Comparison of Anterior and Posterior Surgical Approaches for Treatment of Thoracic Myelopathy

World Neurosurg. 2021 Oct;154:e343-e348. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.07.043. Epub 2021 Jul 17.


Objective: To study a large multi-institutional sample of patients undergoing anterior versus posterior approaches for surgical decompression of thoracic myelopathy.

Methods: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program was queried for patients who underwent decompression for thoracic myelopathy between 2007 and 2015 via anterior or posterior approaches. Patients were excluded if they were undergoing surgery for tumors to isolate a degenerative cohort. Demographics, patient comorbidities, operative details, and postoperative complications were compared between the 2 cohorts.

Results: Although there were no differences in age (P = 0.06), sex (P = 0.72), or American Society of Anesthesiologists class (P = 0.59), there were higher rates of steroid use (P = 0.01) and hematologic disorders that predispose to bleeding (P = 0.04) at baseline in the posterior approach cohort. The posterior approach patients had longer operative times (P = 0.03), but there were no differences in length of stay (P = 0.64). Although there were no significant differences in the rates of major organ system complications or return to the operating room (P = 0.52), the posterior approach cohort displayed a trend toward increased severe adverse complications (29.8% vs. 17.6%, P = 0.28) compared with the anterior approach cohort.

Conclusion: Although the anterior approach to surgical decompression of thoracic myelopathy demonstrated a lower complication rate, this result did not reach statistical significance. The anterior approach was associated with significantly shorter mean operative time, but otherwise there were no significant differences in operative or postoperative outcomes. These findings may support the favorability of the anterior approach but warrant further investigation in a larger study.

Keywords: National Surgical Quality Improvement Program; Surgical decompression; Surgical outcomes; Thoracic myelopathy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods*
  • Female
  • Hematologic Diseases / complications
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Operative Time
  • Quality Improvement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Steroids