A single-center retrospective analysis of 3- or 4-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 34:45–51, 2021

Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is a safe and effective intervention to treat cervical spine pathology. Although these were originally performed as single-level procedures, multilevel ACDF has been performed for patients with extensive degenerative disc disease. To date, there is a paucity of data regarding outcomes related to ACDFs of 3 or more levels. The purpose of this study was to compare surgical outcomes of 3- and 4-level ACDF procedures.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective chart review of patients who underwent 3- and 4-level ACDF at the University of Virginia Health System between January 2010 and December 2017. In patients meeting the inclusion/exclusion criteria, demographics, fusion rates, time to fusion, and reoperation rates were evaluated. Fusion was determined by < 1 mm of change in interspinous distance between individual fused vertebrae on lateral flexion/extension radiographs and lack of radiolucency between the grafts and vertebral bodies. Any procedure requiring a surgical revision was considered a failure.

RESULTS Sixty-six patients (47 with 3-level and 19 with 4-level ACDFs) met the inclusion/exclusion criteria of having at least one lateral flexion/extension radiograph series ≥ 12 months after surgery. Seventy percent of 3-level patients and 68% of 4-level patients had ≥ 24 months of follow-up. Ninety-four percent of 3-level patients and 100% of 4-level patients achieved radiographic fusion for at least 1 surgical level. Eighty-eight percent and 82% of 3- and 4-level patients achieved fusion at C3–4; 85% and 89% of 3- and 4-level patients achieved fusion at C4–5; 68% and 89% of 3- and 4-level patients achieved fusion at C5–6; 44% and 42% of 3- and 4-level patients achieved fusion at C6–7; and no patients achieved fusion at C7–T1. Time to fusion was not significantly different between levels. Revision was required in 6.4% of patients with 3-level and in 16% of patients with 4-level ACDF. The mean time to revision was 46.2 and 45.4 months for 3- and 4-level ACDF, respectively. The most common reason for revision was worsening of initial symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS The authors’ experience with long-segment anterior cervical fusions shows their fusion rates exceeding most of the reported fusion rates for similar procedures in the literature, with rates similar to those reported for short-segment ACDFs. Three-level and 4-level ACDF procedures are viable options for cervical spine pathology, and the authors’ analysis demonstrates an equivalent rate of fusion and time to fusion between 3- and 4-level surgeries.