Assessment of adjacent-segment mobility after cervical disc replacement versus fusion: RCT with 1 year’s results

Eur Spine J (2011) 20:934–941. DOI 10.1007/s00586-010-1588-2

Disc prostheses have been designed to restore and maintain cervical segmental motion and reduce the accelerated degeneration of the adjacent level. There is no knowledge about the reaction of the neighboured asymptomatic segments after implantation of prostheses or fusion. The effects of these procedures to segmental movement of the uninvolved vertebrae have not been subjected to studies so far.

The objective of this study was to compare the segmental motion following cervical disc replacement versus fusion and the correlation to the clinical outcome. Another aim was to compare the segmental motion of the asymptomatic segments above the treated ones and to compare both with Roentgen stereometric analysis (RSA) including the asymptomatic segments.

20 patients with one-level cervical radiculopathy scheduled for surgery were randomized to arthroplasty (10 patients, study group) or anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (10 patients, control group). Clinical results were evaluated using Visual Analogue Scale and Neck Disability Index. RSA was performed immediately postoperative, after 6 and 12 months.

The adjacent segment showed a significantly higher segmental motion in all three-dimensional axes in comparison to the segment treated with prostheses (P< 0.05). In the fusion group the segmental motion of the adjacent segment was significantly higher in all three dimensional axes (P< 0.05) at each examination time. When the adjacent level of both groups is compared, the fusion group could show a higher segmental motion in all three-dimensional axes, but without significant difference (P> 0.05) 1 year after surgery. Regarding the clinical results, there was no significant difference in pain relief between both groups (P> 0.05).

In conclusion, the adjacent segment could show a higher segmental motion, when compared with the segment either treated with prostheses or fusion. There was no significant difference in segmental motion adjacent to prosthesis or fusion. Clinical results did also show no significant difference in pain relief between both groups.