Object: This retrospective study was performed to assess the long-term results of cervical laminectomy in treating ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) of the cervical spine.
Methods: The authors reviewed medical records in 44 of 52 patients who underwent cervical laminectomy between 1970 and 1985 (mean follow up 14.1 years). The neurological recovery rate after laminectomy was 44.2% after 1 year and 42.9% after 5 years. The surgical outcome was maintained after 5 years but worsened between 5 and 10 years postsurgery: the recovery rate at the last follow-up review was 32.8%. Using multivariate stepwise analysis, the preoperative factors that affected clinical results were found to be the age at operation, the severity of preexisting myelopathy, and a history of trauma. Late neurological deterioration was observed in 10 (23%) of 44 patients. The earliest deterioration occurred at 1 year and the latest was at 17 years postsurgery (mean 9.5 years). The most frequent cause of deterioration was trauma due to a fall (six patients), followed by ossification of the ligamentum flavum (three patients). Postoperative spread of the OPLL was noted in 70% of the patients, but it was clearly the cause of neurological deterioration in only one of them. After laminectomy, postoperative progression of kyphotic deformity was observed in 47% of patients, but these changes did not cause neurological deterioration.
Conclusion: The authors recommend early surgical decompression for OPLL because the outcome is better for younger patients and for those with a higher score as measured by the Japanese Orthopedic Association's system.