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The effect of minimally invasive posterior cervical approaches versus open anterior approaches on neck pain and disability

 Jeffrey A. Steinberg, BS, John W. German, MD

Division of Neurosurgery, Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY

Abstract 

Background

The choice of surgical approach to the cervical spine may have an influence on patient outcome, particularly with respect to future neck pain and disability. Some surgeons suggest that patients with myelopathy or radiculopathy and significant axial pain should be treated with an anterior interbody fusion because a posterior decompression alone may exacerbate the patients' neck pain. To date, the effect of a minimally invasive posterior cervical decompression approach (miPCD) on neck pain has not been compared with that of an anterior cervical diskectomy or corpectomy with interbody fusion (ACF).

Methods

A retrospective review was undertaken of 63 patients undergoing either an miPCD (n = 35) or ACF (n = 28) for treatment of myelopathy or radiculopathy who had achieved a minimum of 6 months' follow-up. Clinical outcomes were assessed by a patient-derived neck visual analog scale (VAS) score and the neck disability index (NDI). Outcomes were analyzed by use of (1) a threshold in which outcomes were classified as success (NDI < 40, VAS score < 4.0) or failure (NDI > 40, VAS score > 4.0) and (2) perioperative change in which outcomes were classified as success (ΔNDI ≥ −15, ΔVAS score ≥ −2.0) or failure (ΔNDI < −15, ΔVAS score < −2.0). Groups were compared by use of χ2 tests with significance taken at P < .05.

Results

At last follow-up, the percentages of patients classified as successful using the perioperative change criteria were as follows: 42% for miPCD group versus 63% for ACF group based on neck VAS score (P = not significant [NS]) and 33% for miPCD group versus 50% for ACF group based on NDI (P < .05). At last follow-up, the percentages of patients classified as successful using the threshold criteria were as follows: 71% for miPCD group versus 82% for ACF group based on neck VAS score (P = NS) and 69% for miPCD group versus 68% for ACF group based on NDI (P = NS).

Conclusions

In this small retrospective analysis, miPCD was associated with similar neck pain and disability to ACF. Given the avoidance of cervical instrumentation and interbody fusion in the miPCD group, these results suggest that further comparative effectiveness study is warranted.

keywords: 
Cervical Spine, Fusion, minimally invasive, Neck pain, Outcome, spine
Volume 6
doi: 
10.1016/j.ijsp.2011.11.003