We aimed to assess the effects of additional fusion on surgical interventions to the cervical spine for patients with neck pain with or without radiculopathy or myelopathy by performing a systematic review. The search strategy outlined by the Cochrane Back Review Group (CBRG) was followed. The primary search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL and PEDro up to June 2011. Only randomised, controlled trials of adults with neck pain that evaluated at least one clinically relevant primary outcome measure (pain, functional status, recovery) were included. Two authors independently assessed the risk of bias by using the criteria recommended by the CBRG and extracted the data. Data were pooled using a random effects model. The quality of the evidence was rated using the GRADE method. In total, 10 randomised, controlled trials were identified comparing additional fusion upon anterior decompression techniques, including 2 studies with a low risk of bias. Results revealed no clinically relevant differences in recovery: the pooled risk difference in the short-term follow-up was -0.06 (95% confidence interval -0.22 to 0.10) and -0.07 (95% confidence interval -0.14 to 0.00) in the long-term follow-up. Pooled risk differences for pain and return to work all demonstrated no differences. There is no additional benefit of fusion techniques applied within an anterior discectomy procedure on pain, recovery and return to work.
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