[Surgical treatment of injuries of the thoracolumbar transition. 1: Epidemiology]

Unfallchirurg. 1999 Dec;102(12):924-35. doi: 10.1007/s001130050507.
[Article in German]


The authors report on a prospective multicenter study with regard to the operative treatment of fractures and dislocations of the thoracolumbar spine. 18 traumatologic centers in Germany and Austria, forming the working group "spine" of the German Society of Trauma Surgery, are participating in this continuing study. Between September 1994 and December 1996 682 patients (64% male) with an average age of 39 1/2 (7-83) years were entered. The entry criteria included all patients with acute and operatively treated (within 3 weeks after trauma) fractures and dislocations of the thoracolumbar spine (Th 10-L 2). Part 1 of this publication outlines the protocol and epidemiologic data. The incidence of fractures and dislocations of the thoracolumbar spine and associated injuries were recorded according to a standardized protocol, as well as the different operative methods and complications, duration of hospital stay, rehabilitation and incapacity. The analysis of the clinical social and radiological course was a second focus. The most frequent mechanism of injury was a fall (50%) or traffic accident (22%). Most of the fractures occurred at the L 1 level (49%). All injuries were classified according to the ASIF (AO) classification. 65% sustained an A-type fracture (compression fracture). Associated injuries were observed in 35% and 6% were polytraumatized. Extremities and thorax were most frequently affected. Younger age and traffic accidents lead more often to C-type fracture (fracture dislocation) and polytrauma. An increased number of multisegmental or multilevel lesions were observed in polytraumatized patients. There were 16% with incomplete paraplegia (Frankel/ASIA B-D) and 5% with complete paraplegia (Frankel/ASIA A). The rate of patients with initial neurologic deficits significantly increased with the severity of spinal injury according to the Magerl classification. Until discharge a neurologic improvement (at least 1 Frankel/ASIA grade) was observed in 32% of the partially paralyzed (Frankel/ASIA B-D) and in 12% of the patients with complete paraplegia (Frankel/ASIA A). A neurologic deterioration occurred in 3 patients (0.4%). As a base for further follow-up and late results the individual starting point was determined by collecting relevant data of the patients' history: 277 (40.6%) patients suffered from simultaneous diseases, one half was spine related. At the time of injury 559 (82.0%) patients were employed; 429 (62.9%) doing manual work. 369 (54.1%) patients stated sportive activities before the injury and 561 (82.3%) designated their "back function" as normal. For the time before injury the patients scored an average of 93.4 points in the Hannover Spine Score (0-100 points concerning complaints and function of the back/spine).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraplegia / epidemiology
  • Paraplegia / surgery
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology*
  • Spinal Fractures / surgery
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery