Neurosurgical Review

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 215–224 | Cite as

Effect of cervical dynamics on adjacent segment degeneration after anterior cervical fusion with cages

  • Ahmed Elsawaf
  • Luciano Mastronardi
  • Raffaelino Roperto
  • Alessandro Bozzao
  • Manuela Caroli
  • Luigi Ferrante
Original Article


The objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) on the motion of the cervical spine and dynamic stress (tendency to kyphosis) on adjacent segments and on the overall spinal alignment which may predispose to symptomatic disc diseases at other levels. Twenty consecutive patients underwent ACDF with a mean follow-up of 28 months (range 13–38). Preoperative and postoperative clinical assessments were done by using the neck disability index (NDI) and the Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) score. In all cases, at the last follow-up control, a neuro-radiographic assessment [cervical spine static and dynamic X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)] was done. The angle of the operated disc space, the disc space angle of contiguous segments, and their range of motion (ROM) and the kyphotic Cobb angle (C2-7) were measured by computer software. The study was done at Sant’Andrea Hospital, Rome, Italy in the period from November 2003 to November 2005. We observed that: the mean Cobb angle improved significantly (p < 0.001) from 3.4° (kyphosis) to postoperative 14.5°. This normalization of angle showed a direct effect on improvement of myelopathic patients, but it had a statistically nonsignificant effect on adjacent segments degeneration (ASD). The mean segmental ROM of adjacent segments did not show significant instability. The mean was 11.1° at upper and 10.2° at lower levels (close to normal). In six cases, the ROM was higher than normal: five of these patients demonstrated symptomatic adjacent segment pathology. Postoperative improvement of mean JOA and NDI scores was statistically significant (p < 0.001). Anyway, symptomatic ASD was observed in five patients (20%): in four of them, the higher disc spaces and in one, the lower disc spaces were involved. In four cases, the preoperative MRI showed slight and asymptomatic disc degeneration at the same levels involved subsequently. This ASD was significantly related to the increased ROM at the segments involved. Follow-up X-rays showed solid fusion with absence of movement in all but one case (at 13-month follow-up), who showed slight movement in the operated level in spite of clinical improvement. The follow-up MRI showed, in all cases, good decompression in the treated levels. Compensatory increase in ROM of the contiguous motion segments in patients subjected to ACDF may lead to ASD especially in those cases with asymptomatic adjacent subclinical degenerative disease. If these preliminary results will be confirmed by larger series, it could be reasonable in young selected patients with soft disc herniation to adopt total disc arthroplasty instead of fusion after cervical micro-discectomy.


Cervical dynamics Adjacent segment diseases Anterior cervical fusion Cages 



The Authors have no financial interest in the instrumentation and methodology advanced in this manuscript. The paper complies with the current laws of our country, with a consent was taken from all the patients underwent the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ahmed Elsawaf
    • 1
    • 3
  • Luciano Mastronardi
    • 1
  • Raffaelino Roperto
    • 1
  • Alessandro Bozzao
    • 2
  • Manuela Caroli
    • 1
  • Luigi Ferrante
    • 1
  1. 1.Divisions of Neurosurgery, Sant’Andrea Hospital, 2nd Faculty of Medicine and SurgeryUniversity La SapienzaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Divisions of Neuroradiology, Sant’Andrea Hospital, 2nd Faculty of Medicine and SurgeryUniversity La SapienzaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Sant’Andrea HospitalRomeItaly

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