Objective. To investigate the consequences and appropriate management of pseudarthrosis after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).
Summary of Background Data. Pseudarthrosis is a frequent complication of ACDF and causes unsatisfactory results. Little is known about long-term prognosis of detecting pseudarthrosis 1 year after ACDF.
Methods. Eighty-nine patients with a minimum 2-year followup were included. ACDF surgery using allograft and plating was performed: single-level in 51 patients, two-level in 26 patients, and three-level in 12 patients. Presence of pseudarthrosis was evaluated 1 year postoperatively and then the nonunion segments were re-evaluated 2 years postoperatively. Demographic data were assessed to identify the risk factors associated with pseudarthrosis. A visual analogue scale for neck/arm pain and the Neck Disability Index were analyzed preoperatively and at 1 and 2 years postoperatively.
Results. Pseudarthrosis was detected in 29 patients (32.6%) 1 year postoperatively: 15of 51 patients after single-level surgery, 9 of 26 patients after two-level surgery, and 5 of 12 patients after three-level surgery. Only eight patients showed persistent nonunion at 2 years: 3 of 15 patients after single-level surgery, 3 of 9 after two-level surgery, and 2 of 5 after three-level surgery. The remaining 21 patients (72.4%) achieved bony fusion 2 years postoperatively without any intervention. Patients who underwent two-level or three-level ACDF had a significantly higher pseudarthrosis rate than those who underwent single-level ACDF, with odds ratios of 1.844 and 3.147, respectively. The improvements in visual analogue scale for neck pain and Neck Disability Index scores in the persistent nonunion group were significantly lower than those in the final union group at 2 years.
Conclusion. Patients with pseudarthrosis detected 1 year postoperatively may be observed without any intervention because approximately 70% of them will eventually fuse by the 2-year point. Early revision could, however, be considered if the pseudarthrosis is associated with considerable neck pain after multilevel ACDF.
Level of Evidence: 3