Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 469, Issue 3, pp 696–701

Does Smoking Influence Fusion Rates in Posterior Cervical Arthrodesis With Lateral Mass Instrumentation?

  • Jason David Eubanks
  • Steven W. Thorpe
  • Vinay K. Cheruvu
  • Brett A. Braly
  • James D. Kang
Symposium: Current Concepts in Cervical Spine Surgery

DOI: 10.1007/s11999-010-1575-2

Cite this article as:
Eubanks, J.D., Thorpe, S.W., Cheruvu, V.K. et al. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2011) 469: 696. doi:10.1007/s11999-010-1575-2



Smoking is associated with reduced fusion rates after anterior cervical decompression and arthrodesis procedures. Posterior cervical arthrodesis procedures are believed to have a higher fusion rate than anterior procedures.


We asked whether smoking (1) would reduce the fusion rate in posterior cervical procedures; and (2) be associated with increased pain, decreased activity level, and a decreased rate of return of work as compared with nonsmokers.


We retrospectively reviewed 158 patients who had a posterior cervical fusion with lateral mass instrumentation and iliac crest bone grafting between 2003 and 2008. Fusion rates and Odom Criteria grades were compared among smokers and nonsmokers. The minimum followup was 3 months (average, 14.5 months; range, 3–72 months).


Smokers and nonsmokers had similar fusion rates (100%). Although 80% of patients had Odom Criteria Grade I or II, smokers were five times more likely to have Grade III or IV with considerable limitation of physical activity. Age, gender, and diagnosis did not influence fusion rates or the Odom Criteria grade.


In contrast to the effect of smoking on anterior cervical fusion, we found smoking did not decrease posterior cervical fusion with lateral mass instrumentation and iliac crest bone grafting. Posterior cervical fusion with lateral mass instrumentation should be considered over anterior procedures in smokers if the abnormality can appropriately be addressed from a posterior approach.

Level of Evidence

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

Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason David Eubanks
    • 1
  • Steven W. Thorpe
    • 2
  • Vinay K. Cheruvu
    • 3
  • Brett A. Braly
    • 2
  • James D. Kang
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Spine SurgeryCase Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Case Medical CenterClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Department of OrthopaedicsUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of MedicineCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Departments of Orthopaedic and Neurological SurgeryUniversity of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA

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