Assessment of Surgical Treatment Strategies for Moderate to Severe Cervical Spinal Deformity Reveals Marked Variation in Approaches, Osteotomies, and Fusion Levels

World Neurosurg. 2016 Jul;91:228-37. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2016.04.020. Epub 2016 Apr 13.


Objective: Although previous reports suggest that surgery can improve the pain and disability of cervical spinal deformity (CSD), techniques are not standardized. Our objective was to assess for consensus on recommended surgical plans for CSD treatment.

Methods: Eighteen CSD cases were assembled, including a clinical vignette, cervical imaging (radiography, computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging), and full-length standing radiography. Fourteen deformity surgeons (10 orthopedic, 4 neurosurgery) were queried regarding recommended surgical plans.

Results: There was marked variation in treatment plans across all deformity types. Even for the least complex deformities (moderate midcervical apex kyphosis), there was lack of agreement on approach (50% combined anterior-posterior, 25% anterior only, 25% posterior only), number of anterior (range, 2-6) and posterior (range, 4-16) fusion levels, and types of osteotomies. As the kyphosis apex moved caudally (cervical-thoracic junction/upper thoracic spine) and for cases with chin-on-chest kyphosis, >80% of surgeons agreed on a posterior-only approach and >70% recommended a pedicle subtraction osteotomy or vertebral column resection, but the range in number of anterior (4-8) and posterior (4-27) fusion levels was exceptionally broad. Cases of cervical/cervical-thoracic scoliosis had the least agreement for approach (48% posterior only, 33% combined anterior-posterior, 17% anterior-posterior-anterior or posterior-anterior-posterior, 2% anterior only) and had broad variation in the number of anterior (2-5) and posterior (6-19) fusion levels, and recommended osteotomies (41% pedicle subtraction osteotomy/vertebral column resection).

Conclusions: Among a panel of deformity surgeons, there was marked lack of consensus on recommended surgical approach, osteotomies, and fusion levels for CSD. Further study is warranted to assess whether specific surgical treatment approaches are associated with better outcomes.

Keywords: Cervical; Deformity; Fusion; Kyphosis; Osteotomy; Spine; Surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Consensus
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgeons / standards*
  • Orthopedic Surgeons / standards*
  • Osteotomy / methods*
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Spinal Curvatures / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Curvatures / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*