Outcome of surgery for rheumatoid cervical spine at one institute over three decades

Spine J. 2013 Nov;13(11):1477-84. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.05.023. Epub 2013 Jul 3.


Background context: Surgical intervention is a therapeutic choice for atlantoaxial subluxation (AAS), vertical subluxation (VS), and subaxial subluxation (SAS) associated with rheumatoid cervical spine. However, the long-term outcomes of different subgroups remain unclear, although rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a progressive disease even after surgery.

Purpose: To evaluate the outcomes of surgery for various subgroups of rheumatoid cervical spine, performed at a single institute over three decades.

Study design: Retrospective clinical analysis.

Patient sample: One-hundred eighteen seropositive RA patients treated at one institute over the past three decades. Atlantoaxial fixation was performed in 28 AAS patients. Occipitospinal fusion was performed in 41 irreducible AAS or VS patients. Laminotomy with autologous bone fusion was performed in 22 patients, anterior fusion in 5, laminoplasty in 4, and posterior decompression/fusion with instrumentation in 12 with SAS.

Methods: Clinical outcomes using the Japanese Orthopedic Association score, complications, deterioration of RA, and mortality rate during the follow-up were investigated from preoperation to more than 10 years after surgery in the subgroups.

Outcome measures: Outcomes were compared among the subgroups.

Results: Patients with AAS exhibited significantly better clinical outcomes throughout the follow-up period compared with patients from the other subgroups. Patients with SAS had the worst neurologic status even at preoperation, and the symptomatic improvement achieved by surgery deteriorated within less than 5 years. Deterioration of outcome was caused by occurrence of complications and deterioration of RA during the follow-up. The mortality rates at 5 and 10 years after surgery were 20% and 33%, respectively.

Conclusions: The outcome of surgery for rheumatoid cervical spine was different in the various subgroups and associated with the occurrence of complications and deterioration of RA.

Keywords: Cervical spine; Outcome; Prognosis; Rheumatoid arthritis; Surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / surgery*
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / surgery*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laminectomy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation*
  • Treatment Outcome