Background: The treatment of unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures with short-segment posterior spinal instrumentation without anterior column reconstruction is associated with a high rate of screw breakage and progressive loss of reduction. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the functional, neurologic, and radiographic results following transpedicular, balloon-assisted fracture reduction with anterior column reconstruction with use of calcium phosphate bone cement combined with short-segment posterior instrumentation and a laminectomy.
Methods: A consecutive series of thirty-eight patients with an unstable thoracolumbar burst fracture with or without neurologic deficit were managed with transpedicular, balloon-assisted fracture reduction, calcium phosphate bone cement reconstruction, and short-segment spinal instrumentation from 2002 to 2005. Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight patients were followed for a minimum of two years. Demographic data, neurologic function, segmental kyphosis, the fracture severity score, canal compromise, the Short Form-36 score, the Oswestry Disability Index score, and treatment-related complications were evaluated prospectively.
Results: All thirteen patients with incomplete neurologic deficits had improvement by at least one Frankel grade. The mean kyphotic angulation improved from 17° preoperatively to 7° at the time of the latest follow-up, and the loss of vertebral body height improved from a mean of 42% preoperatively to 14% at the time of the latest follow-up. Screw breakage occurred in two patients, and pseudarthrosis occurred in one patient.
Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that excellent reduction of unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures with and without associated neurologic deficits can be maintained with use of short-segment instrumentation and a transpedicular balloon-assisted reduction combined with anterior column reconstruction with calcium phosphate bone cement performed through a single posterior incision. The resultant circumferential stabilization combined with a decompressive laminectomy led to maintained or improved neurologic function in all patients with neurologic deficits, with a low rate of instrumentation failure and loss of correction.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.