Study design: A retrospective review of all patients surgically treated with a two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion with and without anterior plate fixation by a single surgeon.
Objectives: To compare the clinical and radiographic success of two-level discectomy and the effect of anterior cervical plate fixation.
Summary of background data: Prior studies of multisegment fusions have shown decreased fusion rates correlating with the number of increased levels. The use of anterior plates for single-level cervical fusions is controversial. However, their use in multilevel fusions may be warranted because of the increased pseudarthrosis rates.
Methods: Over a 6-year period, 60 patients were treated surgically with a two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion by the senior author. Thirty-two patients had cervical plates, and 28 underwent fusions without plates. These patients were followed for an average of 2.7 years. Clinical and radiographic follow-up evaluations were performed.
Results: Of the 60 patients, 7 had a pseudarthrosis. The pseudarthrosis rates were 0% for patients with plating and 25% for those with no plating. This difference was statistically significant (P = 0.003). No correlation of pseudarthrosis with gender, age, level of surgery, history of tobacco use, or the presence of prior anterior surgery was found. There was significantly less graft collapse (P = 0.0001) in the patients without plates in whom pseudarthrosis developed (1.4 mm) than in those who had fusions with plates (0.3 mm). The amount of kyphotic deformity of the fused segment was 0.4 degree in patients with plating compared with 4.9 degrees in those without plating who developed a pseudarthrosis (P = 0.0001).
Conclusions: The addition of plate fixation for two-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a safe procedure with no significant increase in complication rates. The pseudarthrosis rates are significantly higher in patients treated without plate fixation. No nonunions occurred in the patients treated with plate fixation. There was significantly less disc space collapse and kyphotic deformity with the plated fusions than with the nonplated fusions, in which a pseudarthrosis developed. The complication rates for plated fusions are extremely low and do not differ from those for nonplated fusions.