European Spine Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 1657–1676 | Cite as

Operative treatment of 733 patients with acute thoracolumbar spinal injuries: comprehensive results from the second, prospective, internet-based multicenter study of the Spine Study Group of the German Association of Trauma Surgery

  • M. ReinholdEmail author
  • C. Knop
  • R. Beisse
  • L. Audigé
  • F. Kandziora
  • A. Pizanis
  • R. Pranzl
  • E. Gercek
  • M. Schultheiss
  • A. Weckbach
  • V. Bühren
  • M. Blauth
Original Article


The second, internet-based multicenter study (MCSII) of the Spine Study Group of the German Association of Trauma Surgery (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Unfallchirurgie) is a representative patient collection of acute traumatic thoracolumbar (T1–L5) injuries. The MCSII results are an update of those obtained with the first multicenter study (MCSI) more than a decade ago. The aim of the study was to assess and bring into focus: the (1) epidemiologic data, (2) surgical and radiological outcome, and (3) 2-year follow-up (FU) results of these injuries. According to the Magerl/AO classification, there were 424 (57.8%) compression fractures (A type), 178 (24.3%) distractions injuries (B type), and 131 (17.9%) rotational injuries (C type). B and C type injuries carried a higher risk for neurological deficits, concomitant injuries, and multiple vertebral fractures. The level of injury was located at the thoracolumbar junction (T11–L2) in 67.0% of the case. 380 (51.8%) patients were operated on by posterior stabilization and instrumentation alone (POSTERIOR), 34 (4.6%) had an anterior procedure (ANTERIOR), and 319 (43.5%) patients were treated with combined posteroanterior surgery (COMBINED). 65% of patients with thoracic (T1–T10) and 57% with lumbar spinal (L3–L5) injuries were treated with a single posterior approach (POSTERIOR). 47% of the patients with thoracolumbar junction (T11–L2) injuries were either operated from posterior or with a combined posterior–anterior surgery (COMBINED) each. Short angular stable implant systems have replaced conventional non-angular stable instrumentation systems to a large extent. The posttraumatic deformity was restored best with COMBINED surgery. T-spine injuries were accompanied by a higher number and more severe neurologic deficits than TL junction or L-spine injuries. At the same time T-spine injuries showed less potential for neurologic recovery especially in paraplegic (Frankel/AISA A) patients. 5% of all patients required revision surgery for perioperative complications. Follow-up data of 558 (76.1%) patients were available and collected during a 30-month period from 1 January 2004 until 31 May 2006. On average, a posterior implant removal was carried out in a total of 382 COMBINED and POSTERIOR patients 12 months after the initial surgery. On average, the rehabilitation process required 3–4 weeks of inpatient treatment, followed by another 4 months of outpatient therapy and was significantly shorter when compared with MCSI in the mid-1990s. From the time of injury until FU, 80 (60.6%) of 132 patients with initial neurological deficits improved at least one grade on the Frankel/ASIA Scale; 8 (1.3%) patients deteriorated. A higher recovery rate was observed for incomplete neurological injuries (73%) than complete neurological injuries (44%). Different surgical approaches did not have a significant influence on the neurologic recovery until FU. Nevertheless, neurological deficits are the most important factors for the functional outcome and prognosis of TL spinal injuries. POSTERIOR patients had a better functional and subjective outcome at FU than COMBINED patients. However, the posttraumatic radiological deformity was best corrected in COMBINED patients and showed significantly less residual kyphotic deformity (biseg GDW −3.8° COMBINED vs. −6.1° POSTERIOR) at FU (p = 0.005). The sagittal spinal alignment was better maintained when using vertebral body replacement implants (cages) in comparison to iliac strut grafts. Additional anterior plate systems did not have a significant influence on the radiological FU results. In conclusion, comprehensive data of a large patient population with acute thoracolumbar spinal injuries has been obtained and analyzed with this prospective internet-based multicenter study. Thus, updated results and the clinical outcome of the current operative treatment strategies in participating German and Austrian trauma centers have been presented. Nevertheless, it was not possible to answer all remaining questions to contradictory findings of the subjective, clinical outcome and corresponding radiological findings between different surgical subgroups. Randomized-controlled long-term investigations seem mandatory and the next step in future clinical research of Spine Study Group of the German Trauma Society.


Spinal injuries Fracture Treatment Spine Prospective Multicenter study Online database Epidemiology Complications Spine Study Group (SSG) of the German Association of Trauma Surgery (DGU) Radiological findings Follow-up Rehabilitation Activities of daily living Outcome 



The authors like to thank all clinical collaborators of the Spine Study Group of the German Association of Trauma Surgery Spine for their exceptional commitment to this project throughout the past years. Special thanks go to PD. Dr. L. Audigé for his expert advice and Mark Kanodi, MSc for help with the manuscript preparation.

Conflict of interest statement

This study was supported by the German Association of Trauma Surgery.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Reinhold
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • C. Knop
    • 12
  • R. Beisse
    • 3
  • L. Audigé
    • 4
  • F. Kandziora
    • 5
    • 6
  • A. Pizanis
    • 7
  • R. Pranzl
    • 8
  • E. Gercek
    • 9
  • M. Schultheiss
    • 10
  • A. Weckbach
    • 11
  • V. Bühren
    • 3
  • M. Blauth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Trauma SurgeryMedical University InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, Harborview Medical CenterUniversity of Washington School of MedicineSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Trauma Center MurnauMurnauGermany
  4. 4.AO Clinical Investigation and Documentation (AOCID)DuebendorfSwitzerland
  5. 5.Centre for Musculoskeletal SurgeryCharté BerlinBerlinGermany
  6. 6.Center for Spine Surgery and Neurotraumatology Hospital FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  7. 7.Department of Trauma-, Hand- and Reconstructive SurgeryMedical University Homburg/SaarHomburg/SaarGermany
  8. 8.Trauma Clinic KlagenfurtKlagenfurtAustria
  9. 9.Department of Trauma SurgeryMedical University MainzMainzGermany
  10. 10.Department of Trauma-, Hand- and Reconstructive SurgeryMedical University UlmUlmGermany
  11. 11.Department of Trauma SurgeryUniversity of WuerzburgWuerzburgGermany
  12. 12.Department of Trauma SurgeryKatharinen HospitalStuttgartGermany

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