Surgical Outcomes Research

Adding Thoracic Fusion Levels in Lenke 5 Curves: Risks and Benefits

Lark, Robert K. MD*; Yaszay, Burt MD; Bastrom, Tracey P. MA; Newton, Peter O. MD; Harms Study Group

Study Design. Multicenter; review of prospectively collected data.

Objective. To determine the risks and potential benefits of nonselective versus selective fusion in a matched set of patients with Lenke 5 curves.

Summary of Background Data. The Lenke classification suggests a limited thoracolumbar/lumbar fusion for type 5 curves, although many experienced adolescent idiopathic scoliosis surgeons, at times, include a fusion of the thoracic curve.

Methods. Prospectively collected cases from a multicenter database were analyzed. Patients with Lenke type 5 scoliosis curves were divided into 2 groups: 109 selective or short (only thoracolumbar/lumbar curve fused), and 41 nonselective or long (both thoracolumbar/lumbar and thoracic curves fused). Patients were then matched on the basis of the preoperative radiographical and clinical measures. Two-year postoperative radiographical and clinical outcomes were compared, using analysis of variance, with Bonferroni correction (P < 0.008).

Results. Twenty-nine matched pairs (58 patients) with Lenke 5 curves were identified. There were no preoperative differences between groups in age, thoracic or lumbar Cobb angle, curve flexibility, thoracic kyphosis, clinical trunk flexibility, or Scoliosis Research Society outcomes questionnaire scores. Postoperatively, patients in the nonselective group exhibited greater coronal correction for thoracic (residual Cobb; 22° vs. 12°) and lumbar curves (residual Cobb; 19° vs. 13°). However, the longer fusions had significantly less thoracic kyphosis (27° vs. 18°), truncal side bending (14 vs. 10 cm), and rotational flexibility (53° vs. 42°). There was no difference in clinical balance or Scoliosis Research Society questionnaire, version 22, scores.

Conclusion. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis surgeons attempt to achieve balanced correction with the fewest motion segments fused. Our data suggest that fusion of the thoracic curve in primary thoracolumbar scoliosis may improve coronal correction, but at the cost of decreased thoracic kyphosis and clinical flexibility 2 years postoperatively.


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Spine: 15 January 2013 – Volume 38 – Issue 2 – p 195–200