Failed anterior cervical discectomy and arthrodesis. Analysis and treatment of thirty-five patients

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1997 Apr;79(4):523-32.


Thirty-five patients were managed operatively after failure of an anterior cervical discectomy and arthrodesis. Failure was classified as the absence of fusion without deformity but with neck pain or radiculopathy, or both; the absence of fusion after anterior or posterior dislodgment of the graft; or kyphosis due to collapse of the graft or to an unrecognized posterior soft-tissue injury. Twenty-three patients had failure of the arthrodesis without deformity (with neck pain only, neck and arm pain, radiculopathy, or myelopathy). Four patients had dislodgment of the graft; in two of them the graft migrated anteriorly after a multilevel Robinson arthrodesis, and in two it migrated posteriorly after a Cloward arthrodesis. Eight patients had a failure because of a kyphotic deformity. Five of them had had a Cloward arthrodesis; one, a discectomy; and two, a Robinson arthrodesis. Six had received allograft bone. Operative treatment of the pseudarthrosis consisted of repeat resection of the disc space in the area of the failed arthrodesis followed by repeat anterior Robinson arthrodesis with decompression of the nerve root if the patient had radiculopathy. It consisted of anterior corpectomy or vertebral-body resection and strut-grafting with reduction of the deformity if the patient had migration of the graft and kyphosis. The reoperations were performed four months to fourteen years (average, thirty-two months) after the initial operation. The duration of follow-up after the second operation averaged forty-four months (range, twenty-four to 216 months). The result was excellent for twenty-nine patients, good for one, fair for four, and poor for one. We concluded that, in patients who have persistent symptoms after an anterior cervical arthrodesis, an excellent result can be achieved with repeat anterior decompression and autogenous bone-grafting.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthrodesis*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Diskectomy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery
  • Kyphosis / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Treatment Failure