, Volume 471, Issue 7, pp 2219-2224
Date: 07 Mar 2013

Surgical Technique: Hemilaminectomy and Unilateral Lateral Mass Fixation for Cervical Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament

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Surgical approaches for cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) include anterior, posterior, or combined decompression with or without fusion. The goal of surgery is to decompress the spinal cord while maintaining the stability and sagittal alignment of the cervical spine. C5 palsy has been reported as a postoperative complication of cervical laminectomy or laminoplasty characterized as motor weakness of the muscles supplied with C5 nerve roots. Several studies have shown this phenomenon was partially attributable to posterior shift of spinal cord.

Description of Technique

The rationale for choosing hemilaminectomy is to control postoperative posterior shift of the spinal cord and afford more stability by preserving ligamentous attachments and posterior bony elements as much as possible. After a fixation system of lateral mass screws and rods is installed unilaterally, laminae are removed from the underlying dura using a high-speed burr and Kerrison laminectomy rongeur on the other side. The spinous processes are preserved.

Patients and Methods

Patients with multilevel continuous/mixed cervical OPLL are good candidates for this technique. We retrospectively reviewed 146 patients who had multilevel continuous/mixed cervical OPLL and underwent surgery from January 2006 to January 2010. Neurologic condition was evaluated using the improvement ratio (IR) of the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score for cervical myelopathy.


The mean JOA score increased from 10 points before surgery to 14 points at last followup. The mean IR of neurologic function (JOA score) was 59%. C5 palsy was not observed in any patient after decompression, and cervical lordosis changed from 8.7° preoperatively to 9.1° at last followup.


For patients with multilevel continuous/mixed cervical OPLL without fixed kyphosis, multilevel hemilaminectomy with unilateral lateral mass fixation is an effective alternative technique.

Level of Evidence

Level IV, therapeutic study. See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Each author certifies that he or she, or a member of his or her immediate family, has no funding or commercial associations (eg, consultancies, stock ownership, equity interest, patent/licensing arrangements, etc) that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted article.
All ICMJE Conflict of Interest Forms for authors and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research editors and board members are on file with the publication and can be viewed on request.
Each author certifies that his or her institution approved the human protocol for this investigation, that all investigations were conducted in conformity with ethical principles of research, and that informed consent for participation in the study was obtained.
A comment to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11999-013-3317-8.