Early development and progression of heterotopic ossification in cervical total disc replacement

J Neurosurg Spine 16:31–36, 2012. DOI: 10.3171/2011.8.SPINE11303

The purpose of cervical total disc replacement (TDR) is to decrease the incidence of adjacent segment disease through motion preservation. Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a well-known complication after hip and knee arthroplasties. There are few reports regarding HO in patients undergoing cervical TDR, however; and the occurrence of HO and its effects on cervical motion have rarely been reported. Moreover, temporal progression of HO has not been fully addressed. One goal of this study involved determining the incidence of HO following cervical TDR, as identified from plain radiographs, and demonstrating the progression of HO during the follow-up period. A second goal consisted of determining whether segmental motion could be preserved and identifying the relationship between HO and clinical outcomes.

Methods. The authors conducted a retrospective clinical and radiological study of 28 consecutive patients who underwent cervical TDR with Mobi-C prostheses (LDR Medical) between September 2006 and October 2008. Radiological outcomes were evaluated using lateral dynamic radiographs obtained preoperatively and at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively. The occurrence of HO was interpreted on lateral radiographs using the McAfee classification. Cervical range of motion (ROM) was also measured. The visual analog scale (VAS) and Neck Disability Index (NDI) were used to evaluate clinical outcome.

Results. The mean follow-up period was 21.6 ± 7.0 months, and the mean occurrence of HO was at 8.0 ± 6.6 months postoperatively. At the last follow-up, 18 (64.3%) of 28 patients had HO: Grade I, 6 patients; Grade II, 8 patients; Grade III, 3 patients; and Grade IV, 1 patient. Heterotopic ossification progression was proportional to the duration of follow-up; HO was present in 3 (10.7%) of 28 patients at 1 month; 7 (25.0%) of 28 patients at 3 months; 11 (42.3%) of 26 patients at 6 months; 15 (62.5%) of 24 patients at 12 months; and 17 (77.3%) of 22 patients at 24 months. Cervical ROM was preserved in Grades I and II HO but was restricted in Grades III and IV HO. Clinical improvement according to the VAS and NDI was not significantly correlated with the occurrence of HO.

Conclusions. The overall incidence of HO after cervical TDR was relatively high. Moreover, HO began unexpectedly to appear early after surgery. Heterotopic ossification progression was proportional to the time that had elapsed postoperatively. Grade III or IV HO can restrict the cervical ROM and may lead to spontaneous fusion; however, the occurrence of HO did not affect clinical outcome. The results of this study indicate that a high incidence of HO with the possibility of spontaneous fusion is to be expected during long-term follow-up and should be considered before performing cervical TDR.