00621.

Assessing the Risk-Benefit Ratio of Scoliosis Surgery in Cerebral Palsy: Surgery Is Worth It.

Author information

British Columbia Children's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Baltimore, Maryland.
Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware.
Shriners Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY.
Rady Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego, California.
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey.
Faculty of Medicine, Dean's Office, Medical Sciences Building, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



The true benefits of scoliosis surgery in cerebral palsy (CP) remain uncertain. Our aims were to determine the benefits of spinal fusion according to health-related quality of life (HRQoL) improvement at long-term follow-up and to explore the effect of surgery-related complications on clinical outcomes.


The cases of consecutive patients who had Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) level-IV or V cerebral palsy with 5-year follow-up from a prospective, longitudinal, multicenter database were analyzed. Caregivers completed the Caregiver Priorities and Child Health Index of Life with Disabilities (CPCHILD) questionnaire and 4 Likert-type anchor questions preoperatively and at 1, 2, and 5 years of follow-up. Data on complications were collected prospectively. Preoperative CPCHILD scores were compared with postoperative scores at the 1, 2, and 5-year follow-up evaluations. Preoperative CPCHILD scores were compared with postoperative scores at the 1, 2, and 5-year follow-up evaluations using repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA). Spearman correlation coefficient was used to explore the association between changes in the CPCHILD at 1, 2, and 5-year follow-up and the reported complications within the follow-up period. Similarly, a comparative analysis between the percentage distribution of the answers to the 4 anchor questions and the reported complications was also performed.


Sixty-nine patients with a mean age (and standard deviation) of 13.4 ± 2.6 years at enrollment were analyzed. The major Cobb angle was a mean of 81.9° ± 26.7° preoperatively and improved to a mean of 28.7° ± 14.4° at 2 years and 30.7° ± 15.3° at 5 years postoperatively. Significant improvements in CPCHILD personal care, positioning, and comfort domains were noted at all time points. The mean increase in the total score was 7.19 (p < 0.001) at 1 year, and the score gain was maintained at 2 and 5 years postoperatively. The overall complication rate was 46.4% at 1 year, 1.4% between 1 and 2 years, and 4.3% at 2 to 5 years postoperatively, with surgical intervention required in 6 patients within 1 year and in 2 additional patients within 5 years following scoliosis surgery. There was no correlation between complications and CPCHILD scores postoperatively at all time points, with the only exception of a weak correlation (ρ = -0.450, p = 0.002) with CPCHILD comfort score at 1 year after surgery.


Scoliosis surgery in patients with CP leads to a significant improvement in HRQoL, which is maintained 5 years following surgery. The substantial complication rate does not correlate with HRQoL changes postoperatively, suggesting that the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks in this fragile population.


Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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