Clinical relevance of neuroforaminal patency after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2014 Jun;156(6):1197-203. doi: 10.1007/s00701-014-2090-0. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


Background: We sought to investigate the clinical relevance of neuroforaminal patency and facet degeneration one year after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Previous studies were characterized by imprecise techniques and fragmentary measurements, and most lacked reliable clinical data and correlation analyses.

Methods: Patients with cervical mono- or bi-level degenerative pathology were prospectively included. Neuroforaminal size and segmental height were determined quantitatively, and the degree of facet degeneration was assessed qualitatively before and one year after the operation, by computed tomography. Clinical data, such as the severity of neck and arm pain, were assessed on a visual analogue scale (VAS) from 0 to 10, and neck disability index (NDI) was recorded before and one year after the operation. Their correlation with radiological data was investigated.

Results: Seventy-nine patients aged 53.3 ± 11.3 years were included. One year after surgery, median VAS pain intensity was still significantly improved (neck, from 5 to 1; right arm, from 2 to 1; left arm, from 4 to 1) as was NDI (from 40 to 20). Neuroforaminal size showed a reduction on both sides (left, 0.0289 ± 0.09 cm(2); right, 0.0149 ± 0.08 cm(2)). One year after the operation, segmental height decreased and facet degeneration increased from measures taken before the operation. No correlations were found between neuroforaminal stenosis or the degree of facet degeneration and various clinical outcome parameters.

Conclusions: The decrease in segmental height one year after ACDF leads in turn to secondary neuroforaminal stenosis and progressive facet degeneration. Of the various neuroforaminal variables used, none revealed a threshold value indicative of the presence or severity of radicular arm pain. This absence of correlation between imaging and clinical information is important and should be considered when allocating patients for surgical interventions.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Diskectomy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome