Nonoperatively treated burst fractures of the thoracic and lumbar spine in adults: a 23-to 41-year follow-up

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Abstract

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Several studies report a favorable short-term outcome after nonoperatively treated two-column thoracic or lumbar burst fractures in patients without neurological deficits. Few reports have described the long-term clinical and radiological outcome after these fractures, and none have, to our knowledge, specifically evaluated the long-term outcome of the discs adjacent to the fractured vertebra, often damaged at injury and possibly at an increased risk of height reduction and degeneration with subsequent chronic back pain. PURPOSE: To evaluate the long-term clinical and radiological outcome after nonoperatively treated thoracic or lumbar burst fractures in adults, with special attention to posttraumatic radiological disc height reduction. STUDY DESIGN: Case series. PATIENT SAMPLE: Sixteen men with a mean age of 31 years (range, 19-44) and 11 women with a mean age of 40 years (range, 23-61) had sustained a thoracic or lumbar burst fracture during the years 1965 to 1973. Four had sustained a burst fracture Denis type A, 18 a Denis type 13, 1 a Denis type C, and 4 a Denis type E. Seven of these patients had neurological deficits at injury, all retrospectively classified as Frankel D. OUTCOME MEASURES: The clinical outcome was evaluated subjectively with Oswestry score and questions regarding work capacity and objectively with the Frankel scale. The radiological outcome was evaluated with measurements of local kyphosis over the fractured segment, ratios of anterior and posterior vertebral body heights, adjacent disc heights, pedicle widths, sagittal width of the spinal canal, and lateral and anteroposterior displacement. METHODS: From the radiographical archives of an emergency hospital, all patients with a nonoperatively treated thoracic or lumbar burst fracture during the years 1965 to 1973 were registered. The fracture type, localization, primary treatment, and outcome were evaluated from the old radiographs, referrals, and reports. Twenty-seven individuals were clinically and radiologically evaluated a mean of 27 years (range, 23-41) after the injury. RESULTS: At follow-up, 21 former patients reported no or minimal back pain or disability (Oswestry Score mean 4; range, 0-16), whereas 6 former patients (of whom 3 were classified as Frankel D at baseline) reported moderate or severe disability (Oswestry Score mean 39; range, 26-54). Six former patients were classified as Frankel D, and the rest as Frankel E. Local kyphosis had increased by a mean of 3 degrees (p <.05), whereas the discs adjacent to the fractured vertebrae remained unchanged in height during the follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: Nonoperatively treated burst fractures of the thoracic or lumbar spine in adults with or without minor neurological deficits have a predominantly favorable long-term outcome, and there seems to be no increased risk for subsequent disc height reduction in the adjacent discs. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Authors
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Orthopedics
  • Surgery
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging

Keywords

  • long-term, disc heights, lumbar, burst fracture, thoracic
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-707
JournalThe Spine Journal
Volume7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Diagnostic Radiology, (Lund) (013038000), Reconstructive Surgery (013240300), Clinical and Molecular Osteoporosis Research Unit (013242930)