, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 495-500

Short segment fixation of thoracolumbar burst fractures without fusion

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Abstract

There continues to be controversy surrounding the management of thoracolumbar burst fractures. Numerous methods of fixation have been described for this injury, but to our knowledge, spinal fusion has always been part of the stabilising procedure, whether this involves an anterior or a posterior approach. Apart from an earlier publication from this centre, there have been no reports on the use of internal fixation without fusion for this type of fracture. The aim of the study was to determine the outcome of patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures who were treated with short segment pedicle screw fixation without fusion. This is a retrospective review of 28 consecutive patients who had short segment pedicle screw fixation of thoracolumbar burst fractures without fusion performed between 1990 and 1993. All patients underwent a clinical and radiological assessment by an independent observer. Outcome was measured using the Low Back Outcome Score. The minimum follow-up period was 2 years (mean 3.1 years). Fifty percent of patients achieved an excellent result with the Low Back Outcome Score, while 12% were assessed as good, 20% fair and 16% obtained a poor result. The only significant factor affecting outcome was the influence of a compensation claim (P < 0.05). The implant failure rate (14% of patients) and the clinical outcome was similar to that from series where fusion had been performed in addition to pedicle screw fixation. The results of this study support the view that posterolateral bone grafting is not necessary when managing patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures by short segment pedicle screw fixation.

Received: 24 February 1998 Revised: 1 March 1999 Accepted: 27 May 1999