European Spine Journal

, Volume 23, Issue 11, pp 2255–2262 | Cite as

Progressive kyphotic deformity in comminuted burst fractures treated non-operatively: the Achilles tendon of the Thoracolumbar Injury Classification and Severity Score (TLICS)

  • Tobias A. MatteiEmail author
  • Joseph Hanovnikian
  • Dzung H. Dinh
Grand Rounds

Abstract Open image in new window


The Thoracolumbar Injury Classification and Severity (TLICS) scale has been considered one of the best available grading systems for evaluating thoracolumbar fractures, especially due to the fact that, differently from previous classifications, it can be used as a practical algorithm to orient the clinical decision-making between conservative and surgical management.

Case report

The authors describe a case of a 54-year-old patient presenting with low-back pain after having struck her back on the handrail. The neurological exam was unremarkable. The CT-scan of the lumbar spine demonstrated a L1 comminuted burst fracture. The MRI demonstrated no evidence of posterior ligamentous complex injury. According to the TLICS classification (total score of 2) the patient was managed conservatively with a thoracolumbar brace. Although at the 1-month follow-up the X-rays demonstrated no major changes and the pain had clinically improved, the patient was lost to follow-up. After 12 months the patient presented back to the emergency department with complaints of increased back pain. The repeat CT-scan demonstrated a remarkable worsening of the vertebral body fracture, with a major kyphotic deformity. The patient was submitted to a staged anterior–posterior procedure consisting in posterior decompression of the T12–L2 levels, a T10–L4 pedicle screw fixation and, finally, a lateral transpsoas approach for L1 corpectomy and reconstruction with an expandable interbody cage and plate fixation. At the 6-months follow-up, the patient presented another episode of back pain and a new L4 endplate fracture was identified. After 2 months of failed conservative treatment, the patient was treated with percutaneous kyphoplasty. At the 12-months follow-up after the initial surgical procedure, the patient was pain free and with stable radiographs.


In this Grand Rounds presentation, the authors perform a comprehensive discussion about the historical developments in the classification systems for thoracolumbar fractures with special emphasis in the new TLICS system. Although such score presents several advantages in relation to other grading systems, patients with comminuted burst fractures deserve special attention, even if initially classified as non-operative according to the TLICS algorithm. In such cases, if a decision of conservative management is taken, a close follow-up is recommended due to the high likelihood of long-term kyphotic deformity.


Thoracolumbar fractures TLICS Kyphotic deformity Burst fractures Thoracolumbar Injury Classification Severity scale 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interests. No financial or material support was received for the production of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tobias A. Mattei
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joseph Hanovnikian
    • 2
  • Dzung H. Dinh
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryBrain & Spine Center - InvisionHealthWilliamsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Illinois at PeoriaPeoriaUSA

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