Nonunion Rates After Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion: Comparison of Polyetheretherketone vs Structural Allograft Implants

Neurosurgery 89:94–101, 2021

Although advances in implant materials, such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK), have been developed aimed to improve outcome after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), it is essential to confirm whether these changes translate into clinically important sustained benefits.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the radiographic and clinical outcomes of patients undergoing up to 3-level ACDF with PEEK vs structural allograft implants.

METHODS: In this cohort study, radiographic and symptomatic nonunion rates were compared in consecutive patients who underwent 1 to 3 level ACDF with allograft or PEEK implant. Prospectively collected clinical data and patient-reported outcome (PRO) scores were compared between the allograft and PEEK groups. Regression analysis was performed to determine the predictors of nonunion.

RESULTS: In total, 194 of 404 patients met the inclusion criteria (79% allograft vs 21% PEEK). Preoperative demographic variables were comparable between the 2 groups except for age. The rate of radiographic nonunion was higher with PEEK implants (39% vs 27%, P = .0035). However, a higher proportion of nonunion in the allograft cohort required posterior instrumentation (14% vs 3%, P = .039). Patients with multilevel procedures and PEEK implants had up to 5.8 times the risk of radiographic nonunion, whereas younger patients, active smokers, and multilevel procedures were at higher risk of symptomatic nonunion.

CONCLUSION: Along with implant material, factors such as younger age, active smoking status, and the number of operated levels were independent predictors of fusion failure. Given the impact of nonunion on PRO, perioperative optimization of modifiable factors and surgical planning are essential to ensure a successful outcome.

Management of Odontoid Fractures in the Elderly

Neurosurgery 82:419–430, 2018

Odontoid fractures are the most common fracture of the axis and the most common cervical spine fracture in patients over 65. Despite their frequency, there is considerable ambiguity regarding optimal management strategies for these fractures in the elderly. Poor bone health and medical comorbidities contribute to increased surgical risk in this population; however, nonoperative management is associated with a risk of nonunion or fibrous union.

We provide a review of the existing literature and discuss the classi- fication and evaluation of odontoid fractures. The merits of operative vs nonoperative management, fibrous union, and the choice of operative approach in elderly patients are discussed. A treatment algorithm is presented based on the available literature.

We believe that type I and type III odontoid fractures can be managed in a collar in most cases. Type II fractures with any additonal risk factors for nonunion (displacement, comminution, etc) should be considered for surgical management. However, the risks of surgery in an elderly population must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. In a frail elderly patient, a fibrous nonunion with close follow-up is an acceptable outcome. If operative management is chosen, a posterior approach is should be chosen when fracture- or patient-related factors make an anterior approach challenging.

The high levels of morbidity and mortality associated with odontoid fractures should encourage all providers to pursue medical co- management and optimization of bone health following diagnosis.

Atlantoaxial instability in acute odontoid fractures is associated with nonunion and mortality


The Spine Journal 15 (2015) 910–917

Odontoid fractures are the most common geriatric cervical spine fractures. Nonunion rates have been reported to be up to 40% and mortality up to 35%, and poor functional outcomes are common. Atlantoaxial instability (AAI) is a plausible prognostic factor, but its role has not been previously examined.

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of severe AAI on the outcomes of nonunion and mortality in patients with acute odontoid fractures.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort/single institution.

PATIENT SAMPLE: One hundred twenty-four consecutive patients with acute odontoid fractures.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of nonunion and mortality.

METHODS: Two independent blinded reviewers measured AAI using postinjury computed tomography scans. Patients were classified as having ‘‘severe’’ or ‘‘minimal’’ AAI on the basis of greater versus less than or equal to 50% mean subluxation across each C1–C2 facet joint. Rates of nonunion and mortality were compared using independent samples t tests and adjusted for age, displacement, and subtype using binary logistic regression.

RESULTS: One hundred seven patients had minimal AAI and 17 had severe AAI. Mean follow-up was 4.4 months (standard deviation54.6). Patients with severe AAI were more likely to experience nonunion (29% vs. 10%, respectively; p5.03) and mortality (35% vs. 14%, respectively; p5.03) regardless of treatment modality. Fracture displacement correlated with AAI (r250.65). When adjusted for patient age, the odds ratio of nonunion with severe AAI approached significance at 3.3 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.9–11.7). Mortality prediction with AAI approached a twofold increased risk (odds ratio52.1; 95% CI: 0.6–6.8). In patients with Type-II fractures, the odds of mortality with severe AAI approached a threefold higher risk (odds ratio53.3; 95% CI: 0.9–12.3).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with acute odontoid fractures and severe AAI may be more likely to experience nonunion and mortality, suggesting the possibility that aggressive management could be warranted. Further investigation with a large prospective study including patient-important functional outcomes is justified.