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Adjacent Segment Degeneration in the Lumbar Spine
Gary Ghiselli, MD1; Jeffrey C. Wang, MD2; Nitin N. Bhatia, MD2; Wellington K. Hsu, MD2; Edgar G. Dawson, MD3
1 Denver Spine Center, 1601 East 19th Avenue, Suite 4000, Denver, CO 80218. E-mail address: gghiselli@yahoo.com
2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, Box 956902, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6902
3 Deceased
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The authors did not receive grants or outside funding in support of their research or preparation of this manuscript. They did not receive payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity. No commercial entity paid or directed, or agreed to pay or direct, any benefits to any research fund, foundation, educational institution, or other charitable or nonprofit organization with which the authors are affiliated or associated. A conflict-of-interest statement was not received from one of the authors (E.G.D.), who is deceased.
Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2004 Jul 01;86(7):1497-1503
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Background: A primary concern after posterior lumbar spine arthrodesis is the potential for adjacent segment degeneration cephalad or caudad to the fusion segment. There is controversy regarding the subsequent degeneration of adjacent segments, and we are aware of no long-term studies that have analyzed both cephalad and caudad degeneration following posterior arthrodesis. A retrospective investigation was performed to determine the rates of degeneration and survival of the motion segments adjacent to the site of a posterior lumbar fusion.

Methods: Two hundred and fifteen patients who had undergone posterior lumbar arthrodesis were included in this study. The study group included 126 female patients and eighty-nine male patients. The average duration of follow-up was 6.7 years. Radiographs were analyzed with regard to arthritic degeneration at the adjacent levels both preoperatively and at the time of the last follow-up visit. Disc spaces were graded on a 4-point arthritic degeneration scale. Correlation analysis was used to determine the contribution of independent variables to the rate of degeneration. Survivorship analysis was performed to describe the degeneration of the adjacent motion segments.

Results: Fifty-nine (27.4%) of the 215 patients had evidence of degeneration at the adjacent levels and elected to have an additional decompression (fifteen patients) or arthrodesis (forty-four patients). Kaplan-Meier analysis predicted a disease-free survival rate of 83.5% (95% confidence interval, 77.5% to 89.5%) at five years and of 63.9% (95% confidence interval, 54.0% to 73.8%) at ten years after the index operation. Although there was a trend toward progression of the arthritic grade at the adjacent disc levels, there was no significant correlation, with the numbers available, between the preoperative arthritic grade and the need for additional surgery.

Conclusions: The rate of symptomatic degeneration at an adjacent segment warranting either decompression or arthrodesis was predicted to be 16.5% at five years and 36.1% at ten years. There appeared to be no correlation with the length of fusion or the preoperative arthritic degeneration of the adjacent segment.

Level of Evidence: Prognostic study, Level IV (case series). See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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