Differences in management of isolated spinal fractures between neurosurgery and orthopaedics: a 6-year retrospective study

Br J Neurosurg. 2021 Feb;35(1):68-72. doi: 10.1080/02688697.2020.1763256. Epub 2020 May 22.


Introduction: The acute management of spinal fractures is traditionally split between neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons and the specialities have varying approaches to management. This study investigates differences between neurosurgeons and spinal orthopaedic surgeons in the management of spinal fractures at a single trauma centre in the United Kingdom.

Methods: A retrospective study at a single trauma centre of patients identified using the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN). Case notes and radiological investigations were reviewed for demographics, fracture classification, clinical management and outcomes. Polytrauma cases and patients managed by non-neurosurgical/orthopaedic specialties were excluded.

Results: A total of 465 patients were included in this study (neurosurgery n = 266, orthopaedics n = 199). There were no significant differences between groups for age, gender, Charlson co-morbidity score or distribution of fractures using the AO spine classification. Patients admitted and managed under the orthopaedic surgeons were more likely to undergo a surgical procedure when compared to those admitted under the neurosurgeons (n = 71; 35.7% vs n = 71; 26.8%, p = 0.042, OR 1.56 95%CI 1.056 to 2.31). The median overall length of stay was 8 days and there was no significant difference between teams; however, the neurosurgical cohort were more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit (24.3% vs 16.2%, p = 0.04).

Conclusion: This study is the first in the United Kingdom to compare neurosurgical and orthopaedic teams in their management of spinal fractures. It demonstrates that differences may exist both in operating rates and outcomes.

Keywords: Spine fractures; Trauma Audit and Research Network; spine surgery; surgical management.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neurosurgery*
  • Orthopedics*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Fractures* / surgery
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology